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Title: Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Author: Mackay, Charles, 1814-1889
Language: English
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SOISSONS, 1720.]



















    N'en déplaise à ces fous nommés sages de Grèce,
    En ce monde il n'est point de parfaite sagesse;
    Tous les hommes sont fous, et malgré tous leurs soîns
    Ne diffèrent entre eux que du plus ou du moins.







Great New Street, Fetter Lane.



John Law; his birth and youthful career--Duel between Law and
Wilson--Law's escape from the King's Bench--The "Land-bank"--Law's
gambling propensities on the continent, and acquaintance with the Duke
of Orleans--State of France after the reign of Louis XIV.--Paper money
instituted in that country by Law--Enthusiasm of the French people at
the Mississippi Scheme--Marshal Villars--Stratagems employed and
bribes given for an interview with Law--Great fluctuations in
Mississippi stock--Dreadful murders--Law created comptroller-general
of finances--Great sale for all kinds of ornaments in Paris--Financial
difficulties commence--Men sent out to work the mines on the
Mississippi, as a blind--Payment stopped at the bank--Law dismissed
from the ministry--Payments made in specie--Law and the Regent
satirised in song--Dreadful crisis of the Mississippi Scheme--Law,
almost a ruined man, flies to Venice--Death of the Regent--Law obliged
to resort again to gambling--His death at Venice


Originated by Harley Earl of Oxford--Exchange Alley a scene of great
excitement--Mr. Walpole--Sir John Blunt--Great demand for
shares--Innumerable "Bubbles"--List of nefarious projects and
bubbles--Great rise in South-sea stock--Sudden fall--General meeting
of the directors--Fearful climax of the South-sea expedition--Its
effects on society--Uproar in the House of Commons--Escape of
Knight--Apprehension of Sir John Blunt--Recapture of Knight at
Tirlemont--His second escape--Persons connected with the scheme
examined--Their respective punishments--Concluding remarks


Conrad Gesner--Tulips brought from Vienna to England--Rage for the
tulip among the Dutch--Its great value--Curious anecdote of a sailor
and a tulip--Regular marts for tulips--Tulips employed as a means of
speculation--Great depreciation in their value--End of the mania


Introductory remarks--Pretended antiquity of the
art--Geber--Alfarabi--Avicenna--Albertus Magnus--Thomas
Aquinas--Artephius--Alain de Lisle--Arnold de Villeneuve--Pietro
d'Apone--Raymond Lulli--Roger Bacon--Pope John XXII.--Jean de
Meung--Nicholas Flamel--George Ripley--Basil Valentine--Bernard of
Trèves--Trithemius--The Maréchal de Rays--Jacques Coeur--Inferior
adepts--Progress of the infatuation during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries--Augurello--Cornelius
Agrippa--Paracelsus--George Agricola--Denys Zachaire--Dr. Dee and
Edward Kelly--The Cosmopolite--Sendivogius--The Rosicrucians--Michael
Mayer--Robert Fludd--Jacob Böhmen--John Heydon--Joseph Francis
Borri--Alchymical writers of the seventeenth century--Delisle--Albert
Aluys--Count de St. Germain--Cagliostro--Present state of the science


Terror of the approaching day of judgment--A comet the signal of that
day--The prophecy of Whiston--The people of Leeds greatly alarmed at
that event--The plague in Milan--Fortune-tellers and
Astrologers--Prophecy concerning the overflow of the Thames--Mother
Shipton--Merlin--Heywood--Peter of Pontefract--Robert


Presumption and weakness of man--Union of Fortune-tellers and
Alchymists--Judicial astrology encouraged in England from the time of
Elizabeth to William and Mary--Lilly the astrologer consulted by the
House of Commons as to the cause of the Fire of London--Encouragement
of the art in France and Germany--Nostradamus--Basil of
Florence--Antiochus Tibertus--Kepler--Necromancy--Roger Bacon,
Albertus Magnus, Arnold Villeneuve--Geomancy--Augury--Divination: list
of various species of divination--Oneiro-criticism (interpretation of


The influence of imagination in curing diseases--Mineral
magnetisers--Paracelsus--Kircher the Jesuit--Sebastian Wirdig--William
Maxwell--The Convulsionaries of St. Medard--Father Hell--Mesmer, the
founder of Animal Magnetism--D'Eslon, his disciple--M. de
Puysegur--Dr. Mainauduc's success in London--Holloway, Loutherbourg,
Mary Pratt, &c.--Perkins's "Metallic Tractors"--Decline of the science


Early modes of wearing the hair and beard--Excommunication and
outlawry decreed against curls--Louis VII.'s submission thereto the
cause of the long wars between England and France--Charles V. of Spain
and his courtiers--Peter the Great--His tax upon beards--Revival of
beards and moustaches after the French Revolution of 1830--The King of
Bavaria (1838) orders all civilians wearing moustaches to be arrested
and shaved--Examples from Bayeux tapestry


Frontispiece--Gardens of the Hotel de Soissons. (From a print in Mr.
Hawkins' collection.)

Vignette--The Bubblers' Arms, Prosperity. (_Bubblers' Mirror, or
England's Folly_.)

John Law. (From a rare print by Leon Schenk. 1720)

The Regent D'Orleans

Old Palais Royal from the Garden. (From a scarce print, _circa_

Law's House; Rue de Quincampoix. (From Nodier's _Paris_)

Humpbacked Man hiring himself as a Table

Hôtel de Soissons. (From Nodier's _Paris_)

The Coach upset

Murder of a Broker by Count D'Horn

John Law as Atlas. (From _England under the House of Hanover_)

Caricature--Lucifer's new Row Barge

Procession of Miners for the Mississippi

The Chancellor D'Aguesseau

Caricature--Law in a Car drawn by Cocks

M. D'Argenson

Caricature--Neck or Nothing, or Downfall of the Mississippi Company

The South-Sea House. (From a print, _circa_ 1750)

Harley Earl of Oxford

Sir Robert Walpole

Cornhill. (Print, _circa_ 1720)

Stock-jobbing Card, or the Humours of Change Alley. 1720. (From the
_Bubblers' Medley_)

Caricature--People climbing the Tree of Fortune. (From the
_Bubblers' Medley_)

The Gateway to Merchant Tailors' Hall. (Gateway from old print)

Mr. Secretary Craggs

Caricature--Beggars on Horseback. (From the _Bubblers' Medley_)

Caricature--Britannia stript by a South-Sea Director

Caricature--The Brabant Screen. (Copied from a rare print of the time,
in the collection of E. Hawkins, Esq., F.S.A.)

Bonfires on Tower Hill

The Earl of Sunderland

Caricature--Emblematic Print of the South-Sea Scheme. (From a print by

Caricature--Bubblers' Arms: Despair. (From _Bubblers' Mirror, or
England's Glory_)

Conrad Gesner

The Alchymist. (From print after Teniers)

Albertus Magnus

Arnold de Villeneuve

Raymond Lulli

House of Jacques Coeur at Bourges. (From _Sommerard's Album_)

Cornelius Agrippa


Dr. Dee

Dr. Dee's Show-stone and Magic Crystal. (Originals in the possession
of Lord Londesborough and British Museum)

Innspruck. (From Nodier's _Paris_)

House of Cagliostro (Rue de Clery, No. 278), Paris

Mother Shipton's House

Henry Andrews, the original "Francis Moore, physician"

Nostradamus. (From the frontispiece to a collection of his Prophecies,
published at Amsterdam A.D. 1666)

Serlo clipping Henry I.'s hair

Peter the Great

Bayeux Tapestry


In reading the history of nations, we find that, like individuals,
they have their whims and their peculiarities; their seasons of
excitement and recklessness, when they care not what they do. We find
that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and
go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously
impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is
caught by some new folly more captivating than the first. We see one
nation suddenly seized, from its highest to its lowest members, with a
fierce desire of military glory; another as suddenly becoming crazed
upon a religious scruple; and neither of them recovering its senses
until it has shed rivers of blood and sowed a harvest of groans and
tears, to be reaped by its posterity. At an early age in the annals of
Europe its population lost their wits about the sepulchre of Jesus,
and crowded in frenzied multitudes to the Holy Land; another age went
mad for fear of the devil, and offered up hundreds of thousands of
victims to the delusion of witchcraft. At another time, the many
became crazed on the subject of the philosopher's stone, and committed
follies till then unheard of in the pursuit. It was once thought a
venial offence, in very many countries of Europe, to destroy an enemy
by slow poison. Persons who would have revolted at the idea of
stabbing a man to the heart, drugged his pottage without scruple.
Ladies of gentle birth and manners caught the contagion of murder,
until poisoning, under their auspices, became quite fashionable. Some
delusions, though notorious to all the world, have subsisted for ages,
flourishing as widely among civilised and polished nations as among
the early barbarians with whom they originated,--that of duelling, for
instance, and the belief in omens and divination of the future, which
seem to defy the progress of knowledge to eradicate them entirely from
the popular mind. Money, again, has often been a cause of the delusion
of multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate
gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece
of paper. To trace the history of the most prominent of these
delusions is the object of the present pages. Men, it has been well
said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while
they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Some of the subjects introduced may be familiar to the reader; but the
Author hopes that sufficient novelty of detail will be found even in
these, to render them acceptable, while they could not be wholly
omitted in justice to the subject of which it was proposed to treat.
The memoirs of the South-Sea madness and the Mississippi delusion are
more complete and copious than are to be found elsewhere; and the same
may be said of the history of the Witch Mania, which contains an
account of its terrific progress in Germany, a part of the subject
which has been left comparatively untouched by Sir Walter Scott in his
_Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft_, the most important that
have yet appeared on this fearful but most interesting subject.

Popular delusions began so early, spread so widely, and have lasted so
long, that instead of two or three volumes, fifty would scarcely
suffice to detail their history. The present may be considered more of
a miscellany of delusions than a history--a chapter only in the great
and awful book of human folly which yet remains to be written, and
which Porson once jestingly said he would write in five hundred
volumes! Interspersed are sketches of some lighter matters,--amusing
instances of the imitativeness and wrongheadedness of the people,
rather than examples of folly and delusion.

Religious matters have been purposely excluded as incompatible with
the limits prescribed to the present work; a mere list of them would
alone be sufficient to occupy a volume.

[Illustration: JOHN LAW.]


    Some in clandestine companies combine;
    Erect new stocks to trade beyond the line;
    With air and empty names beguile the town,
    And raise new credits first, then cry 'em down;
    Divide the empty nothing into shares,
    And set the crowd together by the ears.--_Defoe_.

The personal character and career of one man are so intimately connected
with the great scheme of the years 1719 and 1720, that a history of the
Mississippi madness can have no fitter introduction than a sketch of the
life of its great author John Law. Historians are divided in opinion as to
whether they should designate him a knave or a madman. Both epithets were
unsparingly applied to him in his lifetime, and while the unhappy
consequences of his projects were still deeply felt. Posterity, however,
has found reason to doubt the justice of the accusation, and to confess
that John Law was neither knave nor madman, but one more deceived than
deceiving, more sinned against than sinning. He was thoroughly acquainted
with the philosophy and true principles of credit. He understood the
monetary question better than any man of his day; and if his system fell
with a crash so tremendous, it was not so much his fault as that of the
people amongst whom he had erected it. He did not calculate upon the
avaricious frenzy of a whole nation; he did not see that confidence, like
mistrust, could be increased almost _ad infinitum_, and that hope was as
extravagant as fear. How was he to foretell that the French people, like
the man in the fable, would kill, in their frantic eagerness, the fine
goose he had brought to lay them so many golden eggs? His fate was like
that which may be supposed to have overtaken the first adventurous boatman
who rowed from Erie to Ontario. Broad and smooth was the river on which he
embarked; rapid and pleasant was his progress; and who was to stay him in
his career? Alas for him! the cataract was nigh. He saw, when it was too
late, that the tide which wafted him so joyously along was a tide of
destruction; and when he endeavoured to retrace his way, he found that the
current was too strong for his weak efforts to stem, and that he drew
nearer every instant to the tremendous falls. Down he went over the sharp
rocks, and the waters with him. _He_ was dashed to pieces with his bark,
but the waters, maddened and turned to foam by the rough descent, only
boiled and bubbled for a time, and then flowed on again as smoothly as
ever. Just so it was with Law and the French people. He was the boatman,
and they were the waters.

John Law was born at Edinburgh in the year 1671. His father was the
younger son of an ancient family in Fife, and carried on the business of a
goldsmith and banker. He amassed considerable wealth in his trade,
sufficient to enable him to gratify the wish, so common among his
countrymen, of adding a territorial designation to his name. He purchased
with this view the estates of Lauriston and Randleston, on the Frith of
Forth, on the borders of West and Mid Lothian, and was thenceforth known
as Law of Lauriston. The subject of our memoir, being the eldest son, was
received into his father's counting-house at the age of fourteen, and for
three years laboured hard to acquire an insight into the principles of
banking as then carried on in Scotland. He had always manifested great
love for the study of numbers, and his proficiency in the mathematics was
considered extraordinary in one of his tender years. At the age of
seventeen he was tall, strong, and well made; and his face, although
deeply scarred with the small-pox, was agreeable in its expression, and
full of intelligence. At this time he began to neglect his business, and
becoming vain of his person, indulged in considerable extravagance of
attire. He was a great favourite with the ladies, by whom he was called
Beau Law; while the other sex, despising his foppery, nicknamed him
Jessamy John. At the death of his father, which happened in 1688, he
withdrew entirely from the desk, which had become so irksome, and being
possessed of the revenues of the paternal estate of Lauriston, he
proceeded to London, to see the world.

He was now very young, very vain, good-looking, tolerably rich, and quite
uncontrolled. It is no wonder that, on his arrival in the capital, he
should launch out into extravagance. He soon became a regular frequenter
of the gaming-houses, and by pursuing a certain plan, based upon some
abstruse calculation of chances, he contrived to gain considerable sums.
All the gamblers envied him his luck, and many made it a point to watch
his play, and stake their money on the same chances. In affairs of
gallantry he was equally fortunate; ladies of the first rank smiled
graciously upon the handsome Scotchman--the young, the rich, the witty,
and the obliging. But all these successes only paved the way for reverses.
After he had been for nine years exposed to the dangerous attractions of
the gay life he was leading, he became an irrecoverable gambler. As his
love of play increased in violence, it diminished in prudence. Great
losses were only to be repaired by still greater ventures, and one unhappy
day he lost more than he could repay without mortgaging his family estate.
To that step he was driven at last. At the same time his gallantry brought
him into trouble. A love affair, or slight flirtation, with a lady of the
name of Villiers,[1] exposed him to the resentment of a Mr. Wilson, by
whom he was challenged to fight a duel. Law accepted, and had the ill
fortune to shoot his antagonist dead upon the spot. He was arrested the
same day, and brought to trial for murder by the relatives of Mr. Wilson.
He was afterwards found guilty, and sentenced to death. The sentence was
commuted to a fine, upon the ground that the offence only amounted to
manslaughter. An appeal being lodged by a brother of the deceased, Law was
detained in the King's Bench, whence, by some means or other, which he
never explained, he contrived to escape; and an action being instituted
against the sheriffs, he was advertised in the Gazette, and a reward
offered for his apprehension. He was described as "Captain John Law, a
Scotchman, aged twenty-six; a very tall, black, lean man; well shaped,
above six feet high, with large pock-holes in his face; big nosed, and
speaking broad and loud." As this was rather a caricature than a
description of him, it has been supposed that it was drawn up with a view
to favour his escape. He succeeded in reaching the Continent, where he
travelled for three years, and devoted much of his attention to the
monetary and banking affairs of the countries through which he passed. He
stayed a few months in Amsterdam, and speculated to some extent in the
funds. His mornings were devoted to the study of finance and the
principles of trade, and his evenings to the gaming-house. It is generally
believed that he returned to Edinburgh in the year 1700. It is certain
that he published in that city his _Proposals and Reasons for constituting
a Council of Trade_. This pamphlet did not excite much attention.

    [1] Miss Elizabeth Villiers, afterwards Countess of Orkney.

In a short time afterwards he published a project for establishing what he
called a Land-bank,[2] the notes issued by which were never to exceed
the value of the entire lands of the state, upon ordinary interest, or
were to be equal in value to the land, with the right to enter into
possession at a certain time. The project excited a good deal of
discussion in the Scottish Parliament, and a motion for the establishment
of such a bank was brought forward by a neutral party, called the
Squadrone, whom Law had interested in his favour. The Parliament
ultimately passed a resolution to the effect, that, to establish any kind
of paper credit, so as to force it to pass, was an improper expedient for
the nation.

    [2] The wits of the day called it a _sand-bank_, which would
        wreck the vessel of the state.

Upon the failure of this project, and of his efforts to procure a pardon
for the murder of Mr. Wilson, Law withdrew to the Continent, and resumed
his old habits of gaming. For fourteen years he continued to roam about,
in Flanders, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and France. He soon became
intimately acquainted with the extent of the trade and resources of each,
and daily more confirmed in his opinion that no country could prosper
without a paper currency. During the whole of this time he appears to have
chiefly supported himself by successful play. At every gambling-house of
note in the capitals of Europe he was known and appreciated as one better
skilled in the intricacies of chance than any other man of the day. It is
stated in the _Biographie Universelle_ that he was expelled, first from
Venice, and afterwards from Genoa, by the magistrates, who thought him a
visitor too dangerous for the youth of those cities. During his residence
in Paris he rendered himself obnoxious to D'Argenson, the
lieutenant-general of the police, by whom he was ordered to quit the
capital. This did not take place, however, before he had made the
acquaintance, in the saloons, of the Duke de Vendôme, the Prince de Conti,
and of the gay Duke of Orleans, the latter of whom was destined afterwards
to exercise so much influence over his fate. The Duke of Orleans was
pleased with the vivacity and good sense of the Scottish adventurer, while
the latter was no less pleased with the wit and amiability of a prince who
promised to become his patron. They were often thrown into each other's
society, and Law seized every opportunity to instil his financial
doctrines into the mind of one whose proximity to the throne pointed him
out as destined, at no very distant date, to play an important part in the

[Illustration: THE REGENT OF FRANCE.]

Shortly before the death of Louis XIV., or, as some say, in 1708, Law
proposed a scheme of finance to Desmarets, the comptroller. Louis is
reported to have inquired whether the projector were a Catholic, and on
being answered in the negative, to have declined having any thing to do
with him.[3]

    [3] This anecdote, which is related in the correspondence of
        Madame de Bavière, Duchess of Orleans and mother of the
        Regent, is discredited by Lord John Russell in his _History of
        the principal States of Europe from the Peace of Utrecht_; for
        what reason he does not inform us. There is no doubt that Law
        proposed his scheme to Desmarets, and that Louis refused to
        hear of it. The reason given for the refusal is quite
        consistent with the character of that bigoted and tyrannical

It was after this repulse that he visited Italy. His mind being still
occupied with schemes of finance, he proposed to Victor Amadeus, duke of
Savoy, to establish his land-bank in that country. The duke replied that
his dominions were too circumscribed for the execution of so great a
project, and that he was by far too poor a potentate to be ruined. He
advised him, however, to try the king of France once more; for he was
sure, if he knew any thing of the French character, that the people would
be delighted with a plan, not only so new, but so plausible.

Louis XIV. died in 1715, and the heir to the throne being an infant only
seven years of age, the Duke of Orleans assumed the reins of government,
as regent, during his minority. Law now found himself in a more favourable
position. The tide in his affairs had come, which, taken at the flood, was
to waft him on to fortune. The regent was his friend, already acquainted
with his theory and pretensions, and inclined, moreover, to aid him in any
efforts to restore the wounded credit of France, bowed down to the earth
by the extravagance of the long reign of Louis XIV.

Hardly was that monarch laid in his grave ere the popular hatred,
suppressed so long, burst forth against his memory. He who, during his
life, had been flattered with an excess of adulation, to which history
scarcely offers a parallel, was now cursed as a tyrant, a bigot, and a
plunderer. His statues were pelted and disfigured; his effigies torn down,
amid the execrations of the populace, and his name rendered synonymous
with selfishness and oppression. The glory of his arms was forgotten, and
nothing was remembered but his reverses, his extravagance, and his

The finances of the country were in a state of the utmost disorder. A
profuse and corrupt monarch, whose profuseness and corruption were
imitated by almost every functionary, from the highest to the lowest
grade, had brought France to the verge of ruin. The national debt amounted
to 3000 millions of livres, the revenue to 145 millions, and the expenses
of government to 142 millions per annum; leaving only three millions to
pay the interest upon 3000 millions. The first care of the regent was to
discover a remedy for an evil of such magnitude, and a council was early
summoned to take the matter into consideration. The Duke de St. Simon was
of opinion that nothing could save the country from revolution but a
remedy at once bold and dangerous. He advised the regent to convoke the
states-general, and declare a national bankruptcy. The Duke de Noailles, a
man of accommodating principles, an accomplished courtier, and totally
averse from giving himself any trouble or annoyance that ingenuity could
escape from, opposed the project of St. Simon with all his influence. He
represented the expedient as alike dishonest and ruinous. The regent was
of the same opinion, and this desperate remedy fell to the ground.

The measures ultimately adopted, though they promised fair, only
aggravated the evil. The first, and most dishonest measure was of no
advantage to the state. A recoinage was ordered, by which the currency was
depreciated one-fifth; those who took a thousand pieces of gold or silver
to the mint received back an amount of coin of the same nominal value, but
only four-fifths of the weight of metal. By this contrivance the treasury
gained seventy-two millions of livres, and all the commercial operations
of the country were disordered. A trifling diminution of the taxes
silenced the clamours of the people, and for the slight present advantage
the great prospective evil was forgotten.

A Chamber of Justice was next instituted to inquire into the malversations
of the loan-contractors and the farmers of the revenues. Tax-collectors
are never very popular in any country, but those of France at this period
deserved all the odium with which they were loaded. As soon as these
farmers-general, with all their hosts of subordinate agents, called
_maltôtiers_,[4] were called to account for their misdeeds, the most
extravagant joy took possession of the nation. The Chamber of Justice,
instituted chiefly for this purpose, was endowed with very extensive
powers. It was composed of the presidents and councils of the parliament,
the judges of the Courts of Aid and of Requests, and the officers of the
Chamber of Account, under the general presidence of the minister of
finance. Informers were encouraged to give evidence against the offenders
by the promise of one-fifth part of the fines and confiscations. A tenth
of all concealed effects belonging to the guilty was promised to such as
should furnish the means of discovering them.

    [4] From _maltôte_, an oppressive tax.

The promulgation of the edict constituting this court caused a degree of
consternation among those principally concerned, which can only be
accounted for on the supposition that their peculation had been enormous.
But they met with no sympathy. The proceedings against them justified
their terror. The Bastille was soon unable to contain the prisoners that
were sent to it, and the gaols all over the country teemed with guilty or
suspected persons. An order was issued to all innkeepers and postmasters
to refuse horses to such as endeavoured to seek safety in flight; and all
persons were forbidden, under heavy fines, to harbour them or favour their
evasion. Some were condemned to the pillory, others to the galleys, and
the least guilty to fine and imprisonment. One only, Samuel Bernard, a
rich banker and farmer-general of a province remote from the capital, was
sentenced to death. So great had been the illegal profits of this
man,--looked upon as the tyrant and oppressor of his district,--that he
offered six millions of livres, or 250,000l. sterling, to be allowed to

His bribe was refused, and he suffered the penalty of death. Others,
perhaps more guilty, were more fortunate. Confiscation, owing to the
concealment of their treasures by the delinquents, often produced less
money than a fine. The severity of the government relaxed, and fines, under
the denomination of taxes, were indiscriminately levied upon all offenders;
but so corrupt was every department of the administration, that the country
benefited but little by the sums which thus flowed into the treasury.
Courtiers and courtiers' wives and mistresses came in for the chief share
of the spoils. One contractor had been taxed, in proportion to his wealth
and guilt, at the sum of twelve millions of livres. The Count ----, a man
of some weight in the government, called upon him, and offered to procure a
remission of the fine if he would give him a hundred thousand crowns. "Vous
êtes trop tard, mon ami," replied the financier; "I have already made a
bargain with your wife for fifty thousand."[5]

    [5] This anecdote is related by M. de la Hode, in his _Life of
        Philippe of Orleans_. It would have looked more authentic if
        he had given the names of the dishonest contractor and the
        still more dishonest minister. But M. de la Hode's book is
        liable to the same objection as most of the French memoirs of
        that and of subsequent periods. It is sufficient with most of
        them that an anecdote be _ben trovato_; the _vero_ is but
        matter of secondary consideration.

About a hundred and eighty millions of livres were levied in this manner,
of which eighty were applied in payment of the debts contracted by the
government. The remainder found its way into the pockets of the courtiers.
Madame de Maintenon, writing on this subject, says,--"We hear every day of
some new grant of the regent. The people murmur very much at this mode of
employing the money taken from the peculators." The people, who, after the
first burst of their resentment is over, generally express a sympathy for
the weak, were indignant that so much severity should be used to so little
purpose. They did not see the justice of robbing one set of rogues to
fatten another. In a few months all the more guilty had been brought to
punishment, and the Chamber of Justice looked for victims in humbler walks
of life. Charges of fraud and extortion were brought against tradesmen of
good character in consequence of the great inducements held out to common
informers. They were compelled to lay open their affairs before this
tribunal in order to establish their innocence. The voice of complaint
resounded from every side; and at the expiration of a year the government
found it advisable to discontinue further proceedings. The Chamber of
Justice was suppressed, and a general amnesty granted to all against whom
no charges had yet been preferred.

In the midst of this financial confusion Law appeared upon the scene. No
man felt more deeply than the regent the deplorable state of the country,
but no man could be more averse from putting his shoulders manfully to the
wheel. He disliked business; he signed official documents without proper
examination, and trusted to others what he should have undertaken himself.
The cares inseparable from his high office were burdensome to him. He saw
that something was necessary to be done; but he lacked the energy to do
it, and had not virtue enough to sacrifice his ease and his pleasures in
the attempt. No wonder that, with this character, he listened favourably
to the mighty projects, so easy of execution, of the clever adventurer
whom he had formerly known, and whose talents he appreciated.

When Law presented himself at court he was most cordially received. He
offered two memorials to the regent, in which he set forth the evils that
had befallen France, owing to an insufficient currency, at different times
depreciated. He asserted that a metallic currency, unaided by a paper
money, was wholly inadequate to the wants of a commercial country, and
particularly cited the examples of Great Britain and Holland to shew the
advantages of paper. He used many sound arguments on the subject of
credit, and proposed as a means of restoring that of Prance, then at so
low an ebb among the nations, that he should be allowed to set up a bank,
which should have the management of the royal revenues, and issue notes
both on that and on landed security. He further proposed that this bank
should be administered in the king's name, but subject to the control of
commissioners to be named by the States-General.

While these memorials were under consideration, Law translated into French
his essay on money and trade, and used every means to extend through the
nation his renown as a financier. He soon became talked of. The confidants
of the regent spread abroad his praise, and every one expected great
things of Monsieur Lass.[6]

    [6] The French pronounced his name in this manner to avoid the
        ungallic sound, _aw_. After the failure of his scheme, the
        wags said the nation was _lasse de lui_, and proposed that he
        should in future be known by the name of Monsieur He_las_!

On the 5th of May, 1716, a royal edict was published, by which Law was
authorised, in conjunction with his brother, to establish a bank under the
name of Law and Company, the notes of which should be received in payment
of the taxes. The capital was fixed at six millions of livres, in twelve
thousand shares of five hundred livres each, purchasable one fourth in
specie, and the remainder in _billets d'état_. It was not thought
expedient to grant him the whole of the privileges prayed for in his
memorials until experience should have shewn their safety and advantage.

Law was now on the high road to fortune. The study of thirty years was
brought to guide him in the management of his bank. He made all his notes
payable at sight, and in the coin current at the time they were issued.
This last was a master-stroke of policy, and immediately rendered his
notes more valuable than the precious metals. The latter were constantly
liable to depreciation by the unwise tampering of the government. A
thousand livres of silver might be worth their nominal value one day, and
be reduced one-sixth the next, but a note of Law's bank retained its
original value. He publicly declared at the same time, that a banker
deserved death if he made issues without having sufficient security to
answer all demands. The consequence was, that his notes advanced rapidly
in public estimation, and were received at one per cent more than specie.
It was not long before the trade of the country felt the benefit.
Languishing commerce began to lift up her head; the taxes were paid with
greater regularity and less murmuring; and a degree of confidence was
established that could not fail, if it continued, to become still more
advantageous. In the course of a year, Law's notes rose to fifteen per
cent premium, while the _billets d'état_, or notes issued by the
government as security for the debts contracted by the extravagant Louis
XIV., were at a discount of no less than seventy-eight and a half per
cent. The comparison was too great in favour of Law not to attract the
attention of the whole kingdom, and his credit extended itself day by day.
Branches of his bank were almost simultaneously established at Lyons,
Rochelle, Tours, Amiens, and Orleans.

The regent appears to have been utterly astonished at his success, and
gradually to have conceived the idea that paper, which could so aid a
metallic currency, could entirely supersede it. Upon this fundamental
error he afterwards acted. In the mean time, Law commenced the famous
project which has handed his name down to posterity. He proposed to the
regent (who could refuse him nothing) to establish a company that should
have the exclusive privilege of trading to the great river Mississippi and
the province of Louisiana, on its western bank. The country was supposed
to abound in the precious metals; and the company, supported by the
profits of their exclusive commerce, were to be the sole farmers of the
taxes and sole coiners of money. Letters patent were issued, incorporating
the company, in August 1717. The capital was divided into two hundred
thousand shares of five hundred livres each, the whole of which might be
paid in _billets d'état_, at their nominal value, although worth no more
than a hundred and sixty livres in the market.

It was now that the frenzy of speculating began to seize upon the nation.
Law's bank had effected so much good, that any promises for the future
which he thought proper to make were readily believed. The regent every
day conferred new privileges upon the fortunate projector. The bank
obtained the monopoly of the sale of tobacco, the sole right of refinage
of gold and silver, and was finally erected into the Royal Bank of France.
Amid the intoxication of success, both Law and the regent forgot the maxim
so loudly proclaimed by the former, that a banker deserved death who made
issues of paper without the necessary funds to provide for them. As soon
as the bank, from a private, became a public institution, the regent
caused a fabrication of notes to the amount of one thousand millions of
livres. This was the first departure from sound principles, and one for
which Law is not justly blameable. While the affairs of the bank were
under his control, the issues had never exceeded sixty millions. Whether
Law opposed the inordinate increase is not known; but as it took place as
soon as the bank was made a royal establishment, it is but fair to lay the
blame of the change of system upon the regent.

Law found that he lived under a despotic government; but he was not yet
aware of the pernicious influence which such a government could exercise
upon so delicate a framework as that of credit. He discovered it
afterwards to his cost, but in the meantime suffered himself to be
impelled by the regent into courses which his own reason must have
disapproved. With a weakness most culpable, he lent his aid in inundating
the country with paper money, which, based upon no solid foundation, was
sure to fall, sooner or later. The extraordinary present fortune dazzled
his eyes, and prevented him from seeing the evil day that would burst over
his head, when once, from any cause or other, the alarm was sounded. The
parliament were from the first jealous of his influence as a foreigner,
and had, besides, their misgivings as to the safety of his projects. As
his influence extended, their animosity increased. D'Aguesseau, the
chancellor, was unceremoniously dismissed by the regent for his opposition
to the vast increase of paper money, and the constant depreciation of the
gold and silver coin of the realm. This only served to augment the enmity
of the parliament, and when D'Argenson, a man devoted to the interests of
the regent, was appointed to the vacant chancellorship, and made at the
same time minister of finance, they became more violent than ever. The
first measure of the new minister caused a further depreciation of the
coin. In order to extinguish the _billets d'état_, it was ordered that
persons bringing to the mint four thousand livres in specie and one
thousand livres in _billets d'état_, should receive back coin to the
amount of five thousand livres. D'Argenson plumed himself mightily upon
thus creating five thousand new and smaller livres out of the four
thousand old and larger ones, being too ignorant of the true principles of
trade and credit to be aware of the immense injury he was inflicting upon

The parliament saw at once the impolicy and danger of such a system, and
made repeated remonstrances to the regent. The latter refused to entertain
their petitions, when the parliament, by a bold and very unusual stretch
of authority, commanded that no money should be received in payment but
that of the old standard. The regent summoned a _lit de justice_, and
annulled the decree. The parliament resisted, and issued another. Again
the regent exercised his privilege, and annulled it, till the parliament,
stung to fiercer opposition, passed another decree, dated August 12th,
1718, by which they forbade the bank of Law to have any concern, either
direct or indirect, in the administration of the revenue; and prohibited
all foreigners, under heavy penalties, from interfering, either in their
own names, or in that of others, in the management of the finances of the
state. The parliament considered Law to be the author of all the evil, and
some of the councillors, in the virulence of their enmity, proposed that
he should be brought to trial, and, if found guilty, be hung at the gates
of the Palais de Justice.


Law, in great alarm, fled to the Palais Royal, and threw himself on the
protection of the regent, praying that measures might be taken to reduce
the parliament to obedience. The regent had nothing so much at heart, both
on that account and because of the disputes that had arisen relative to
the legitimation of the Duke of Maine and the Count of Thoulouse, the sons
of the late king. The parliament was ultimately overawed by the arrest of
their president and two of the councillors, who were sent to distant

Thus the first cloud upon Law's prospects blew over: freed from
apprehension of personal danger, he devoted his attention to his famous
Mississippi project, the shares of which were rapidly rising, in spite of
the parliament. At the commencement of the year 1719, an edict was
published, granting to the Mississippi Company the exclusive privilege of
trading to the East Indies, China, and the South Seas, and to all the
possessions of the French East India Company, established by Colbert. The
Company, in consequence of this great increase of their business, assumed,
as more appropriate, the title of Company of the Indies, and created fifty
thousand new shares. The prospects now held out by Law were most
magnificent. He promised a yearly dividend of two hundred livres upon each
share of five hundred, which, as the shares were paid for in _billets
d'état_ at their nominal value, but worth only 100 livres, was at the rate
of about 120 per cent profit.


The public enthusiasm, which had been so long rising, could not resist a
vision so splendid. At least three hundred thousand applications were made
for the fifty thousand new shares, and Law's house in the Rue de
Quincampoix was beset from morning to night by the eager applicants. As it
was impossible to satisfy them all, it was several weeks before a list of
the fortunate new stockholders could be made out, during which time the
public impatience rose to a pitch of frenzy. Dukes, marquises, counts,
with their duchesses, marchionesses, and countesses, waited in the streets
for hours every day before Mr. Law's door to know the result. At last, to
avoid the jostling of the plebeian crowd, which, to the number of
thousands, filled the whole thoroughfare, they took apartments in the
adjoining houses, that they might be continually near the temple whence
the new Plutus was diffusing wealth. Every day the value of the old shares
increased, and the fresh applications, induced by the golden dreams of the
whole nation, became so numerous that it was deemed advisable to create no
less than three hundred thousand new shares, at five thousand livres each,
in order that the regent might take advantage of the popular enthusiasm to
pay off the national debt. For this purpose, the sum of fifteen hundred
millions of livres was necessary. Such was the eagerness of the nation,
that thrice the sum would have been subscribed if the government had
authorised it.

Law was now at the zenith of his prosperity, and the people were rapidly
approaching the zenith of their infatuation. The highest and the lowest
classes were alike filled with a vision of boundless wealth. There was not
a person of note among the aristocracy, with the exception of the Duke of
St. Simon and Marshal Villars, who was not engaged in buying or selling
stock. People of every age and sex and condition in life speculated in the
rise and fall of the Mississippi bonds. The Rue de Quincampoix was the
grand resort of the jobbers, and it being a narrow, inconvenient street,
accidents continually occurred in it, from the tremendous pressure of the
crowd. Houses in it, worth, in ordinary times, a thousand livres of yearly
rent, yielded as much as twelve or sixteen thousand. A cobbler, who had a
stall in it, gained about two hundred livres a day by letting it out, and
furnishing writing materials to brokers and their clients. The story goes,
that a hunchbacked man who stood in the street gained considerable sums by
lending his hump as a writing-desk to the eager speculators! The great
concourse of persons who assembled to do business brought a still greater
concourse of spectators. These again drew all the thieves and immoral
characters of Paris to the spot, and constant riots and disturbances took
place. At nightfall, it was often found necessary to send a troop of
soldiers to clear the street.

[Illustration: THE HUNCHBACK.]

Law, finding the inconvenience of his residence, removed to the Place
Vendôme, whither the crowd of _agioteurs_ followed him. That spacious
square soon became as thronged as the Rue de Quincampoix: from morning to
night it presented the appearance of a fair. Booths and tents were erected
for the transaction of business and the sale of refreshments, and gamblers
with their roulette tables stationed themselves in the very middle of the
place, and reaped a golden, or rather a paper, harvest from the throng.
The boulevards and public gardens were forsaken; parties of pleasure took
their walks in preference in the Place Vendôme, which became the
fashionable lounge of the idle, as well as the general rendezvous of the
busy. The noise was so great all day, that the chancellor, whose court was
situated in the square, complained to the regent and the municipality,
that he could not hear the advocates. Law, when applied to, expressed his
willingness to aid in the removal of the nuisance, and for this purpose
entered into a treaty with the Prince de Carignan for the Hôtel de
Soissons, which had a garden of several acres in the rear. A bargain was
concluded, by which Law became the purchaser of the hotel at an enormous
price, the prince reserving to himself the magnificent gardens as a new
source of profit. They contained some fine statues and several fountains,
and were altogether laid out with much taste. As soon as Law was installed
in his new abode, an edict was published, forbidding all persons to buy or
sell stock any where but in the gardens of the Hôtel de Soissons. In the
midst, among the trees, about five hundred small tents and pavilions were
erected, for the convenience of the stock-jobbers. Their various colours,
the gay ribands and banners which floated from them, the busy crowds which
passed continually in and out--the incessant hum of voices, the noise, the
music, and the strange mixture of business and pleasure on the
countenances of the throng, all combined to give the place an air of
enchantment that quite enraptured the Parisians. The Prince de Carignan
made enormous profits while the delusion lasted. Each tent was let at the
rate of five hundred livres a month; and, as there were at least five
hundred of them, his monthly revenue from this source alone must have
amounted to 250,000 livres, or upwards of 10,000l. sterling.

[Illustration: HOTEL DE SOISSONS.]

The honest old soldier, Marshal Villars, was so vexed to see the folly
which had smitten his countrymen, that he never could speak with temper on
the subject. Passing one day through the Place Vendôme in his carriage,
the choleric gentleman was so annoyed at the infatuation of the people,
that he abruptly ordered his coachman to stop, and, putting his head out
of the carriage window, harangued them for full half an hour on their
"disgusting avarice." This was not a very wise proceeding on his part.
Hisses and shouts of laughter resounded from every side, and jokes without
number were aimed at him. There being at last strong symptoms that
something more tangible was flying through the air in the direction of his
head, the marshal was glad to drive on. He never again repeated the

Two sober, quiet, and philosophic men of letters, M. de la Motte and the
Abbé Terrason, congratulated each other, that they, at least, were free
from this strange infatuation. A few days afterwards, as the worthy abbé
was coming out of the Hôtel de Soissons, whither he had gone to buy shares
in the Mississippi, whom should he see but his friend La Motte entering
for the same purpose. "Ha!" said the abbé smiling, "is that _you_?" "Yes,"
said La Motte, pushing past him as fast as he was able; "and can that be
_you_?" The next time the two scholars met, they talked of philosophy, of
science, and of religion, but neither had courage for a long time to
breathe one syllable about the Mississippi. At last, when it was
mentioned, they agreed that a man ought never to swear against his doing
any one thing, and that there was no sort of extravagance of which even a
wise man was not capable.

During this time, Law, the new Plutus, had become all at once the most
important personage of the state. The ante-chambers of the regent were
forsaken by the courtiers, Peers, judges, and bishops thronged to the
Hôtel de Soissons; officers of the army and navy, ladies of title and
fashion, and every one to whom hereditary rank or public employ gave a
claim to precedence, were to be found waiting in his ante-chambers to beg
for a portion of his India stock. Law was so pestered that he was unable
to see one-tenth part of the applicants, and every manoeuvre that
ingenuity could suggest was employed to gain access to him. Peers, whose
dignity would have been outraged if the regent had made them wait half an
hour for an interview, were content to wait six hours for the chance of
seeing Monsieur Law. Enormous fees were paid to his servants, if they
would merely announce their names. Ladies of rank employed the
blandishments of their smiles for the same object; but many of them came
day after day for a fortnight before they could obtain an audience. When
Law accepted an invitation, he was sometimes so surrounded by ladies, all
asking to have their names put down in his lists as shareholders in the
new stock, that, in spite of his well-known and habitual gallantry, he was
obliged to tear himself away _par force_. The most ludicrous stratagems
were employed to have an opportunity of speaking to him. One lady, who had
striven in vain during several days, gave up in despair all attempts to
see him at his own house, but ordered her coachman to keep a strict watch
whenever she was out in her carriage, and if he saw Mr. Law coming, to
drive against a post and upset her. The coachman promised obedience, and
for three days the lady was driven incessantly through the town, praying
inwardly for the opportunity to be overturned. At last she espied Mr. Law,
and, pulling the string, called out to the coachman, "Upset us now! for
God's sake, upset us now!" The coachman drove against a post, the lady
screamed, the coach was overturned, and Law, who had seen the _accident_,
hastened to the spot to render assistance. The cunning dame was led into
the Hôtel de Soissons, where she soon thought it advisable to recover from
her fright, and, after apologising to Mr. Law, confessed her stratagem.
Law smiled, and entered the lady in his books as the purchaser of a
quantity of India stock. Another story is told of a Madame de Boucha, who,
knowing that Mr. Law was at dinner at a certain house, proceeded thither
in her carriage, and gave the alarm of fire. The company started from
table, and Law among the rest; but, seeing one lady making all haste into
the house towards him, while every body else was scampering away, he
suspected the trick, and ran off in another direction.


Many other anecdotes are related, which even though they may be a little
exaggerated, are nevertheless worth preserving, as shewing the spirit of
that singular period.[7] The regent was one day mentioning, in the
presence of D'Argenson, the Abbé Dubois, and some other persons, that he
was desirous of deputing some lady, of the rank at least of a duchess, to
attend upon his daughter at Modena; "but," added he, "I do not exactly
know where to find one." "No!" replied one, in affected surprise; "I can
tell you where to find every duchess in France: you have only to go to Mr.
Law's; you will see them every one in his ante-chamber."

    [7] The curious reader may find an anecdote of the eagerness of
        the French ladies to retain Law in their company, which will
        make him blush or smile according as he happens to be very
        modest or the reverse. It is related in the _Letters of Madame
        Charlotte Elizabeth de Bavière, Duchess of Orleans_, vol. ii.
        p. 274.

M. de Chirac, a celebrated physician, had bought stock at an unlucky
period, and was very anxious to sell out. Stock, however, continued to
fall for two or three days, much to his alarm. His mind was filled with
the subject, when he was suddenly called upon to attend a lady who
imagined herself unwell. He arrived, was shewn up stairs, and felt the
lady's pulse. "It falls! it falls! good God! it falls continually!" said
he musingly, while the lady looked up in his face all anxiety for his
opinion. "Oh, M. de Chirac," said she, starting to her feet and ringing
the bell for assistance; "I am dying! I am dying! it falls! it falls! it
falls!" "What falls?" inquired the doctor in amazement. "My pulse! my
pulse!" said the lady; "I must be dying." "Calm your apprehensions, my
dear madam," said M. de Chirac; "I was speaking of the stocks. The truth
is, I have been a great loser, and my mind is so disturbed, I hardly know
what I have been saying."

The price of shares sometimes rose ten or twenty per cent in the course of
a few hours, and many persons in the humbler walks of life, who had risen
poor in the morning, went to bed in affluence. An extensive holder of
stock, being taken ill, sent his servant to sell two hundred and fifty
shares, at eight thousand livres each, the price at which they were then
quoted. The servant went, and, on his arrival in the Jardin de Soissons,
found that in the interval the price had risen to ten thousand livres. The
difference of two thousand livres on the two hundred and fifty shares,
amounting to 500,000 livres, or 20,000l. sterling, he very coolly
transferred to his own use, and giving the remainder to his master, set
out the same evening for another country. Law's coachman in a very short
time made money enough to set up a carriage of his own, and requested
permission to leave his service. Law, who esteemed the man, begged of him
as a favour, that he would endeavour, before he went, to find a substitute
as good as himself. The coachman consented, and in the evening brought two
of his former comrades, telling Mr. Law to choose between them, and he
would take the other. Cookmaids and footmen were now and then as lucky,
and, in the full-blown pride of their easily-acquired wealth, made the
most ridiculous mistakes. Preserving the language and manners of their
old, with the finery of their new station, they afforded continual
subjects for the pity of the sensible, the contempt of the sober, and the
laughter of every body. But the folly and meanness of the higher ranks of
society were still more disgusting. One instance alone, related by the
Duke de St. Simon, will shew the unworthy avarice which infected the whole
of society. A man of the name of André, without character or education,
had, by a series of well-timed speculations in Mississippi bonds, gained
enormous wealth in an incredibly short space of time. As St. Simon
expresses it, "he had amassed mountains of gold." As he became rich, he
grew ashamed of the lowness of his birth, and anxious above all things to
be allied to nobility. He had a daughter, an infant only three years of
age, and he opened a negotiation with the aristocratic and needy family of
D'Oyse, that this child should, upon certain conditions, marry a member of
that house. The Marquis D'Oyse, to his shame, consented, and promised to
marry her himself on her attaining the age of twelve, if the father would
pay him down the sum of a hundred thousand crowns, and twenty thousand
livres every year until the celebration of the marriage. The marquis was
himself in his thirty-third year. This scandalous bargain was duly signed
and sealed, the stockjobber furthermore agreeing to settle upon his
daughter, on the marriage-day, a fortune of several millions. The Duke of
Brancas, the head of the family, was present throughout the negotiation,
and shared in all the profits. St. Simon, who treats the matter with the
levity becoming what he thought so good a joke, adds, "that people did not
spare their animadversions on this beautiful marriage," and further
informs us, "that the project fell to the ground some months afterwards by
the overthrow of Law, and the ruin of the ambitious Monsieur André." It
would appear, however, that the noble family never had the honesty to
return the hundred thousand crowns.

Amid events like these, which, humiliating though they be, partake largely
of the ludicrous, others occurred of a more serious nature. Robberies in
the streets were of daily occurrence, in consequence of the immense sums,
in paper, which people carried about with them. Assassinations were also
frequent. One case in particular fixed the attention of the whole of
France, not only on account of the enormity of the offence, but of the
rank and high connexions of the criminal.


The Count d'Horn, a younger brother of the Prince d'Horn, and related to
the noble families of D'Aremberg, De Ligne, and De Montmorency, was a
young man of dissipated character, extravagant to a degree, and
unprincipled as he was extravagant. In connexion with two other young men
as reckless as himself, named Mille, a Piedmontese captain, and one
Destampes, or Lestang, a Fleming, he formed a design to rob a very rich
broker, who was known, unfortunately for himself, to carry great sums
about his person. The count pretended a desire to purchase of him a number
of shares in the Company of the Indies, and for that purpose appointed to
meet him in a _cabaret_, or low public-house, in the neighbourhood of the
Place Vendôme. The unsuspecting broker was punctual to his appointment; so
were the Count d'Horn and his two associates, whom he introduced as his
particular friends. After a few moments' conversation, the Count d'Horn
suddenly sprang upon his victim, and stabbed him three times in the breast
with a poniard. The man fell heavily to the ground, and, while the count
was employed in rifling his portfolio of bonds in the Mississippi and
Indian schemes to the amount of one hundred thousand crowns, Mille, the
Piedmontese, stabbed the unfortunate broker again and again, to make sure
of his death, But the broker did not fall without a struggle, and his
cries brought the people of the _cabaret_ to his assistance. Lestang, the
other assassin, who had been set to keep watch at a staircase, sprang from
a window and escaped; but Mille and the Count d'Horn were seized in the
very act.

This crime, committed in open day, and in so public a place as a
_cabaret_, filled Paris with consternation. The trial of the assassins
commenced on the following day; and the evidence being so clear, they were
both found guilty, and condemned, to be broken alive on the wheel. The
noble relatives of the Count d'Horn absolutely blocked tip the
ante-chambers of the regent, praying for mercy on the misguided youth, and
alleging that he was insane. The regent avoided them as long as possible,
being determined that, in a case so atrocious, justice should take its
course. But the importunity of these influential suitors was not to be
overcome so silently; and they at last forced themselves into the presence
of the regent, and prayed him to save their house the shame of a public
execution. They hinted that the Princes d'Horn were allied to the
illustrious family of Orleans; and added, that the regent himself would be
disgraced if a kinsman of his should die by the hands of a common
executioner. The regent, to his credit, was proof against all their
solicitations, and replied to their last argument in the words of

   "Le crime fait la honte, et non pas l'échafaud:"

adding, that whatever shame there might be in the punishment he would very
willingly share with the other relatives. Day after day they renewed their
entreaties, but always with the same result. At last they thought, that if
they could interest the Duke de St. Simon in their favour--a man, for whom
the regent felt sincere esteem--they might succeed in their object. The
duke, a thorough aristocrat, was as shocked as they were that a noble
assassin should die by the same death as a plebeian felon, and represented
to the regent the impolicy of making enemies of so numerous, wealthy, and
powerful a family. He urged, too, that in Germany, where the family of
D'Aremberg had large possessions, it was the law, that no relative of a
person broken on the wheel could succeed to any public office or employ
until a whole generation had passed away. For this reason, he thought the
punishment of the guilty count might be transmuted into beheading, which
was considered all over Europe as much less infamous. The regent was moved
by this argument, and was about to consent, when Law, who felt peculiarly
interested in the fate of the murdered man, confirmed him in his former
resolution to let the law take its course.

The relatives of D'Horn were now reduced to the last extremity. The Prince
de Robec Montmorency, despairing of other methods, found means to
penetrate into the dungeon of the criminal, and offering him a cup of
poison, implored him to save them from disgrace. The Count d'Horn turned
away his head, and refused to take it. Montmorency pressed him once more;
and losing all patience at his continued refusal, turned on his heel, and
exclaiming, "Die, then, as thou wilt, mean-spirited wretch! thou art fit
only to perish by the hands of the hangman!" left him to his fate.

D'Horn himself petitioned the regent that he might be beheaded; but Law,
who exercised more influence over his mind than any other person, with the
exception of the notorious Abbé Dubois, his tutor, insisted that he could
not in justice succumb to the self-interested views of the D'Horns. The
regent had from the first been of the same opinion; and within six days
after the commission of their crime, D'Horn and Mille were broken on the
wheel in the Place de Grève. The other assassin, Lestang, was never

This prompt and severe justice was highly pleasing to the populace of
Paris. Even M. de Quincampoix, as they called Law, came in for a share of
their approbation for having induced the regent to shew no favour to a
patrician. But the number of robberies and assassinations did not
diminish; no sympathy was shewn for rich jobbers when they were plundered.
The general laxity of public morals, conspicuous enough before, was
rendered still more so by its rapid pervasion of the middle classes, who
had hitherto remained comparatively pure between the open vices of the
class above and the hidden crimes of the class below them. The pernicious
love of gambling diffused itself through society, and bore all public and
nearly all private virtue before it.

For a time, while confidence lasted, an impetus was given to trade which
could not fail to be beneficial. In Paris especially the good results were
felt. Strangers flocked into the capital from every part, bent not only
upon making money, but on spending it. The Duchess of Orleans, mother of
the regent, computes the increase of the population during this time, from
the great influx of strangers from all parts of the world, at 305,000
souls. The housekeepers were obliged to make up beds in garrets, kitchens,
and even stables, for the accommodation of lodgers; and the town was so
full of carriages and vehicles of every description, that they were
obliged, in the principal streets, to drive at a foot-pace for fear of
accidents. The looms of the country worked with unusual activity to supply
rich laces, silks, broad-cloth, and velvets, which being paid for in
abundant paper, increased in price four-fold. Provisions shared the
general advance. Bread, meat, and vegetables were sold at prices greater
than had ever before been known; while the wages of labour rose in exactly
the same proportion. The artisan who formerly gained fifteen sous per diem
now gained sixty. New houses were built in every direction; an illusory
prosperity shone over the land, and so dazzled the eyes of the whole
nation, that none could see the dark cloud on the horizon announcing the
storm that was too rapidly approaching.

Law himself, the magician whose wand had wrought so surprising a change,
shared, of course, in the general prosperity. His wife and daughter were
courted by the highest nobility, and their alliance sought by the heirs of
ducal and princely houses. He bought two splendid estates in different
parts of France, and entered into a negotiation with the family of the
Duke de Sully for the purchase of the marquisate of Rosny. His religion
being an obstacle to his advancement, the regent promised, if he would
publicly conform to the Catholic faith, to make him comptroller-general of
the finances. Law, who had no more real religion than any other professed
gambler, readily agreed, and was confirmed by the Abbé de Tencin in the
cathedral of Melun, in presence of a great crowd of spectators[8]. On
the following day he was elected honorary churchwarden of the parish of
St. Roch, upon which occasion he made it a present of the sum of five
hundred thousand livres. His charities, always magnificent, were not
always so ostentatious. He gave away great sums privately, and no tale of
real distress ever reached his ears in vain.

    [8] The following squib was circulated on the occasion:

           "Foin de ton zèle séraphique,
              Malheureux Abbé de Tencin,
            Depuis que Law est Catholique,
              Tout le royaume est Capucin!"

        Thus somewhat weakly and paraphrastically rendered by
        Justandsond, in his translation of the _Memoirs of Louis XV._:

           "Tencin, a curse on thy seraphic zeal,
              Which by persuasion hath contrived the means
            To make the Scotchman at our altars kneel,
              Since which we all are poor as Capucines!"

At this time he was by far the most influential person of the state. The
Duke of Orleans had so much confidence in his sagacity and the success of
his plans, that he always consulted him upon every matter of moment. He
was by no means unduly elevated by his prosperity, but remained the same
simple, affable, sensible man that he had shewn himself in adversity. His
gallantry, which was always delightful to the fair objects of it, was of a
nature so kind, so gentlemanly, and so respectful, that not even a lover
could have taken offence at it. If upon any occasion he shewed any
symptoms of haughtiness, it was to the cringing nobles who lavished their
adulation upon him till it became fulsome. He often took pleasure in
seeing how long he could make them dance attendance upon him for a single
favour. To such of his own countrymen as by chance visited Paris, and
sought an interview with him, he was, on the contrary, all politeness and
attention. When Archibald Campbell, Earl of Islay, and afterwards Duke of
Argyle, called upon him in the Place Vendôme, he had to pass through an
ante-chamber crowded with persons of the first distinction, all anxious to
see the great financier, and have their names put down as first on the
list of some new subscription. Law himself was quietly sitting in his
library, writing a letter to the gardener at his paternal estate of
Lauriston about the planting of some cabbages! The earl stayed for a
considerable time, played a game of piquet with his countryman, and left
him, charmed with his ease, good sense, and good breeding.

[Illustration: LAW AS ATLAS.[9]]

    [9] From a print in a Dutch collection of satirical prints
        relating to the Mississippi Mania, entitled "Het groote
        Tafereel der Dwaasheid;" or, The great picture of Folly. The
        print of Atlas is styled, "L'Atlas actieux de Papier." Law is
        calling in Hercules to aid him in supporting the globe. Quoted
        in Wright's _England under the House of Hanover_.

Among the nobles who, by means of the public credulity at this time,
gained sums sufficient to repair their ruined fortunes, may be mentioned
the names of the Dukes de Bourbon, de Guiche, de la Force,[10] de
Chaulnes, and d'Antin; the Marechal d'Estrées; the Princes de Rohan, de
Poix, and de Léon. The Duke de Bourbon, son of Louis XIV. by Madame de
Montespan, was peculiarly fortunate in his speculations in Mississippi
paper. He rebuilt the royal residence of Chantilly in a style of unwonted
magnificence; and being passionately fond of horses, he erected a range of
stables, which were long renowned throughout Europe, and imported a
hundred and fifty of the finest racers from England to improve the breed
in France. He bought a large extent of country in Picardy, and became
possessed of nearly all the valuable lands lying between the Oise and the

    [10] The Duke de la Force gained considerable sums, not only by
         jobbing in the stocks, but in dealing in porcelain, spices,
         &c. It was debated for a length of time in the parliament of
         Paris whether he had not, in his quality of spice-merchant,
         forfeited his rank in the peerage. It was decided in the
         negative. A caricature of him was made, dressed as a
         street-porter, carrying a large bale of spices on his back,
         with the inscription, "Admirez LA FORCE."

When fortunes such as these were gained, it is no wonder that Law should
have been almost worshipped by the mercurial population. Never was monarch
more flattered than he was. All the small poets and _littérateurs_ of the
day poured floods of adulation upon him. According to them, he was the
saviour of the country, the tutelary divinity of France; wit was in all
his words, goodness in all his looks, and wisdom in all his actions. So
great a crowd followed his carriage whenever he went abroad, that the
regent sent him a troop of horse as his permanent escort to clear the
streets before him.

It was remarked at this time that Paris had never before been so full of
objects of elegance and luxury. Statues, pictures, and tapestries were
imported in great quantities from foreign countries, and found a ready
market. All those pretty trifles in the way of furniture and ornament
which the French excel in manufacturing were no longer the exclusive
playthings of the aristocracy, but were to be found in abundance in the
houses of traders and the middle classes in general. Jewellery of the most
costly description was brought to Paris as the most favourable mart; among
the rest, the famous diamond bought by the regent, and called by his name,
and which long adorned the crown of France. It was purchased for the sum
of two millions of livres, under circumstances which shew that the regent
was not so great a gainer as some of his subjects by the impetus which
trade had received. When the diamond was first offered to him, he refused
to buy it, although he desired above all things to possess it, alleging as
his reason, that his duty to the country he governed would not allow him
to spend so large a sum of the public money for a mere jewel. This valid
and honourable excuse threw all the ladies of the court into alarm, and
nothing was heard for some days but expressions of regret that so rare a
gem should be allowed to go out of France, no private individual being
rich enough to buy it. The regent was continually importuned about it, but
all in vain, until the Duke de St. Simon, who with all his ability was
something of a twaddler, undertook the weighty business. His entreaties
being seconded by Law, the good-natured regent gave his consent, leaving
to Law's ingenuity to find the means to pay for it. The owner took
security for the payment of the sum of two millions of livres within a
stated period, receiving in the mean time the interest of five per cent
upon that amount, and being allowed, besides, all the valuable clippings
of the gem. St. Simon, in his _Memoirs_, relates with no little
complacency his share in this transaction. After describing the diamond to
be as large as a greengage, of a form nearly round, perfectly white, and
without flaw, and weighing more than five hundred grains, he concludes
with a chuckle, by telling the world "that he takes great credit to
himself for having induced the regent to make so illustrious a purchase."
In other words, he was proud that he had induced him to sacrifice his
duty, and buy a bauble for himself at an extravagant price out of the
public money.

Thus the system continued to flourish till the commencement of the year
1720. The warnings of the parliament, that too great a creation of paper
money would, sooner or later, bring the country to bankruptcy, were
disregarded. The regent, who knew nothing whatever of the philosophy of
finance, thought that a system which had produced such good effects could
never be carried to excess. If five hundred millions of paper had been of
such advantage, five hundred millions additional would be of still greater
advantage. This was the grand error of the regent, and which Law did not
attempt to dispel. The extraordinary avidity of the people kept up the
delusion; and the higher the price of Indian and Mississippi stock, the
more _billets de banque_ were issued to keep pace with it. The edifice
thus reared might not unaptly be compared to the gorgeous palace erected
by Potemkin, that princely barbarian of Russia, to surprise and please his
imperial mistress: huge blocks of ice were piled one upon another; ionic
pillars, of chastest workmanship, in ice, formed a noble portico; and a
dome, of the same material, shone in the sun, which had just strength
enough to gild, but not to melt it. It glittered afar, like a palace of
crystals and diamonds; but there came one warm breeze from the south, and
the stately building dissolved away, till none were able even to gather up
the fragments. So with Law and his paper system. No sooner did the breath
of popular mistrust blow steadily upon it, than it fell to ruins, and none
could raise it up again.

The first slight alarm that was occasioned was early in 1720. The Prince
de Conti, offended that Law should have denied him fresh shares in India
stock, at his own price, sent to his bank to demand payment in specie of
so enormous a quantity of notes, that three wagons were required for its
transport. Law complained to the regent, and urged on his attention the
mischief that would be done, if such an example found many imitators. The
regent was but too well aware of it, and, sending for the Prince de Conti,
ordered him, under penalty of his high displeasure, to refund to the bank
two-thirds of the specie which he had withdrawn from it. The prince was
forced to obey the despotic mandate. Happily for Law's credit, De Conti
was an unpopular man: every body condemned his meanness and cupidity, and
agreed that Law had been hardly treated. It is strange, however, that so
narrow an escape should not have made both Law and the regent more anxious
to restrict their issues. Others were soon found who imitated, from
motives of distrust, the example which had been set by De Conti in
revenge. The more acute stockjobbers imagined justly that prices could not
continue to rise for ever. Bourdon and La Richardière, renowned for their
extensive operations in the funds, quietly and in small quantities at a
time, converted their notes into specie, and sent it away to foreign
countries. They also bought as much as they could conveniently carry of
plate and expensive jewellery, and sent it secretly away to England or to
Holland. Vermalet, a jobber, who sniffed the coming storm, procured gold
and silver coin to the amount of nearly a million of livres, which he
packed in a farmer's cart, and covered over with hay and cow-dung. He then
disguised himself in the dirty smock-frock, or _blouse_, of a peasant, and
drove his precious load in safety into Belgium. From thence he soon found
means to transport it to Amsterdam.

Hitherto no difficulty had been experienced by any class in procuring
specie for their wants. But this system could not long be carried on
without causing a scarcity. The voice of complaint was heard on every
side, and inquiries being instituted, the cause was soon discovered. The
council debated long on the remedies to be taken, and Law, being called on
for his advice, was of opinion, that an edict should be published,
depreciating the value of coin five per cent below that of paper. The
edict was published accordingly; but failing of its intended effect, was
followed by another, in which the depreciation was increased to ten per
cent. The payments of the bank were at the same time restricted to one
hundred livres in gold, and ten in silver. All these measures were
nugatory to restore confidence in the paper, though the restriction of
cash payments within limits so extremely narrow kept up the credit of the

[Illustration: LUCIFER'S NEW ROW-BARGE.[11]]

    [11] "Lucifer's New Row-Barge" exhibits Law in a barge, with a
         host of emblematic figures representing the Mississippi
         follies.--_From a Print in Mr. Hawkins' Collection_.

Notwithstanding every effort to the contrary, the precious metals
continued to be conveyed to England and Holland. The little coin that was
left in the country was carefully treasured, or hidden until the scarcity
became so great, that the operations of trade could no longer be carried
on. In this emergency, Law hazarded the bold experiment of forbidding the
use of specie altogether. In February 1720 an edict was published, which,
instead of restoring the credit of the paper, as was intended, destroyed
it irrecoverably, and drove the country to the very brink of revolution.
By this famous edict it was forbidden to any person whatever to have more
than five hundred livres (20l.) of coin in his possession, under pain of a
heavy fine, and confiscation of the sums found. It was also forbidden to
buy up jewellery, plate, and precious stones, and informers were
encouraged to make search for offenders, by the promise of one-half the
amount they might discover. The whole country sent up a cry of distress at
this unheard-of tyranny. The most odious persecution daily took place. The
privacy of families was violated by the intrusion of informers and their
agents. The most virtuous and honest were denounced for the crime of
having been seen with a _louis d'or_ in their possession. Servants
betrayed their masters, one citizen became a spy upon his neighbour, and
arrests and confiscations so multiplied, that the courts found a
difficulty in getting through the immense increase of business thus
occasioned. It was sufficient for an informer to say that he suspected any
person of concealing money in his house, and immediately'a search-warrant
was granted. Lord Stair, the English ambassador, said, that it was now
impossible to doubt of the sincerity of Law's conversion to the Catholic
religion; he had established the _inquisition_, after having given
abundant evidence of his faith in _transubstantiation_, by turning so much
gold into paper.

Every epithet that popular hatred could suggest was showered upon the
regent and the unhappy Law. Coin, to any amount above five hundred livres,
was an illegal tender, and nobody would take paper if he could help it. No
one knew to-day what his notes would be worth to-morrow. "Never," says
Duclos, in his _Secret Memoirs of the Regency_, "was seen a more
capricious government--never was a more frantic tyranny exercised by hands
less firm. It is inconceivable to those who were witnesses of the horrors
of those times, and who look back upon them now as on a dream, that a
sudden revolution did not break out--that Law and the regent did not
perish by a tragical death. They were both held in horror, but the people
confined themselves to complaints; a sombre and timid despair, a stupid
consternation, had seized upon all, and men's minds were too vile even to
be capable of a courageous crime." It would appear that, a one time, a
movement of the people was organised. Seditious writings were posted up
against the walls, and were sent, in hand-bills, to the houses of the most
conspicuous people. One of them, given in the _Mémoires de la Régence_,
was to the following effect:--"Sir and madam,--This is to give you notice
that a St. Bartholomew's Day will be enacted again on Saturday and Sunday,
if affairs do not alter. You are desired not to stir out, nor you, nor
your servants. God preserve you from the flames! Give notice to your
neighbours. Dated, Saturday, May 25th, 1720." The immense number of spies
with which the city was infested rendered the people mistrustful of one
another, and beyond some trifling disturbances made in the evening by an
insignificant group, which was soon dispersed, the peace of the capital
was not compromised.


The value of shares in the Louisiana, or Mississippi stock, had fallen
very rapidly, and few indeed were found to believe the tales that had once
been told of the immense wealth of that region. A last effort was
therefore tried to restore the public confidence in the Mississippi
project. For this purpose, a general conscription of all the poor wretches
in Paris was made by order of government. Upwards of six thousand of the
very refuse of the population were impressed, as if in time of war, and
were provided with clothes and tools to be embarked for New Orleans, to
work in the gold mines alleged to abound there. They were paraded day
after day through the streets with their pikes and shovels, and then sent
off in small detachments to the out-ports to be shipped for America.
Two-thirds of them never reached their destination, but dispersed
themselves over the country, sold their tools for what they could get, and
returned to their old course of life. In less than three weeks afterwards,
one-half of them were to be found again in Paris. The manoeuvre, however,
caused a trifling advance in Mississippi stock. Many persons of
superabundant gullibility believed that operations had begun in earnest in
the new Golconda, and that gold and silver ingots would again be found in

In a constitutional monarchy some surer means would have been found for
the restoration of public credit. In England, at a subsequent period, when
a similar delusion had brought on similar distress, how different were the
measures taken to repair the evil; but in France, unfortunately, the
remedy was left to the authors of the mischief. The arbitrary will of the
regent, which endeavoured to extricate the country, only plunged it deeper
into the mire. All payments were ordered to be made in paper, and between
the 1st of February and the end of May, notes were fabricated to the
amount of upwards of 1500 millions of livres, or 60,000,000l. sterling.
But the alarm once sounded, no art could make the people feel the
slightest confidence in paper which was not exchangeable into metal. M.
Lambert, the president of the parliament of Paris, told the regent to his
face that he would rather have a hundred thousand livres in gold or silver
than five millions in the notes of his bank. When such was the general
feeling, the superabundant issues of paper but increased the evil, by
rendering still more enormous the disparity between the amount of specie
and notes in circulation. Coin, which it was the object of the regent to
depreciate, rose in value on every fresh attempt to diminish it. In
February, it was judged advisable that the Royal Bank should be
incorporated with the Company of the Indies. An edict to that effect was
published and registered by the parliament. The state remained the
guarantee for the notes of the bank, and no more were to be issued without
an order in council. All the profits of the bank, since the time it had
been taken out of Law's hands and made a national institution, were given
over by the regent to the Company of the Indies. This measure had the
effect of raising for a short time the value of the Louisiana and other
shares of the company, but it failed in placing public credit on any
permanent basis.

A council of state was held in the beginning of May, at which Law,
D'Argenson (his colleague in the administration of the finances), and all
the ministers were present. It was then computed that the total amount of
notes in circulation was 2600 millions of livres, while the coin in the
country was not quite equal to half that amount. It was evident to the
majority of the council that some plan must be adopted to equalise the
currency. Some proposed that the notes should be reduced to the value of
the specie, while others proposed that the nominal value of the specie
should be raised till it was on an equality with the paper. Law is said to
have opposed both these projects, but failing in suggesting any other, it
was agreed that the notes should be depreciated one half. On the 21st of
May, an edict was accordingly issued, by which it was decreed that the
shares of the Company of the Indies, and the notes of the bank, should
gradually diminish in value, till at the end of a year they should only
pass current for one-half of their nominal worth. The parliament refused
to register the edict--the greatest outcry was excited, and the state of
the country became so alarming, that, as the only means of preserving
tranquillity, the council of the regency was obliged to stultify its own
proceedings, by publishing within seven days another edict, restoring the
notes to their original value.

On the same day (the 27th of May) the bank stopped payment in specie. Law
and D'Argenson were both dismissed from the ministry. The weak,
vacillating, and cowardly regent threw the blame of all the mischief upon
Law, who, upon presenting himself at the Palais Royal, was refused
admittance. At nightfall, however, he was sent for, and admitted into the
palace by a secret door,[12] when the regent endeavoured to console him,
and made all manner of excuses for the severity with which in public he
had been compelled to treat him. So capricious was his conduct, that, two
days afterwards, he took him publicly to the opera, where he sat in the
royal box alongside of the regent, who treated him with marked
consideration in face of all the people. But such was the hatred against
Law that the experiment had well nigh proved fatal to him. The mob
assailed his carriage with stones just as he was entering his own door;
and if the coachman had not made a sudden jerk into the court-yard, and
the domestics closed the gate immediately, he would, in all probability,
have been dragged out and torn to pieces. On the following day, his wife
and daughter were also assailed by the mob as they were returning in their
carriage from the races. When the regent was informed of these occurrences
he sent Law a strong detachment of Swiss guards, who were stationed night
and day in the court of his residence. The public indignation at last
increased so much, that Law, finding his own house, even with this guard,
insecure, took refuge in the Palais Royal, in the apartments of the

    [12] Duclos, _Memoires Secrets de la Régence_.

The Chancellor, D'Aguesseau, who had been dismissed in 1718 for his
opposition to the projects of Law, was now recalled to aid in the
restoration of credit. The regent acknowledged too late, that he had
treated with unjustifiable harshness and mistrust one of the ablest, and
perhaps the sole honest public man of that corrupt period. He had retired
ever since his disgrace to his country house at Fresnes, where, in the
midst of severe but delightful philosophic studies, he had forgotten the
intrigues of an unworthy court. Law himself, and the Chevalier de
Conflans, a gentleman of the regent's household, were despatched in a
post-chaise with orders to bring the ex-chancellor to Paris along with
them. D'Aguesseau consented to render what assistance he could, contrary
to the advice of his friends, who did not approve that he should accept
any recal to office of which Law was the bearer. On his arrival in Paris,
five counsellors of the parliament were admitted to confer with the
Commissary of Finance; and on the 1st of June an order was published
abolishing the law which made it criminal to amass coin to the amount of
more than five hundred livres. Every one was permitted to have as much
specie as he pleased. In order that the bank-notes might be withdrawn,
twenty-five millions of new notes were created, on the security of the
revenues of the city of Paris, at two-and-a-half per cent. The bank-notes
withdrawn were publicly burned in front of the Hôtel de Ville. The new
notes were principally of the value of ten livres each; and on the 10th of
June the bank was re-opened, with a sufficiency of silver coin to give in
change for them.

[Illustration: D'AGUESSEAU.]

These measures were productive of considerable advantage. All the
population of Paris hastened to the bank to get coin for their small
notes; and silver becoming scarce, they were paid in copper. Very few
complained that this was too heavy, although poor fellows might be
continually seen toiling and sweating along the streets, laden with more
than they could comfortably carry, in the shape of change for fifty
livres. The crowds around the bank were so great, that hardly a day passed
that some one was not pressed to death. On the 9th of July, the multitude
was so dense and clamorous that the guards stationed at the entrance of
the Mazarin Gardens closed the gate and refused to admit any more. The
crowd became incensed, and flung stones through the railings upon the
soldiers. The latter, incensed in their turn, threatened to fire upon the
people.  At that instant one of them was hit by a stone, and, taking up
his piece, he fired into the crowd. One man fell dead immediately, and
another was severely wounded. It was every instant expected that a general
attack would have been commenced upon the bank; but the gates of the
Mazarin Gardens being opened to the crowd, who saw a whole troop of
soldiers, with their bayonets fixed ready to receive them, they contented
themselves by giving vent to their indignation in groans and hisses.

Eight days afterwards the concourse of people was so tremendous that
fifteen persons were squeezed to death at the doors of the bank. The
people were so indignant that they took three of the bodies on stretchers
before them, and proceeded, to the number of seven or eight thousand, to
the gardens of the Palais Royal, that they might shew the regent the
misfortunes that he and Law had brought upon the country. Law's coachman,
who was sitting at the box of his master's carriage, in the court-yard of
the palace, happened to have more zeal than discretion, and, not liking
that the mob should abuse his master, he said, loud enough to be overheard
by several persons, that they were all blackguards, and deserved to be
hanged. The mob immediately set upon him, and thinking that Law was in the
carriage, broke it to pieces. The imprudent coachman narrowly escaped with
his life. No further mischief was done; a body of troops making their
appearance, the crowd quietly dispersed, after an assurance had been given
by the regent that the three bodies they had brought to shew him should be
decently buried at his own expense. The parliament was sitting at the time
of this uproar, and the president took upon himself to go out and see what
was the matter. On his return he informed the councillors that Law's
carriage had been broken by the mob. All the members rose simultaneously,
and expressed their joy by a loud shout, while one man, more zealous in
his hatred than the rest, exclaimed, "_And Law himself, is_ he _torn to

    [13] The Duchess of Orleans gives a different version of this
         story; but whichever be the true one, the manifestation of
         such feeling in a legislative assembly was not very
         creditable. She says that the president was so transported
         with joy, that he was seized with a rhyming fit, and,
         returning into the hall, exclaimed to the members:

            "_Messieurs! Messieurs! bonne nouvelle!
             Le carrosse de Lass est reduit en cannelle!_"

Much, undoubtedly, depended on the credit of the Company of the Indies,
which was answerable for so great a sum to the nation. It was therefore
suggested in the council of the ministry, that any privileges which could
be granted to enable it to fulfil its engagements, would be productive of
the best results. With this end in view, it was proposed that the
exclusive privilege of all maritime commerce should be secured to it, and
an edict to that effect was published. But it was unfortunately forgotten
that by such a measure all the merchants of the country would be ruined.
The idea of such an immense privilege was generally scouted by the nation,
and petition on petition was presented to the parliament that they would
refuse to register the decree. They refused accordingly, and the regent,
remarking that they did nothing but fan the flame of sedition, exiled them
to Blois. At the intercession of D'Aguesseau, the place of banishment was
changed to Pontoise, and thither accordingly the councillors repaired,
determined to set the regent at defiance. They made every arrangement for
rendering their temporary exile as agreeable as possible. The president
gave the most elegant suppers, to which he invited all the gayest and
wittiest company of Paris. Every night there was a concert and ball for
the ladies. The usually grave and solemn judges and councillors joined in
cards and other diversions, leading for several weeks a life of the most
extravagant pleasure, for no other purpose than to shew the regent of how
little consequence they deemed their banishment, and that, when they
willed it, they could make Pontoise a pleasanter residence than Paris.

Of all the nations in the world the French are the most renowned for
singing over their grievances. Of that country it has been remarked with
some truth, that its whole history may be traced in its songs. When Law,
by the utter failure of his best-laid plans, rendered himself obnoxious,
satire of course seized hold upon him; and while caricatures of his person
appeared in all the shops, the streets resounded with songs, in which
neither he nor the regent was spared. Many of these songs were far from
decent; and one of them in particular counselled the application of all
his notes to the most ignoble use to which paper can be applied. But the
following, preserved in the letters of the Duchess of Orleans, was the
best and the most popular, and was to be heard for months in all the
_carrefours_ in Paris. The application of the chorus is happy enough:

        Aussitôt que Lass arriva
          Dans notre bonne ville,
        Monsieur le Régent publia
          Que Lass serait utile
        Pour rétablir la nation.
    _La faridondaine! la faridondon!_
        Mais il nous a tous enrichi,
    _A la façon de Barbari,_
                          _Mon ami!_

        Ce parpaillot, pour attirer
          Tout l'argent de la France,
        Songea d'abord à s'assurer
          De notre confiance.
        Il fit son abjuration,
    _La faridondaine! la faridondon!_
        Mais le fourbe s'est converti,
    _A la façon de Barbari,_
                          _Mon ami!_

        Lass, le fils aîné de Satan
          Nous met tous à l'aumône,
        Il nous a pris tout notre argent
          Et n'en rend à personne.
        Mais le Régent, humain et bon,
    _La faridondaine! la faridondon!_
        Nous rendra ce qu'on nous a pris,
    _A la façon de Barbari,_
                          _Mon ami!_

The following epigram is of the same date:

    _Lundi_, j'achetai des actions;
    _Mardi_, je gagnai des millions;
    _Mercredi_, j'arrangeai mon ménage,
    _Jeudi_, je pris un équipage,
    _Vendredi_, je m'en fus au bal,
    _Et Samedi_, à l'hôpital.

Among the caricatures that were abundantly published, and that shewed as
plainly as graver matters, that the nation had awakened to a sense of its
folly, was one, a fac-simile of which is preserved in the _Mémoires de la
Régence_. It was thus described by its author: "The 'Goddess of Shares,'
in her triumphal car, driven by the Goddess of Folly. Those who are
drawing the car are impersonations of the Mississippi, with his wooden
leg, the South Sea, the Bank of England, the Company of the West of
Senegal, and of various assurances. Lest the car should not roll fast
enough, the agents of these companies, known by their long fox-tails and
their cunning looks, turn round the spokes of the wheels, upon which are
marked the names of the several stocks and their value, sometimes high and
sometimes low, according to the turns of the wheel. Upon the ground are
the merchandise, day-books and ledgers of legitimate commerce, crushed
under the chariot of Folly. Behind is an immense crowd of persons, of all
ages, sexes, and conditions, clamoring after Fortune, and fighting with
each other to get a portion of the shares which she distributes so
bountifully among them. In the clouds sits a demon, blowing bubbles of
soap, which are also the objects of the admiration and cupidity of the
crowd, who jump upon one another's backs to reach them ere they burst.
Right in the pathway of the car, and blocking up the passage, stands a
large building, with three doors, through one of which it must pass, if it
proceeds farther, and all the crowd along with it. Over the first door are
the words, '_Hôpital des Foux_,' over the second, '_Hôpital des Malades_,'
and over the third, '_Hôpital des Gueux_.'" Another caricature represented
Law sitting in a large cauldron, boiling over the flames of popular
madness, surrounded by an impetuous multitude, who were pouring all their
gold and silver into it, and receiving gladly in exchange the bits of
paper which he distributed among them by handfuls.

While this excitement lasted, Law took good care not to expose himself
unguarded in the streets. Shut up in the apartments of the regent, he was
secure from all attack; and whenever he ventured abroad, it was either
_incognito_, or in one of the royal carriages, with a powerful escort. An
amusing anecdote is recorded of the detestation in which he was held by
the people, and the ill-treatment he would have met had he fallen into
their hands. A gentleman of the name of Boursel was passing in his
carriage down the Rue St. Antoine, when his farther progress was stayed by
a hackney-coach that had blocked up the road. M. Boursel's servant called
impatiently to the hackney-coachman to get out of the way, and, on his
refusal, struck him a blow on the face. A crowd was soon drawn together by
the disturbance, and M. Boursel got out of the carriage to restore order.
The hackney-coachman, imagining that he had now another assailant,
bethought him of an expedient to rid himself of both, and called out as
loudly as he was able, "Help! help! murder! murder! Here are Law and his
servant going to kill me! Help! help!" At this cry the people came out of
their shops, armed with sticks and other weapons, while the mob gathered
stones to inflict summary vengeance upon the supposed financier. Happily
for M. Boursel and his servant, the door of the church of the Jesuits
stood wide open, and, seeing the fearful odds against them, they rushed
towards it with all speed. They reached the altar, pursued by the people,
and would have been ill-treated even there, if, finding the door open
leading to the sacristy, they had not sprang through, and closed it after
them. The mob were then persuaded to leave the church by the alarmed and
indignant priests, and finding M. Boursel's carriage still in the streets,
they vented their ill-will against it, and did it considerable damage.

The twenty-five millions secured on the municipal revenues of the city of
Paris, bearing so low an interest as two and a half per cent, were not
very popular among the large holders of Mississippi stock. The conversion
of the securities was, therefore, a work of considerable difficulty; for
many preferred to retain the falling paper of Law's Company, in the hope
that a favourable turn might take place. On the 15th of August, with a
view to hasten the conversion, an edict was passed, declaring that all
notes for sums between one thousand and ten thousand livres, should not
pass current, except for the purchase of annuities and bank accounts, or
for the payment of instalments still due on the shares of the company.

In October following another edict was passed, depriving these notes of
all value whatever after the month of November next ensuing. The
management of the mint, the farming of the revenue, and all the other
advantages and privileges of the India, or Mississippi Company, were taken
from them, and they were reduced to a mere private company. This was the
death-blow to the whole system, which had now got into the hands of its
enemies. Law had lost all influence in the Council of Finance, and the
company, being despoiled of its immunities, could no longer hold out the
shadow of a prospect of being able to fulfil its engagements. All those
suspected of illegal profits at the time the public delusion was at its
height, were sought out and amerced in heavy fines. It was previously
ordered that a list of the original proprietors should be made out, and
that such persons as still retained their shares should place them in
deposit with the company, and that those who had neglected to complete the
shares for which they had put down their names, should now purchase them
of the company, at the rate of 13,500 livres for each share of 500 livres.
Rather than submit to pay this enormous sum for stock which was actually
at a discount, the shareholders packed up all their portable effects, and
endeavoured to find a refuge in foreign countries. Orders were immediately
issued to the authorities at the ports and frontiers, to apprehend all
travellers who sought to leave the kingdom, and keep them in custody,
until it was ascertained whether they had any plate or jewellery with
them, or were concerned in the late stock-jobbing. Against such few as
escaped, the punishment of death was recorded, while the most arbitrary
proceedings were instituted against those who remained.

Law himself, in a moment of despair, determined to leave a country where
his life was no longer secure. He at first only demanded permission to
retire from Paris to one of his country-seats--a permission which the
regent cheerfully granted. The latter was much affected at the unhappy
turn affairs had taken, but his faith continued unmoved in the truth and
efficacy of Law's financial system. His eyes were opened to his own
errors; and during the few remaining years of his life he constantly
longed for an opportunity of again establishing the system upon a securer
basis. At Law's last interview with the prince, he is reported to have
said,--"I confess that I have committed many faults. I committed them
because I am a man, and all men are liable to error; but I declare to you
most solemnly that none of them proceeded from wicked or dishonest
motives, and that nothing of the kind will be found in the whole course of
my conduct."

[Illustration: LAW IN A CAR DRAWN BY COCKS.[14]]

    [14] Law in a car drawn by cocks; from _Het groote Tofereel der

Two or three days after his departure the regent sent him a very kind
letter, permitting him to leave the kingdom whenever he pleased, and
stating that he had ordered his passports to be made ready. He at the same
time offered him any sum of money he might require. Law respectfully
declined the money, and set out for Brussels in a post-chaise belonging to
Madame de Prie, the mistress of the Duke of Bourbon, escorted by six
horse-guards. From thence he proceeded to Venice, where he remained for
some months, the object of the greatest curiosity to the people, who
believed him to be the possessor of enormous wealth. No opinion, however,
could be more erroneous. With more generosity than could have been
expected from a man who during the greatest part of his life had been a
professed gambler, he had refused to enrich himself at the expense of a
ruined nation. During the height of the popular frenzy for Mississippi
stock, he had never doubted of the final success of his projects in making
France the richest and most powerful nation of Europe. He invested all his
gains in the purchase of landed property in France--a sure proof of his
own belief in the stability of his schemes. He had hoarded no plate or
jewellery, and sent no money, like the dishonest jobbers, to foreign
countries. His all, with the exception of one diamond, worth about five or
six thousand pounds sterling, was invested in the French soil; and when he
left that country, he left it almost a beggar. This fact alone ought to
rescue his memory from the charge of knavery, so often and so unjustly
brought against him.

As soon as his departure was known, all his estates and his valuable
library were confiscated. Among the rest, an annuity of 200,000 livres
(8000l. sterling) on the lives of his wife and children, which had been
purchased for five millions of livres, was forfeited, notwithstanding that
a special edict, drawn up for the purpose in the days of his prosperity,
had expressly declared that it should never be confiscated for any cause
whatever. Great discontent existed among the people that Law had been
suffered to escape. The mob and the parliament would have been pleased to
have seen him hanged. The few who had not suffered by the commercial
revolution rejoiced that the _quack_ had left the country; but all those
(and they were by far the most numerous class) whose fortunes were
implicated regretted that his intimate knowledge of the distress of the
country, and of the causes that had led to it, had not been rendered more
available in discovering a remedy.

At a meeting of the Council of Finance and the General Council of the
Regency, documents were laid upon the table, from which it appeared that
the amount of notes in circulation was 2700 millions. The regent was
called upon to explain how it happened that there was a discrepancy
between the dates at which these issues were made and those of the edicts
by which they were authorised. He might have safely taken the whole blame
upon himself, but he preferred that an absent man should bear a share of
it; and he therefore stated that Law, upon his own authority, had issued
1200 millions of notes at different times, and that he (the regent),
seeing that the thing had been irrevocably done, had screened Law by
antedating the decrees of the council which authorised the augmentation.
It would have been more to his credit if he had told the whole truth while
he was about it, and acknowledged that it was mainly through his
extravagance and impatience that Law had been induced to overstep the
bounds of safe speculation. It was also ascertained that the national
debt, on the 1st of January 1721, amounted to upwards of 3100 millions of
livres, or more than 124,000,000l. sterling, the interest upon which was
3,196,000l. A commission, or _visa_, was forthwith appointed to examine
into all the securities of the state creditors, who were to be divided
into five classes; the first four comprising those who had purchased their
securities with real effects, and, the latter comprising those who could
give no proofs that the transactions they had entered into were real and
_bonâ fide_. The securities of the latter were ordered to be destroyed,
while those of the first four classes were subjected to a most rigid and
jealous scrutiny. The result of the labours of the _visa_, was a report,
in which they counselled the reduction of the interest upon these
securities to fifty-six millions of livres. They justified, this, advice
by a statement of the various acts of peculation and extortion which they
had discovered; and an edict to that effect was accordingly published and
duly registered by the parliaments of the kingdom.

[Illustration: D'ARGENSON.]

Another tribunal was afterwards established, under the title of the
_Chambre de l'Arsenal_, which took cognisance of all the malversations
committed in the financial departments of the government, during the late
unhappy period. A Master of Requests, named Falhonet, together with the
Abbé Clement, and two clerks in their employ, had been concerned in divers
acts of peculation to the amount of upwards of a million of livres. The
first two were sentenced to be beheaded, and the latter to be hanged; but
their punishment was afterwards commuted into imprisonment for life in the
Bastille. Numerous other acts of dishonesty were discovered, and punished,
by fine and imprisonment.

D'Argenson shared with Law and the regent the unpopularity which had
alighted upon all those concerned in the Mississippi madness. He was
dismissed from his post of Chancellor to make room for D'Aguesseau; but he
retained the title of Keeper of the Seals, and was allowed to attend the
councils whenever he pleased. He thought it better, however, to withdraw
from Paris, and live for a time a life of seclusion at his country-seat.
But he was not formed for retirement; and becoming moody and discontented,
he aggravated a disease under which he had long laboured, and died in less
than a twelve-month. The populace of Paris so detested him, that they
carried their hatred even to his grave. As his funeral procession passed
to the church of St. Nicholas du Chardonneret, the burying-place of his
family, it was beset by a riotous mob, and his two sons, who were
following as chief mourners, were obliged to drive as fast as they were
able down a by-street to escape personal violence.

As regards Law, he for some time entertained a hope that he should be
recalled to France, to aid in establishing its credit upon a firmer basis.
The death of the regent in 1723, who expired suddenly as he was sitting by
the fireside conversing with his mistress, the Duchess de Phalaris,
deprived him of that hope, and he was reduced to lead his former life of
gambling. He was more than once obliged to pawn his diamond, the sole
remnant of his vast wealth, but successful play generally enabled him to
redeem it. Being persecuted by his creditors at Rome, he proceeded to
Copenhagen, where he received permission from the English ministry to
reside in his native country, his pardon for the murder of Mr. Wilson
having been sent over to him in 1719. He was brought over in the admiral's
ship--a circumstance which gave occasion for a short debate in the House
of Lords. Earl Coningsby complained that a man who had renounced both his
country and his religion, should have been treated with such honour, and
expressed his belief that his presence in England, at a time when the
people were so bewildered by the nefarious practices of the South-Sea
directors, would be attended with no little danger. He gave notice of a
motion on the subject; but it was allowed to drop, no other member of the
House having the slightest participation in his lordship's fears. Law
remained for about four years in England, and then proceeded to Venice,
where he died in 1729, in very embarrassed circumstances. The following
epitaph was written at the time:

   "Ci gît cet Ecossais célébre,
      Ce calculateur sans égal,
    Qui, par les régles de l'algébre,
      A mis la France à l'hôpital."

His brother, William Law, who had been concerned with him in the
administration both of the bank and the Louisiana Company, was imprisoned
in the Bastille for alleged malversation, but no guilt was ever proved
against him. He was liberated after fifteen months, and became the founder
of a family, which is still known in France under the title of Marquises
of Lauriston.

[Illustration: NECK OR NOTHING.[15]]

    [15] Neck or nothing, or downfall of the Mississippi
         Company.--_From a Print in Mr. Hawkins' Collection_.

In the next chapter will be found an account of the madness which infected
the people of England at the same time, and under very similar
circumstances, but which, thanks to the energies and good sense of a
constitutional government, was attended with results far less disastrous
than those which were seen in France.

[Illustration: SOUTH-SEA HOUSE.]


    At length corruption, like a general flood,
    Did deluge all; and avarice creeping on,
    Spread, like a low-born mist, and hid the sun.
    Statesmen and patriots plied alike the stocks,
    Peeress and butler shared alike the box;
    And judges jobbed, and bishops bit the town,
    And mighty dukes packed cards for half-a-crown:
    Britain was sunk in lucre's sordid charms.--_Pope_.

The South-Sea Company was originated by the celebrated Harley Earl of
Oxford, in the year 1711, with the view of restoring public credit, which
had suffered by the dismissal of the Whig ministry, and of providing for
the discharge of the army and navy debentures, and other parts of the
floating debt, amounting to nearly ten millions sterling. A company of
merchants, at that time without a name, took this debt upon themselves,
and the government agreed to secure them for a certain period the interest
of six per cent. To provide for this interest, amounting to 600,000l. per
annum, the duties upon wines, vinegar, India goods, wrought silks,
tobacco, whale-fins, and some other articles, were rendered permanent. The
monopoly of the trade to the South Seas was granted, and the company,
being incorporated by act of parliament, assumed the title by which it has
ever since been known. The minister took great credit to himself for his
share in this transaction, and the scheme was always called by his
flatterers "the Earl of Oxford's masterpiece."


Even at this early period of its history the most visionary ideas were
formed by the company and the public of the immense riches of the eastern
coast of South America. Every body had heard of the gold and silver mines
of Peru and Mexico; every one believed them to be inexhaustible, and that
it was only necessary to send the manufactures of England to the coast to
be repaid a hundred fold in gold and silver ingots by the natives. A
report, industriously spread, that Spain was willing to concede four ports
on the coasts of Chili and Peru for the purposes of traffic, increased the
general confidence, and for many years the South-Sea Company's stock was
in high favour.

Philip V. of Spain, however, never had any intention of admitting the
English to a free trade in the ports of Spanish America. Negotiations were
set on foot, but their only result was the _assiento_ contract, or the
privilege of supplying the colonies with negroes for thirty years, and of
sending once a year a vessel, limited both as to tonnage and value of
cargo, to trade with Mexico, Peru, or Chili. The latter permission was
only granted upon the hard condition, that the King of Spain should enjoy
one-fourth of the profits, and a tax of five per cent on the remainder.
This was a great disappointment to the Earl of Oxford and his party, who
were reminded much oftener than they found agreeable of the

    "_Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculus mus_."

But the public confidence in the South-Sea Company was not shaken. The
Earl of Oxford declared that Spain would permit two ships, in addition to
the annual ship, to carry out merchandise during the first year; and a
list was published, in which all the ports and harbours of these coasts
were pompously set forth as open to the trade of Great Britain. The first
voyage of the annual ship was not made till the year 1717, and in the
following year the trade was suppressed by the rupture with Spain.

The king's speech, at the opening of the session of 1717, made pointed
allusion to the state of public credit, and recommended that proper
measures should be taken to reduce the national debt. The two great
monetary corporations, the South-Sea Company and the Bank of England, made
proposals to parliament on the 20th of May ensuing. The South-Sea Company
prayed that their capital stock of ten millions might be increased to
twelve, by subscription or otherwise, and offered to accept five per cent
instead of six upon the whole amount. The bank made proposals equally
advantageous. The house debated for some time, and finally three acts were
passed, called the South-Sea Act, the Bank Act, and the General Fund Act.
By the first, the proposals of the South-Sea Company were accepted, and
that body held itself ready to advance the sum of two millions towards
discharging the principal and interest of the debt due by the state for
the four lottery funds, of the ninth and tenth years of Queen Anne. By the
second act, the bank received a lower rate of interest for the sum of
1,775,027l. 15s. due to it by the state, and agreed to deliver up to be
cancelled as many exchequer bills as amounted to two millions sterling,
and to accept of an annuity of one hundred thousand pounds, being after
the rate of five per cent, the whole redeemable at one year's notice. They
were further required to be ready to advance, in case of need, a sum not
exceeding 2,500,000l. upon the same terms of five per cent interest,
redeemable by parliament. The General Fund Act recited the various
deficiencies, which were to be made good by the aids derived from the
foregoing sources.

The name of the South-Sea Company was thus continually before the public.
Though their trade with the South American States produced little or no
augmentation of their revenues, they continued to flourish as a monetary
corporation. Their stock was in high request, and the directors, buoyed up
with success, began to think of new means for extending their influence.
The Mississippi scheme of John Law, which so dazzled and captivated the
French people, inspired them with an idea that they could carry on the
same game in England. The anticipated failure of his plans did not divert
them from their intention. Wise in their own conceit, they imagined they
could avoid his faults, carry on their schemes for ever, and stretch the
cord of credit to its extremest tension, without causing it to snap

It was while Law's plan was at its greatest height of popularity, while
people were crowding in thousands to the Rue Quincampoix, and ruining
themselves with frantic eagerness, that the South-Sea directors laid
before parliament their famous plan for paying off the national debt.
Visions of boundless wealth floated before the fascinated eyes of the
people in the two most celebrated countries of Europe. The English
commenced their career of extravagance somewhat later than the French; but
as soon as the delirium seized them, they were determined not to be
outdone. Upon the 22d of January, 1720, the House of Commons resolved
itself into a committee of the whole house, to take into consideration
that part of the king's speech at the opening of the session which related
to the public debts, and the proposal of the South-Sea Company towards the
redemption and sinking of the same. The proposal set forth at great
length, and under several heads, the debts of the state, amounting to
30,981,712l., which the company were anxious to take upon themselves, upon
consideration of five per cent per annum, secured to them until Midsummer
1727; after which time, the whole was to become redeemable at the pleasure
of the legislature, and the interest to be reduced to four per cent. The
proposal was received with great favour; but the Bank of England had many
friends in the House of Commons, who were desirous that that body should
share in the advantages that were likely to accrue. On behalf of this
corporation it was represented, that they had performed great and eminent
services to the state in the most difficult times, and deserved, at least,
that if any advantage was to be made by public bargains of this nature,
they should be preferred before a company that had never done any thing
for the nation. The further consideration of the matter was accordingly
postponed for five days. In the mean time, a plan was drawn up by the
governors of the bank. The South-Sea Company, afraid that the bank might
offer still more advantageous terms to the government than themselves,
reconsidered their former proposal, and made some alterations in it, which
they hoped would render it more acceptable. The principal change was a
stipulation that the government might redeem these debts at the expiration
of four years, instead of seven, as at first suggested. The bank resolved
not to be outbidden in this singular auction, and the governors also
reconsidered their first proposal, and sent in a new one.

Thus, each corporation having made two proposals, the house began to
deliberate. Mr. Robert Walpole was the chief speaker in favour of the
bank, and Mr. Aislabie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the principal
advocate on behalf of the South-Sea Company. It was resolved, on the 2d of
February, that the proposals of the latter were most advantageous to the
country. They were accordingly received, and leave was given to bring in a
bill to that effect.

Exchange Alley was in a fever of excitement. The company's stock, which
had been at a hundred and thirty the previous day, gradually rose to three
hundred, and continued to rise with the most astonishing rapidity during
the whole time that the bill in its several stages was under discussion.
Mr. Walpole was almost the only statesman in the House who spoke out
boldly against it. He warned them, in eloquent and solemn language, of the
evils that would ensue. It countenanced, he said, "the dangerous practice
of stock-jobbing, and would divert the genius of the nation from trade and
industry. It would hold out a dangerous lure to decoy the unwary to their
ruin, by making them part with the earnings of their labour for a prospect
of imaginary wealth. The great principle of the project was an evil of
first-rate magnitude; it was to raise artificially the value of the stock,
by exciting and keeping up a general infatuation, and by promising
dividends out of funds which could never be adequate to the purpose." In a
prophetic spirit he added, that if the plan succeeded, the directors would
become masters of the government, form a new and absolute aristocracy in
the kingdom, and control the resolutions of the legislature. If it failed,
which he was convinced it would, the result would bring general discontent
and ruin upon the country. Such would be the delusion, that when the evil
day came, as come it would, the people would start up, as from a dream,
and ask themselves if these things could have been true. All his eloquence
was in vain. He was looked upon as a false prophet, or compared to the
hoarse raven, croaking omens of evil. His friends, however, compared him
to Cassandra, predicting evils which would only be believed when they came
home to men's hearths, and stared them in the face at their own boards.
Although, in former times, the house had listened with the utmost
attention to every word that fell from his lips, the benches became
deserted when it was known that he would speak on the South-Sea question.

[Illustration: SIR ROBERT WALPOLE]

The bill was two months in its progress through the House of Commons.
During this time every exertion was made by the directors and their
friends, and more especially by the chairman, the noted Sir John Blunt, to
raise the price of the stock. The most extravagant rumours were in
circulation. Treaties between England and Spain were spoken of, whereby
the latter was to grant a free trade to all her colonies; and the rich
produce of the mines of Potosi-la-Paz was to be brought to England until
silver should become almost as plentiful as iron. For cotton and woollen
goods, with which we could supply them in abundance, the dwellers in
Mexico were to empty their golden mines. The company of merchants trading
to the South Seas would be the richest the world ever saw, and every
hundred pounds invested in it would produce hundreds per annum to the
stockholder. At last the stock was raised by these means to near four
hundred; but, after fluctuating a good deal, settled at three hundred and
thirty, at which price it remained when the bill passed the Commons by a
majority of 172 against 55.

In the House of Lords the bill was hurried through all its stages with
unexampled rapidity. On the 4th of April it was read a first time; on the
5th, it was read a second time; on the 6th, it was committed; and on the
7th, was read a third time and passed.

Several peers spoke warmly against the scheme; but their warnings fell
upon dull, cold ears. A speculating frenzy had seized them as well as the
plebeians. Lord North and Grey said the bill was unjust in its nature, and
might prove fatal in its consequences, being calculated to enrich the few
and impoverish the many. The Duke of Wharton followed; but, as he only
retailed at second-hand the arguments so eloquently stated by Walpole in
the Lower House, he was not listened to with even the same attention that
had been bestowed upon Lord North and Grey. Earl Cowper followed on the
same side, and compared the bill to the famous horse of the siege of Troy.
Like that, it was ushered in and received with great pomp and acclamations
of joy, but bore within it treachery and destruction. The Earl of
Sunderland endeavoured to answer all objections; and on the question being
put, there appeared only seventeen peers against, and eighty-three in
favour of the project. The very same day on which it passed the Lords, it
received the royal assent, and became the law of the land.

It seemed at that time as if the whole nation had turned stockjobbers.
Exchange Alley was every day blocked up by crowds, and Cornhill was
impassable for the number of carriages. Every body came to purchase stock.
"Every fool aspired to be a knave." In the words of a ballad published at
the time, and sung about the streets,[16]

   "Then stars and garters did appear
      Among the meaner rabble;
    To buy and sell, to see and hear
      The Jews and Gentiles squabble.

    The greatest ladies thither came,
      And plied in chariots daily,
    Or pawned their jewels for a sum
     To venture in the Alley."

    [16] _A South-Sea Ballad; or, Merry Remarks upon Exchange-Alley
         Bubbles. To a new Tune called "The Grand Elixir; or, the
         Philosopher's Stone discovered."_

The inordinate thirst of gain that had afflicted all ranks of society was
not to be slaked even in the South Sea. Other schemes, of the most
extravagant kind, were started. The share-lists were speedily filled up,
and an enormous traffic carried on in shares, while, of course, every
means were resorted to to raise them to an artificial value in the market.

[Illustration: CORNHILL, 1720.]

Contrary to all expectation, South-Sea stock fell when the bill received
the royal assent. On the 7th of April the shares were quoted at three
hundred and ten, and on the following day at two hundred and ninety.
Already the directors had tasted the profits of their scheme, and it was
not likely that they should quietly allow the stock to find its natural
level without an effort to raise it. Immediately their busy emissaries
were set to work. Every person interested in the success of the project
endeavoured to draw a knot of listeners around him, to whom he expatiated
on the treasures of the South American seas. Exchange Alley was crowded
with attentive groups. One rumour alone, asserted with the utmost
confidence, had an immediate effect upon the stock. It was said that Earl
Stanhope had received overtures in France from the Spanish government to
exchange Gibraltar and Port Mahon for some places on the coast of Peru,
for the security and enlargement of the trade in the South Seas. Instead
of one annual ship trading to those ports, and allowing the king of Spain
twenty-five per cent out of the profits, the company might build and
charter as many ships as they pleased, and pay no per centage whatever to
any foreign potentate.

    "Visions of ingots danced before their eyes,"

and stock rose rapidly. On the 12th of April, five days after the bill had
become law, the directors opened their books for a subscription of a
million, at the rate of 300l. for every 100l. capital. Such was the
concourse of persons of all ranks, that this first subscription was found
to amount to above two millions of original stock. It was to be paid at
five payments, of 60l. each for every 100l. In a few days the stock
advanced to three hundred and forty, and the subscriptions were sold for
double the price of the first payment. To raise the stock still higher, it
was declared, in a general court of directors, on the 21st of April, that
the midsummer dividend should be ten per cent, and that all subscriptions
should be entitled to the same. These resolutions answering the end
designed, the directors, to improve the infatuation of the monied men,
opened their books for a second subscription of a million, at four hundred
per cent. Such was the frantic eagerness of people of every class to
speculate in these funds, that in the course of a few hours no less than a
million and a half was subscribed at that rate.

In the mean time, innumerable joint-stock companies started up every
where. They soon received the name of Bubbles, the most appropriate that
imagination could devise. The populace are often most happy in the
nicknames they employ. None could be more apt than that of Bubbles. Some
of them lasted for a week or a fortnight, and were no more heard of, while
others could not even live out that short span of existence. Every evening
produced new schemes, and every morning new projects. The highest of the
aristocracy were as eager in this hot pursuit of gain as the most plodding
jobber in Cornhill. The Prince of Wales became governor of one company,
and is said to have cleared 40,000l. by his speculations.[17] The Duke of
Bridgewater started a scheme for the improvement of London and
Westminster, and the Duke of Chandos another. There were nearly a hundred
different projects, each more extravagant and deceptive than the other, To
use the words of the _Political State_, they were "set on foot and
promoted by crafty knaves, then pursued by multitudes of covetous fools,
and at last appeared to be, in effect, what their vulgar appellation
denoted them to be--bubbles and mere cheats." It was computed that near
one million and a half sterling was won and lost by these unwarrantable
practices, to the impoverishment of many a fool, and the enriching of many
a rogue.

    [17] Coxe's _Walpole_, Correspondence between Mr. Secretary
         Craggs and Earl Stanhope.

Some of these schemes were plausible enough, and, had they been undertaken
at a time when the public mind was unexcited, might have been pursued with
advantage to all concerned. But they were established merely with the view
of raising the shares in the market. The projectors took the first
opportunity of a rise to sell out, and next morning the scheme was at an
end. Maitland, in his _History of London_, gravely informs us, that one of
the projects which received great encouragement, was for the establishment
of a company "to make deal boards out of saw-dust." This is no doubt
intended as a joke; but there is abundance of evidence to shew that dozens
of schemes, hardly a whit more reasonable, lived their little day, ruining
hundreds ere they fell. One of them was for a wheel for perpetual
motion--capital one million; another was "for encouraging the breed of
horses in England, and improving of glebe and church lands, and repairing
and rebuilding parsonage and vicarage houses." Why the clergy, who were so
mainly interested in the latter clause, should have taken so much interest
in the first, is only to be explained on the supposition that the scheme
was projected by a knot of the fox-hunting parsons, once so common in
England. The shares of this company were rapidly subscribed for. But the
most absurd and preposterous of all, and which shewed, more completely
than any other, the utter madness of the people, was one started by an
unknown adventurer, entitled "_A company for carrying on an undertaking of
great advantage, but nobody to know what it is_." Were not the fact stated
by scores of credible witnesses, it would be impossible to believe that
any person could have been duped by such a project. The man of genius who
essayed this bold and successful inroad upon public credulity, merely
stated in his prospectus that the required capital was half a million, in
five thousand shares of 100l. each, deposit 2l. per share. Each
subscriber, paying his deposit, would be entitled to 100l. per annum per
share. How this immense profit was to be obtained, he did not condescend
to inform them at that time, but promised that in a month full particulars
should be duly announced, and a call made for the remaining 98l. of the
subscription. Next morning, at nine o'clock, this great man opened an
office in Cornhill. Crowds of people beset his door, and when he shut up
at three o'clock, he found that no less than one thousand shares had been
subscribed for, and the deposits paid. He was thus, in five hours, the
winner of 2000l. He was philosopher enough to be contented with his
venture, and set off the same evening for the Continent. He was never
heard of again.

Well might Swift exclaim, comparing Change Alley to a gulf in the South

   "Subscribers here by thousands float,
      And jostle one another down,
    Each paddling in his leaky boat,
      And here they fish for gold and drown.

    Now buried in the depths below,
      Now mounted up to heaven again,
    They reel and stagger to and fro,
      At their wit's end, like drunken men.

    Meantime, secure on Garraway cliffs,
      A savage race, by shipwrecks fed,
    Lie waiting for the foundered skiffs,
      And strip the bodies of the dead."

Another fraud that was very successful was that of the "Globe _Permits_,"
as they were called. They were nothing more than square pieces of
playing-cards, on which was the impression of a seal, in wax, bearing the
sign of the Globe Tavern, in the neighbourhood of Exchange Alley, with the
inscription of "Sail-Cloth Permits." The possessors enjoyed no other
advantage from them than permission to subscribe at some future time to a
new sail-cloth manufactory, projected by one who was then known to be a
man of fortune, but who was afterwards involved in the peculation and
punishment of the South-Sea directors. These permits sold for as much as
sixty guineas in the Alley.

Persons of distinction, of both sexes, were deeply engaged in all these
bubbles; those of the male sex going to taverns and coffee-houses to meet
their brokers, and the ladies resorting for the same purpose to the shops
of milliners and haberdashers. But it did not follow that all these people
believed in the feasibility of the schemes to which they subscribed; it
was enough for their purpose that their shares would, by stock-jobbing
arts, be soon raised to a premium, when they got rid of them with all
expedition to the really credulous. So great was the confusion of the
crowd in the alley, that shares in the same bubble were known to have been
sold at the same instant ten per cent higher at one end of the alley than
at the other. Sensible men beheld the extraordinary infatuation of the
people with sorrow and alarm. There were some both in and out of
parliament who foresaw clearly the ruin that was impending. Mr. Walpole
did not cease his gloomy forebodings. His fears were shared by all the
thinking few, and impressed most forcibly upon the government. On the 11th
of June, the day the parliament rose, the king published a proclamation,
declaring that all these unlawful projects should be deemed public
nuisances, and prosecuted accordingly, and forbidding any broker, under a
penalty of five hundred pounds, from buying or selling any shares in them.
Notwithstanding this proclamation, roguish speculators still carried them
on, and the deluded people still encouraged them. On the 12th of July, an
order of the Lords Justices assembled in privy council was published,
dismissing all the petitions that had been presented for patents and
charters, and dissolving all the bubble companies. The following copy of
their lordships' order, containing a list of all these nefarious projects,
will not be deemed uninteresting at the present time, when, at periodic
intervals, there is but too much tendency in the public mind to indulge in
similar practices:

           "At the Council Chamber, Whitehall, the 12th day of July, 1720.
                Present, their Excellencies the Lords Justices in Council.

"Their Excellencies the Lords Justices, in council, taking into
consideration the many inconveniences arising to the public from several
projects set on foot for raising of joint-stock for various purposes, and
that a great many of his majesty's subjects have been drawn in to part
with their money on pretence of assurances that their petitions for
patents and charters to enable them to carry on the same would be granted:
to prevent such impositions, their excellencies this day ordered the said
several petitions, together with such reports from the Board of Trade, and
from his majesty's attorney and solicitor-general, as had been obtained
thereon, to be laid before them; and after mature consideration thereof,
were pleased, by advice of his majesty's privy council, to order that the
said petitions be dismissed, which are as follow:

"1. Petition of several persons, praying letters patent for carrying on a
fishing trade by the name of the Grand Fishery of Great Britain.

"2. Petition of the Company of the Royal Fishery of England, praying
letters patent for such further powers as will effectually contribute to
carry on the said fishery.

"3. Petition of George James, on behalf of himself and divers persons of
distinction concerned in a national fishery, praying letters patent of
incorporation, to enable them to carry on the same.

"4. Petition of several merchants, traders, and others, whose names are
thereunto subscribed, praying to be incorporated for reviving and carrying
on a whale fishery to Greenland and elsewhere.

"5. Petition of Sir John Lambert and others thereto subscribing, on behalf
of themselves and a great number of merchants, praying to be incorporated
for carrying on a Greenland trade, and particularly a whale fishery in
Davis's Straits.

"6. Another petition for a Greenland trade.

"7. Petition of several merchants, gentlemen, and citizens, praying to be
incorporated for buying and building of ships to let or freight.

"8. Petition of Samuel Antrim and others, praying for letters patent for
sowing hemp and flax.

"9. Petition of several merchants, masters of ships, sail-makers, and
manufacturers of sail-cloth, praying a charter of incorporation, to enable
them to carry on and promote the said manufactory by a joint-stock.

"10. Petition of Thomas Boyd and several hundred merchants, owners and
masters of ships, sail-makers, weavers, and other traders, praying a
charter of incorporation, empowering them to borrow money for purchasing
lands, in order to the manufacturing sail-cloth and fine holland.

"11. Petition on behalf of several persons interested in a patent granted
by the late King William and Queen Mary for the making of linen and
sail-cloth, praying that no charter may be granted to any persons
whatsoever for making sail-cloth, but that the privilege now enjoyed by
them may be confirmed, and likewise an additional power to carry on the
cotton and cotton-silk manufactures.

"12. Petition of several citizens, merchants, and traders in London, and
others, subscribers to a British stock for a general insurance from fire
in any part of England, praying to be incorporated for carrying on the
said undertaking.

"13. Petition of several of his majesty's loyal subjects of the city of
London and other parts of Great Britain, praying to be incorporated for
carrying on a general insurance from losses by fire within the kingdom of

"14. Petition of Thomas Surges and others his majesty's subjects thereto
subscribing, in behalf of themselves and others, subscribers to a fund of
1,200,000l. for carrying on a trade to his majesty's German dominions,
praying to be incorporated by the name of the Harburg Company.

"15. Petition of Edward Jones, a dealer in timber, on behalf of himself
and others, praying to be incorporated for the importation of timber from

"16. Petition of several merchants of London, praying a charter of
incorporation for carrying on a salt-work.

"17. Petition of Captain Macphedris of London, merchant, on behalf of
himself and several merchants, clothiers, hatters, dyers, and other
traders, praying a charter of incorporation empowering them to raise a
sufficient sum of money to purchase lands for planting and rearing a wood
called madder, for the use of dyers.

"18. Petition of Joseph Galendo of London, snuff-maker, praying a patent
for his invention to prepare and cure Virginia tobacco for snuff in
Virginia, and making it into the same in all his majesty's dominions."


The following Bubble-Companies were by the same order declared to be
illegal, and abolished accordingly:

1. For the importation of Swedish iron.

2. For supplying London with sea-coal. Capital, three millions.

3. For building and rebuilding houses throughout all England Capital,
three millions.

4. For making of muslin.

5. For carrying on and improving the British alum-works.

6. For effectually settling the island of Blanco and Sal Tartagus.

7. For supplying the town of Deal with fresh water.

8. For the importation of Flanders lace.

9. For improvement of lands in Great Britain. Capital, four millions.

10. For encouraging the breed of horses in England, and improving of glebe
and church lands, and for repairing and rebuilding parsonage and vicarage

11. For making of iron and steel in Great Britain,

12. For improving the land in the county of Flint. Capital, one million.

13. For purchasing lands to build on. Capital, two millions.

14. For trading in hair.

15. For erecting salt-works in Holy Island. Capital, two millions.

16. For buying and selling estates, and lending money on mortgage.

17. For carrying on an undertaking of great advantage; but nobody to know
what it is.

18. For paving the streets of London. Capital, two millions.

19. For furnishing funerals to any part of Great Britain.

20. For buying and selling lands and lending money at interest. Capital,
five millions.

21. For carrying on the royal fishery of Great Britain. Capital, ten

22. For assuring of seamen's wages.

23. For erecting loan-offices for the assistance and encouragement of the
industrious. Capital, two millions.

24. For purchasing and improving leaseable lands. Capital, four millions.

25. For importing pitch and tar, and other naval stores, from North
Britain and America.

26. For the clothing, felt, and pantile trade.

27. For purchasing and improving a manor and royalty in Essex.

28. For insuring of horses. Capital, two millions.

29. For exporting the woollen manufacture, and importing copper, brass,
and iron. Capital, four millions.

30. For a grand dispensary. Capital, three millions.

31. For erecting mills and purchasing lead-mines. Capital, two millions.

32. For improving the art of making soap.

33. For a settlement on the island of Santa Cruz.

34. For sinking pits and smelting lead ore in Derbyshire.

35. For making glass bottles and other glass.

36. For a wheel for perpetual motion. Capital, one million.

37. For improving of gardens.

38. For insuring and increasing children's fortunes.

39. For entering and loading goods at the Custom-house, and for
negotiating business for merchants.

40. For carrying on a woollen manufacture in the North of England.

41. For importing walnut-trees from Virginia, Capital, two millions.

42. For making Manchester stuffs of thread and cotton.

43. For making Joppa and Castile soap.

44. For improving the wrought-iron and steel manufactures of this kingdom.
Capital four millions.

45. For dealing in lace, hollands, cambrics, lawns, &c. Capital, two

46. For trading in and improving certain commodities of the produce of
this kingdom, &c. Capital three millions.

47. For supplying the London markets with cattle.

48. For making looking-glasses, coach-glasses, &c. Capital, two millions.

49. For working the tin and lead mines in Cornwall and Derbyshire.

50. For making rape-oil.

51. For importing beaver fur. Capital, two millions.

52. For making pasteboard and packing-paper.

53. For importing of oils and other materials used in the woollen

54. For improving and increasing the silk manufactures.

55. For lending money on stock, annuities, tallies, &c.

56. For paying pensions to widows and others, at a small discount.
Capital, two millions.

57. For improving malt liquors. Capital, four millions.

58. For a grand American fishery.

59. For purchasing and improving the fenny lands in Lincolnshire. Capital,
two millions.

60. For improving the paper manufacture of Great Britain.

61. The Bottomry Company.

62. For drying malt by hot air.

63. For carrying on a trade in the river Oronooko.

64. For the more effectual making of baize, in Colchester and other parts
of Great Britain.

65. For buying of naval stores, supplying the victualling, and paying the
wages of the workmen.

66. For employing poor artificers, and furnishing merchants and others
with watches.

67. For improvement of tillage and the breed of cattle.

68. Another for the improvement of our breed in horses.

69. Another for a horse-insurance.

70. For carrying on the corn trade of Great Britain.

71. For insuring to all masters and mistresses the losses they may sustain
by servants. Capital, three millions.

72. For erecting houses or hospitals for taking in and maintaining
illegitimate children. Capital, two millions.

73. For bleaching coarse sugars, without the use of fire or loss of

74. For building turnpikes and wharfs in Great Britain.

75. For insuring from thefts and robberies.

76. For extracting silver from lead.

77. For making china and delft ware. Capital, one million.

78. For importing tobacco, and exporting it again to Sweden and the north
of Europe. Capital, four millions.

79. For making iron with pit coal.

80. For furnishing the cities of London and Westminster with hay and
straw. Capital, three millions.

81. For a sail and packing-cloth manufactory in Ireland.

82. For taking up ballast.

83. For buying and fitting out ships to suppress pirates.

84. For the importation of timber from Wales. Capital, two millions.

85. For rock-salt.

86. For the transmutation of quicksilver into a malleable fine metal.

[Illustration: CHANGE-ALLEY.[18]]

    [18] Stock-jobbing Card, or the humours of Change Alley. Copied
         from a print called _Bubblers' Medley_, published by
         Carrington Bowles.

Besides these bubbles, many others sprang up daily, in-spite of the
condemnation of the government and the ridicule of the still sane portion
of the public. The print-shops teemed with caricatures, and the newspapers
with epigrams and satires, upon the prevalent folly. An ingenious
cardmaker published a pack of South-Sea playing-cards, which are now
extremely rare, each card containing, besides the usual figures, of a very
small size, in one corner, a caricature of a bubble-company, with
appropriate verses underneath. One of the most famous bubbles was
"Puckle's Machine Company," for discharging round and square cannon-balls
and bullets, and making a total revolution in the art of war. Its
pretensions to public favour were thus summed up on the eight of spades:

   "A rare invention to destroy the crowd
    Of fools at home instead of fools abroad.
    Fear not, my friends, this terrible machine,
    They're only wounded who have shares therein."

[Illustration: TREE CARICATURE[19]]

    [19] Tree, surrounded by water; people climbing up the tree. One
         of a series of bubble cards, copied from the _Bubblers'
         Medley_, published by Carrington Bowles.

The nine of hearts was a caricature of the English Copper and Brass
Company, with the following epigram:

   "The headlong-fool that wants to be a swopper
    Of gold and silver coin for English copper,
    May, in Change Alley, prove himself an ass,
    And give rich metal for adultrate brass."

The eight of diamonds celebrated the company for the colonisation of
Acadia, with this doggrel:

   "He that is rich and wants to fool away
    A good round sum in North America,
    Let him subscribe himself a headlong sharer,
    And asses' ears shall honour him or bearer."

And in a similar style every card of the pack exposed some knavish scheme,
and ridiculed the persons who were its dupes. It was computed that the
total amount of the sums proposed for carrying on these projects was
upwards of three hundred millions sterling.

[Illustration: MERCHANT'S GATEWAY]

It is time, however, to return to the great South-Sea gulf, that swallowed
the fortunes of so many thousands of the avaricious and the credulous. On
the 29th of May, the stock had risen as high as five hundred, and about
two-thirds of the government annuitants had exchanged the securities of
the state for those of the South-Sea company. During the whole of the
month of May the stock continued to rise, and on the 28th it was quoted at
five hundred and fifty. In four days after this it took a prodigious leap,
rising suddenly from five hundred and fifty to eight hundred and ninety.
It was now the general opinion that the stock could rise no higher, and
many persons took that opportunity of selling out, with a view of
realising their profits. Many noblemen and persons in the train of the
king, and about to accompany him to Hanover, were also anxious to sell
out. So many sellers, and so few buyers, appeared in the Alley on the 3d
of June, that the stock fell at once from eight hundred and ninety to six
hundred and forty. The directors were alarmed, and gave their agents
orders to buy. Their efforts succeeded. Towards evening, confidence was
restored, and the stock advanced to seven hundred and fifty. It continued
at this price, with some slight fluctuation, until the company closed
their books on the 22d of June.

It would be needless and uninteresting to detail the various arts employed
by the directors to keep up the price of stock. It will be sufficient to
state that it finally rose to one thousand per cent. It was quoted at this
price in, the commencement of August. The bubble was then full-blown, and
began to quiver and shake preparatory to its bursting.

Many of the government, annuitants expressed dissatisfaction against the
directors. They accused them of partiality in making out the lists for
shares in each subscription. Further uneasiness was occasioned by its
being generally known that Sir John Blunt the chairman, and some others,
had sold out. During the whole of the month of August the stock fell, and
on the 2d of September it was quoted at seven hundred only.

The state of things now became alarming. To prevent, if possible, the
utter extinction of public confidence in their proceedings, the directors
summoned a general court of the whole corporation, to meet in Merchant
Tailors' Hall on the 8th of September. By nine o'clock in the morning, the
room was filled to suffocation; Cheapside was blocked up by a crowd unable
to gain admittance, and the greatest excitement prevailed. The directors
and their friends mustered in great numbers. Sir John Fellowes, the
sub-governor, was called to the chair. He acquainted the assembly with the
cause of their meeting; read to them the several resolutions of the court
of directors, and gave them an account of their proceedings; of the taking
in the redeemable and unredeemable funds, and of the subscriptions in
money. Mr. Secretary Craggs then made a short speech, wherein he commended
the conduct of the directors, and urged that nothing could more
effectually contribute to the bringing this scheme to perfection than
union among themselves. He concluded with a motion for thanking the court
of directors for their prudent and skilful management, and for desiring
them to proceed in such manner as they should think most proper for the
interest and advantage of the corporation. Mr. Hungerford, who had
rendered himself very conspicuous in the House of Commons for his zeal in
behalf of the South-Sea company, and who was shrewdly suspected to have
been a considerable gainer by knowing the right time to sell out, was very
magniloquent on this occasion. He said that he had seen the rise and fall,
the decay and resurrection of many communities of this nature, but that,
in his opinion, none had ever performed such wonderful things in so short
a time as the South-Sea company. They had done more than the crown, the
pulpit, or the bench could do. They had reconciled all parties in one
common interest; they had laid asleep, if not wholly extinguished, all the
domestic jars and animosities of the nation. By the rise of their stock,
monied men had vastly increased their fortunes; country gentlemen had seen
the value of their lands doubled and trebled in their hands. They had at
the same time done good to the Church, not a few of the reverend clergy
having got great sums by the project. In short, they had enriched the
whole nation, and he hoped they had not forgotten themselves. There was
some hissing at the latter part of this speech, which for the extravagance
of its eulogy was not far removed from satire; but the directors and their
friends, and all the winners in the room, applauded vehemently. The Duke
of Portland spoke in a similar strain, and expressed his great wonder why
any body should be dissatisfied; of course, he was a winner by his
speculations, and in a condition similar to that of the fat alderman in
_Joe Miller's Jests_, who, whenever he had eaten a good dinner, folded his
hands upon his paunch, and expressed his doubts whether there could be a
hungry man in the world.

[Illustration: MR. SECRETARY CRAGGS.]

Several resolutions were passed at this meeting, but they had no effect
upon the public. Upon the very same evening the stock fell to six hundred
and forty, and on the morrow to five hundred and forty. Day after day it
continued to fall, until it was as low as four hundred. In a letter dated
September 13th, from Mr. Broderick, M.P., to Lord Chancellor Middleton,
and published in Coxe's _Walpole_, the former says: "Various are the
conjectures why the South-Sea directors have suffered the cloud to break
so early. I made no doubt but they would do so when they found it to their
advantage. They have stretched credit so far beyond what it would bear,
that specie proves insufficient to support it. Their most considerable men
have drawn out, securing themselves by the losses of the deluded,
thoughtless numbers, whose understandings have been overruled by avarice
and the hope of making mountains out of mole-hills. Thousands of families
will be reduced to beggary. The consternation is inexpressible--the rage
beyond description, and the case altogether so desperate, that I do not
see any plan or scheme so much as thought of for averting the blow, so
that I cannot pretend to guess what is next to be done." Ten days
afterwards, the stock still falling, he writes: "The company have yet come
to no determination, for they are in such a wood that they know not which
way to turn. By several gentlemen lately come to town, I perceive the very
name of a South-Sea-man grows abominable in every country. A great many
goldsmiths are already run off, and more will daily. I question whether
one-third, nay, one-fourth of them can stand it. From the very beginning,
I founded my judgment of the whole affair upon the unquestionable maxim,
that ten millions (which is more than our running cash) could not
circulate two hundred millions, beyond which our paper credit extended.
That, therefore, whenever that should become doubtful, be the cause what
it would, our noble state machine must inevitably fall to the ground."

On the 12th of September, at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Secretary
Craggs, several conferences were held between the directors of the South
Sea and the directors of the Bank. A report which was circulated, that the
latter had agreed to circulate six millions of the South-Sea company's
bonds, caused the stock to rise to six hundred and seventy; but in the
afternoon, as soon as the report was known to be groundless, the stock
fell again to five hundred and eighty; the next day to five hundred and
seventy, and so gradually to four hundred.[20]

    [20] Gay (the poet), in that disastrous year, had a present from
         young Craggs of some South-Sea stock, and once supposed
         himself to be master of twenty thousand pounds. His friends
         persuaded him to sell his share, but he dreamed of dignity
         and splendour, and could not hear to obstruct his own
         fortune. He was then importuned to sell as much as would
         purchase a hundred a year for life, "which," says Fenton,
         "will make you sure of a clean shirt and a shoulder of mutton
         every day." This counsel was rejected; the profit and
         principal were lost, and Gay sunk under the calamity so low
         that his life became in danger.--_Johnson's Lives of the

The ministry were seriously alarmed at the aspect of affairs. The
directors could not appear in the streets without being insulted;
dangerous riots were every moment apprehended. Despatches were sent off to
the king at Hanover, praying his immediate return. Mr. Walpole, who was
staying at his country seat, was sent for, that he might employ his known
influence with the directors of the Bank of England to induce them to
accept the proposal made by the South-Sea company for circulating a number
of their bonds.

The Bank was very unwilling to mix itself up with the affairs of the
company; it dreaded being involved in calamities which it could not
relieve, and received all overtures with visible reluctance. But the
universal voice of the nation called upon it to come to the rescue. Every
person of note in commercial politics was called in to advise in the
emergency. A rough draft of a contract drawn up by Mr. Walpole was
ultimately adopted as the basis of further negotiations, and the public
alarm abated a little.

On the following day, the 20th of September, a general court of the
South-Sea company was held at Merchant Tailors' Hall, in which resolutions
were carried, empowering the directors to agree with the Bank of England,
or any other persons, to circulate the company's bonds, or make any other
agreement with the Bank which they should think proper. One of the
speakers, a Mr. Pulteney, said it was most surprising to see the
extraordinary panic which had seized upon the people. Men were running to
and fro in alarm and terror, their imaginations filled with some great
calamity, the form and dimensions of which nobody knew:

   "Black it stood as night--
    Fierce as ten furies--terrible as hell."

At a general court of the Bank of England held two days afterwards, the
governor informed them of the several meetings that had been held on the
affairs of the South-Sea company, adding that the directors had not yet
thought fit to come to any decision upon the matter. A resolution was then
proposed, and carried without a dissentient voice, empowering the
directors to agree with those of the South Sea to circulate their bonds,
to what sum, and upon what terms, and for what time, they might think

Thus both parties were at liberty to act as they might judge best for the
public interest. Books were opened at the Bank for a subscription of three
millions for the support of public credit, on the usual terms of 15l. per
cent deposit, 3l. per cent premium, and 5l. per cent interest. So great
was the concourse of people in the early part of the morning, all eagerly
bringing their money, that it was thought the subscription would be filled
that day; but before noon, the tide turned. In spite of all that could be
done to prevent it, the South-Sea company's stock fell rapidly. Their
bonds were in such discredit, that a run commenced upon the most eminent
goldsmiths and bankers, some of whom, having lent out great sums upon
South-Sea stock, were obliged to shut up their shops and abscond. The
Sword-blade company, who had hitherto been the chief cashiers of the
South-Sea company, stopped payment. This being looked upon as but the
beginning of evil, occasioned a great run upon the Bank, who were now
obliged to pay out money much faster than they had received it upon the
subscription in the morning. The day succeeding was a holiday (the 29th of
September), and the Bank had a little breathing time. They bore up against
the storm; but their former rivals, the South-Sea company, were wrecked
upon it. Their stock fell to one hundred and fifty, and gradually, after
various fluctuations, to one hundred and thirty-five.

The Bank, finding they were not able to restore public confidence, and
stem the tide of ruin, without running the risk of being swept away with
those they intended to save, declined to carry out the agreement into
which they had partially entered. They were under no obligation whatever
to continue; for the so-called Bank contract was nothing more than the
rough draught of an agreement, in which blanks had been left for several
important particulars, and which contained no penalty for their secession.
"And thus," to use the words of the Parliamentary History, "were seen, in
the space of eight months, the rise, progress, and fall of that mighty
fabric, which, being wound up by mysterious springs to a wonderful height,
had fixed the eyes and expectations of all Europe, but whose foundation,
being fraud, illusion, credulity, and infatuation, fell to the ground as
soon as the artful management of its directors was discovered."

In the hey-day of its blood, during the progress of this dangerous
delusion, the manners of the nation became sensibly corrupted. The
parliamentary inquiry, set on foot to discover the delinquents, disclosed
scenes of infamy, disgraceful alike to the morals of the offenders and the
intellects of the people among whom they had arisen. It is a deeply
interesting study to investigate all the evils that were the result.
Nations, like individuals, cannot become desperate gamblers with impunity.
Punishment is sure to overtake them sooner or later. A celebrated
writer[21] is quite wrong when he says, "that such an era as this is the
most unfavourable for a historian; that no reader of sentiment and
imagination can be entertained or interested by a detail of transactions
such as these, which admit of no warmth, no colouring, no embellishment; a
detail of which only serves to exhibit an inanimate picture of tasteless
vice and mean degeneracy." On the contrary,--and Smollett might have
discovered it, if he had been in the humour,--the subject is capable of
inspiring as much interest as even a novellist can desire. Is there no
warmth in the despair of a plundered people?--no life and animation in the
picture which might be drawn of the woes of hundreds of impoverished and
ruined families? of the wealthy of yesterday become the beggars of to-day?
of the powerful and influential changed into exiles and outcasts, and the
voice of self-reproach and imprecation resounding from every corner of the
land? Is it a dull or uninstructive picture to see a whole people shaking
suddenly off the trammels of reason, and running wild after a golden
vision, refusing obstinately to believe that it is not real, till, like a
deluded hind running after an _ignis fatuus_, they are plunged into a
quagmire? But in this false spirit has history too often been written. The
intrigues of unworthy courtiers to gain the favour of still more unworthy
kings, or the records of murderous battles and sieges, have been dilated
on, and told over and over again, with all the eloquence of style and all
the charms of fancy; while the circumstances which have most deeply
affected the morals and welfare of the people have been passed over with
but slight notice, as dry and dull, and capable of neither warmth nor

    [21] Smollett.

[Illustration: CARICATURE.[22]]

    [22] Caricature, copied from _Bubblers' Medley_, published by
         Carrington Bowles.

During the progress of this famous bubble, England presented a singular
spectacle. The public mind was in a state of unwholesome fermentation. Men
were no longer satisfied with the slow but sure profits of cautious
industry. The hope of boundless wealth for the morrow made them heedless
and extravagant for to-day. A luxury, till then unheard-of, was
introduced, bringing in its train a corresponding laxity of morals. The
over-bearing insolence of ignorant men, who had arisen to sudden wealth by
successful gambling, made men of true gentility of mind and manners blush
that gold should have power to raise the unworthy in the scale of society.
The haughtiness of some of these "cyphering cits," as they were termed by
Sir Richard Steele, was remembered against them in the day of their
adversity. In the parliamentary inquiry, many of the directors suffered
more for their insolence than for their peculation. One of them, who, in
the full-blown pride of an ignorant rich man, had said that he would feed
his horse upon gold, was reduced almost to bread and water for himself;
every haughty look, every overbearing speech, was set down, and repaid
them a hundredfold in poverty and humiliation.

The state of matters all over the country was so alarming, that George I.
shortened his intended stay in Hanover, and returned in all haste to
England. He arrived on the 11th of November, and parliament was summoned
to meet on the 8th of December. In the mean time, public meetings were
held in every considerable town of the empire, at which petitions were
adopted, praying the vengeance of the legislature upon the South-Sea
directors, who, by their fraudulent practices, had brought the nation to
the brink of ruin. Nobody seemed to imagine that the nation itself was as
culpable as the South-Sea company. Nobody blamed the credulity and avarice
of the people,--the degrading lust of gain, which had swallowed up every
nobler quality in the national character, or the infatuation which had
made the multitude run their heads with such frantic eagerness into the
net held out for them by scheming projectors. These things were never
mentioned. The people were a simple, honest, hard-working people, ruined
by a gang of robbers, who were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered without

This was the almost unanimous feeling of the country. The two Houses of
Parliament were not more reasonable. Before the guilt of the South-Sea
directors was known, punishment was the only cry. The king, in his speech
from the throne, expressed his hope that they would remember that all
their prudence, temper, and resolution were necessary to find out and
apply the proper remedy for their misfortunes. In the debate on the answer
to the address, several speakers indulged in the most violent invectives
against the directors of the South-Sea project. The Lord Molesworth was
particularly vehement. "It had been said by some, that there was no law to
punish the directors of the South-Sea company, who were justly looked upon
as the authors of the present misfortunes of the state. In his opinion,
they ought upon this occasion to follow the example of the ancient Romans,
who, having no law against parricide, because their legislators supposed
no son could be so unnaturally wicked as to embrue his hands in his
father's blood, made a law to punish this heinous crime as soon as it was
committed. They adjudged the guilty wretch to be sown in a sack, and
thrown alive into the Tiber. He looked upon the contrivers and executors
of the villanous South-Sea scheme as the parricides of their country, and
should be satisfied to see them tied in like manner in sacks, and thrown
into the Thames." Other members spoke with as much want of temper and
discretion. Mr. Walpole was more moderate. He recommended that their first
care should be to restore public credit. "If the city of London were on
fire, all wise men would aid in extinguishing the flames, and preventing
the spread of the conflagration, before they inquired after the incendiaries.
Public credit had received a dangerous wound, and lay bleeding, and they
ought to apply a speedy remedy to it. It was time enough to punish the
assassin afterwards." On the 9th of December an address, in answer to his
majesty's speech, was agreed upon, after an amendment, which was carried
without a division, that words should be added expressive of the
determination of the house not only to seek a remedy for the national
distresses, but to punish the authors of them.


    [23] Britannia stript by a South-Sea Director. From _Het groote
         Tafereel der Dwaasheid_.

The inquiry proceeded rapidly. The directors were ordered to lay before
the house a full account of all their proceedings. Resolutions were passed
to the effect that the calamity was mainly owing to the vile arts of
stock-jobbers, and that nothing could tend more to the reestablishment of
public credit than a law to prevent this infamous practice. Mr. Walpole
then rose, and said, that "as he had previously hinted, he had spent some
time upon a scheme for restoring public credit, but that the execution of
it depending upon a position which had been laid down as fundamental, he
thought it proper, before he opened out his scheme, to be informed whether
he might rely upon that foundation. It was, whether the subscription of
public debts and encumbrances, money subscriptions, and other contracts,
made with the South-Sea company, should remain in the present state?" This
question occasioned an animated debate. It was finally agreed, by a
majority of 259 against 117, that all these contracts should remain in
their present state, unless altered for the relief of the proprietors by a
general court of the South-Sea company, or set aside by due course of law.
On the following day, Mr. Walpole laid before a committee of the whole
house his scheme for the restoration of public credit, which was, in
substance, to engraft nine millions of South-Sea stock into the Bank of
England, and the same sum into the East India company, upon certain
conditions. The plan was favourably received by the house. After some few
objections, it was ordered that proposals should be received from the two
great corporations. They were both unwilling to lend their aid, and the
plan met with a warm but fruitless opposition at the general courts
summoned for the purpose of deliberating upon it. They, however,
ultimately agreed upon the terms on which they would consent to circulate
the South-Sea bonds, and their report being presented to the committee, a
bill was brought in under the superintendence of Mr. Walpole, and safely
carried through both Houses of Parliament.

A bill was at the same time brought in for restraining the South-Sea
directors, governor, sub-governor, treasurer, cashier, and clerks from
leaving the kingdom for a twelvemonth, and for discovering their estates
and effects, and preventing them from transporting or alienating the same.
All the most influential members of the House supported the bill. Mr.
Shippen, seeing Mr. Secretary Craggs in his place, and believing the
injurious rumours that were afloat of that minister's conduct in the
South-Sea business, determined to touch him to the quick. He said, he was
glad to see a British House of Commons resuming its pristine vigour and
spirit, and acting with so much unanimity for the public good. It was
necessary to secure the persons and estates of the South-Sea directors and
their officers; "but," he added, looking fixedly at Mr. Craggs as he
spoke, "there were other men in high station, whom, in time, he would not
be afraid to name, who were no less guilty than the directors." Mr. Craggs
arose in great wrath, and said, that if the innuendo were directed against
him, he was ready to give satisfaction to any man who questioned him,
either in the House or out of it. Loud cries of order immediately arose on
every side. In the midst of the uproar, Lord Molesworth got up, and
expressed his wonder at the boldness of Mr. Craggs in challenging the
whole House of Commons. He, Lord Molesworth, though somewhat old, past
sixty, would answer Mr. Craggs whatever he had to say in the House, and he
trusted there were plenty of young men beside him, who would not be afraid
to look Mr. Craggs in the face out of the House. The cries of order again
resounded from every side; the members arose simultaneously; every body
seemed to be vociferating at once. The speaker in vain called order. The
confusion lasted several minutes, during which Lord Molesworth and Mr.
Craggs were almost the only members who kept their seats. At last, the
call for Mr. Craggs became so violent, that he thought proper to submit to
the universal feeling of the House, and explain his unparliamentary
expression. He said, that by giving satisfaction to the impugners of his
conduct in that House, he did not mean that he would fight, but that he
would explain his conduct. Here the matter ended, and the House proceeded
to debate in what manner they should conduct their inquiry into the
affairs of the South-Sea company, whether in a grand or a select
committee. Ultimately, a secret committee of thirteen was appointed, with
power to send for persons, papers, and records.

The Lords were as zealous and as hasty as the Commons. The Bishop of
Rochester said the scheme had been like a pestilence. The Duke of Wharton
said the House ought to shew no respect of persons; that, for his part, he
would give up the dearest friend he had, if he had been engaged in the
project. The nation had been plundered in a most shameful and flagrant
manner, and he would go as far as any body in the punishment of the
offenders. Lord Stanhope said, that every farthing possessed by the
criminals, whether directors or not directors, ought to be confiscated, to
make good the public losses.

During all this time the public excitement was extreme. We learn from
Coxe's _Walpole_, that the very name of a South-Sea director was thought
to be synonymous with every species of fraud and villany. Petitions from
counties, cities, and boroughs, in all parts of the kingdom, were
presented, crying for the justice due to an injured nation and the
punishment of the villanous peculators. Those moderate men, who would not
go to extreme lengths, even in the punishment of the guilty, were accused
of being accomplices, were exposed to repeated insults and virulent
invectives, and devoted, both in anonymous letters and public writings, to
the speedy vengeance of an injured people. The accusations against Mr.
Aislabie, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. Craggs, another member of
the ministry, were so loud, that the House of Lords resolved to proceed at
once into the investigation concerning them. It was ordered, on the 21st
of January, that all brokers concerned in the South-Sea scheme should lay
before the House an account of the stock or subscriptions bought or sold
by them for any of the officers of the Treasury or Exchequer, or in trust
for any of them, since Michaelmas 1719. When this account was delivered,
it appeared that large quantities of stock had been transferred to the use
of Mr. Aislabie. Five of the South-Sea directors, including Mr. Edward
Gibbon, the grandfather of the celebrated historian, were ordered into the
custody of the black rod. Upon a motion made by Earl Stanhope, it was
unanimously resolved, that the taking in or giving credit for stock
without a valuable consideration actually paid or sufficiently secured; or
the purchasing stock by any director or agent of the South-Sea company,
for the use or benefit of any member of the administration, or any member
of either House of Parliament, during such time as the South-Sea bill was
yet pending in parliament, was a notorious and dangerous corruption.
Another resolution was passed a few days afterwards, to the effect that
several of the directors and officers of the company having, in a
clandestine manner, sold their own stock to the company, had been guilty
of a notorious fraud and breach of trust, and had thereby mainly caused
the unhappy turn of affairs that had so much affected public credit. Mr.
Aislabie resigned his office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and absented
himself from parliament, until the formal inquiry into his individual
guilt was brought under the consideration of the legislature.

In the mean time, Knight, the treasurer of the company, and who was
entrusted with all the dangerous secrets of the dishonest directors,
packed up his books and documents, and made his escape from the country.
He embarked in disguise, in a small boat on the river, and proceeding to a
vessel hired for the purpose, was safely conveyed to Calais. The Committee
of Secrecy informed the House of the circumstance, when it was resolved
unanimously that two addresses should be presented to the king; the first
praying that he would issue a proclamation offering a reward for the
apprehension of Knight; and the second, that he would give immediate
orders to stop the ports, and to take effectual care of the coasts, to
prevent the said Knight, or any other officers of the South-Sea company,
from escaping out of the kingdom. The ink was hardly dry upon these
addresses before they were carried to the king by Mr. Methuen, deputed by
the House for that purpose. The same evening a royal proclamation was
issued, offering a reward of two thousand pounds for the apprehension of
Knight. The Commons ordered the doors of the House to be locked, and the
keys to be placed on the table. General Ross, one of the members of the
Committee of Secrecy, acquainted them that they had already discovered a
train of the deepest villany and fraud that hell had ever contrived to
ruin a nation, which in due time they would lay before the House. In the
mean time, in order to a further discovery, the Committee thought it
highly necessary to secure the persons of some of the directors and
principal South-Sea officers, and to seize their papers. A motion to this
effect having been made, was carried unanimously. Sir Robert Chaplin, Sir
Theodore Janssen, Mr. Sawbridge, and Mr. F. Eyles, members of the House,
and directors of the South-Sea company, were summoned to appear in their
places, and answer for their corrupt practices. Sir Theodore Janssen and
Mr. Sawbridge answered to their names, and endeavoured to exculpate
themselves. The House heard them patiently, and then ordered them to
withdraw. A motion was then made, and carried _nemine contradicente_, that
they had been guilty of a notorious breach of trust--had occasioned much
loss to great numbers of his majesty's subjects, and had highly prejudiced
the public credit. It was then ordered that, for their offence, they
should be expelled the House, and taken into the custody of the
sergeant-at-arms. Sir Robert Chaplin and Mr. Eyles, attending in their
places four days afterwards, were also expelled the House. It was resolved
at the same time to address the king to give directions to his ministers
at foreign courts to make application for Knight, that he might be
delivered up to the English authorities, in case he took refuge in any of
their dominions. The king at once agreed, and messengers were despatched
to all parts of the continent the same night.

Among the directors taken into custody was Sir John Blunt, the man whom
popular opinion has generally accused of having been the original author
and father of the scheme. This man, we are informed by Pope, in his
epistle to Allen Lord Bathurst, was a dissenter, of a most religious
deportment, and professed to be a great believer.[24] He constantly
declaimed against the luxury and corruption of the age, the partiality of
parliaments, and the misery of party spirit. He was particularly eloquent
against avarice in great and noble persons. He was originally a scrivener,
and afterwards became, not only a director, but the most active manager of
the South-Sea company. Whether it was during his career in this capacity
that he first began to declaim against the avarice of the great, we are
not informed. He certainly must have seen enough of it to justify his
severest anathema; but if the preacher had himself been free from the vice
he condemned, his declamations would have had a better effect. He was
brought up in custody to the bar of the House of Lords, and underwent a
long examination. He refused to answer several important questions. He
said he had been examined already by a committee of the House of Commons,
and as he did not remember his answers, and might contradict himself, he
refused to answer before another tribunal. This declaration, in itself an
indirect proof of guilt, occasioned some commotion in the House. He was
again asked peremptorily whether he had ever sold any portion of the stock
to any member of the administration, or any member of either House of
Parliament, to facilitate the passing of the bill. He again declined to
answer. He was anxious, he said, to treat the House with all possible
respect, but he thought it hard to be compelled to accuse himself. After
several ineffectual attempts to refresh his memory, he was directed to
withdraw. A violent discussion ensued between the friends and opponents of
the ministry. It was asserted that the administration were no strangers to
the convenient taciturnity of Sir John Blunt. The Duke of Wharton made a
reflection upon the Earl Stanhope, which the latter warmly resented. He
spoke under great excitement, and with such vehemence as to cause a sudden
determination of blood to the head. He felt himself so ill that he was
obliged to leave the House and retire to his chamber. He was cupped
immediately, and also let blood on the following morning, but with slight
relief. The fatal result was not anticipated. Towards evening he became
drowsy, and turning himself on his face, expired. The sudden death of this
statesman caused great grief to the nation. George I. was exceedingly
affected, and shut himself up for some hours in his closet, inconsolable
for his loss.

    [24] "'God cannot love,' says Blunt, with tearless eyes,
          'The wretch he starves, and piously denies.' . . .
           Much-injur'd Blunt! why bears he Britain's hate?
           A wizard told him in these words our fate:
          'At length corruption, like a gen'ral flood,
           So long by watchful ministers withstood,
           Shall deluge all; and av'rice, creeping on,
           Spread like a low-born mist, and blot the sun;
           Statesman and patriot ply alike the stocks,
           Peeress and butler share alike the box,
           And judges job, and bishops bite the Town,
           And mighty dukes pack cards for half-a-crown:
           See Britain sunk in Lucre's forbid charms,
           And France reveng'd of Ann's and Edward's arms!'
           'Twas no court-badge, great Scriv'ner! fir'd thy brain,
           Nor lordly luxury, nor city gain:
           No, 'twas thy righteous end, asham'd to see
           Senates degen'rate, patriots disagree,
           And nobly wishing party-rage to cease,
           To buy both sides, and give thy country peace."
                            _Pope's Epistle to Allen Lord Bathurst_.

Knight, the treasurer of the company, was apprehended at Tirlemont, near
Liege, by one of the secretaries of Mr. Leathes, the British resident at
Brussels, and lodged in the citadel of Antwerp. Repeated applications were
made to the court of Austria to deliver him up, but in vain. Knight threw
himself upon the protection of the states of Brabant, and demanded to be
tried in that country. It was a privilege granted to the states of Brabant
by one of the articles of the _Joyeuse Entrée_, that every criminal
apprehended in that country should be tried in that country. The states
insisted on their privilege, and refused to deliver Knight to the British
authorities. The latter did not cease their solicitations; but in the mean
time, Knight escaped from the citadel.

[Illustration: BRABANT SCREEN.[25]]

    [25] The Brabant Screen. This caricature represents the Duchess of
         Kendal behind the "Brabant Screen," supplying Mr. Knight with
         money to facilitate his escape; and is copied from a rare
         print of the time, in the collection of E. Hawkins, Esq.

On the 16th of February the Committee of Secrecy made their first report
to the House. They stated that their inquiry had been attended with
numerous difficulties and embarrassments; every one they had examined had
endeavoured, as far as in him lay, to defeat the ends of justice. In some
of the books produced before them, false and fictitious entries had been
made; in others, there were entries of money with blanks for the name of
the stockholders. There were frequent erasures and alterations, and in
some of the books leaves were torn out. They also found that some books of
great importance had been destroyed altogether, and that some had been
taken away or secreted. At the very entrance into their inquiry, they had
observed that the matters referred to them were of great variety and
extent. Many persons had been entrusted with various parts in the
execution of the law, and under colour thereof had acted in an
unwarrantable manner, in disposing of the properties of many thousands of
persons amounting to many millions of money. They discovered that, before
the South-Sea Act was passed, there was an entry in the company's books of
the sum of 1,259,325l., upon account of stock stated to have been sold to
the amount of 574,500l. This stock was all fictitious, and had been
disposed of with a view to promote the passing of the bill. It was noted
as sold on various days, and at various prices, from 150 to 325 per cent.
Being surprised to see so large an account disposed of at a time when the
company were not empowered to increase their capital, the Committee
determined to investigate most carefully the whole transaction. The
governor, sub-governor, and several directors were brought before them,
and examined rigidly. They found that, at the time these entries were
made, the company was not in possession of such a quantity of stock,
having in their own right only a small quantity, not exceeding thirty
thousand pounds at the utmost. Pursuing the inquiry, they found that this
amount of stock was to be esteemed as taken in or holden by the company
for the benefit of the pretended purchasers, although no mutual agreement
was made for its delivery or acceptance at any certain time. No money was
paid down, nor any deposit or security whatever given to the company by
the supposed purchasers; so that if the stock had fallen, as might have
been expected had the act not passed, they would have sustained no loss.
If, on the contrary, the price of stock advanced (as it actually did by
the success of the scheme), the difference by the advanced price was to be
made good to them. Accordingly, after the passing of the act, the account
of stock was made up and adjusted with Mr. Knight, and the pretended
purchasers were paid the difference out of the company's cash. This
fictitious stock, which had been chiefly at the disposal of Sir John
Blunt, Mr. Gibbon, and Mr. Knight, was distributed among several members
of the government and their connexions, by way of bribe, to facilitate the
passing of the bill. To the Earl of Sunderland was assigned 50,000l. of
this stock; to the Duchess of Kendal, 10,000l.; to the Countess of Platen,
10,000l.; to her two nieces, 10,000l.; to Mr. Secretary Craggs, 30,000l.;
to Mr. Charles Stanhope (one of the secretaries of the Treasury),
10,000l.; to the Sword-blade company, 50,000l. It also appeared that Mr.
Stanhope had received the enormous sum of 250,000l. as the difference in
the price of some stock, through the hands of Turner, Caswall, and Co.,
but that his name had been partly erased from their books, and altered to
Stangape. Aislabie, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had made profits
still more abominable. He had an account with the same firm, who were also
South-Sea directors, to the amount of 794,451l. He had, besides, advised
the company to make their second subscription one million and a half,
instead of a million, by their own authority, and without any warrant. The
third subscription had been conducted in a manner as disgraceful. Mr.
Aislabie's name was down for 70,000l.; Mr. Craggs, senior, for 659,000l.;
the Earl of Sunderland's for 160,000l.; and Mr. Stanhope for 47,000l. This
report was succeeded by six others, less important. At the end of the
last, the committee declared, that the absence of Knight, who had been
principally entrusted, prevented them from carrying on their inquiries.

The first report was ordered to be printed, and taken into consideration
on the next day but one succeeding. After a very angry and animated
debate, a series of resolutions were agreed to, condemnatory of the
conduct of the directors, of the members of the parliament and of the
administration concerned with them; and declaring that they ought, each
and all, to make satisfaction out of their own estates for the injury they
had done the public. Their practices were declared to be corrupt,
infamous, and dangerous; and a bill was ordered to be brought in for the
relief of the unhappy sufferers.


Mr. Charles Stanhope was the first person brought to account for his share
in these transactions. He urged in his defence that, for some years past,
he had lodged all the money he was possessed of in Mr. Knight's hands, and
whatever stock Mr. Knight had taken in for him, he had paid a valuable
consideration for it. As for the stock that had been bought for him by
Turner, Caswall, and Co., he knew nothing about it. Whatever had been done
in that matter was done without his authority, and he could not be
responsible for it. Turner and Co. took the latter charge upon themselves;
but it was notorious to every unbiassed and unprejudiced person that Mr.
Stanhope was a gainer of the 250,000l. which lay in the hands of that firm
to his credit. He was, however, acquitted by a majority of three only. The
greatest exertions were made to screen him. Lord Stanhope, the son of the
Earl of Chesterfield, went round to the wavering members, using all the
eloquence he was possessed of to induce them either to vote for the
acquittal, or to absent themselves from the House. Many weak-headed
country gentlemen were led astray by his persuasions, and the result was
as already stated. The acquittal caused the greatest discontent throughout
the country. Mobs of a menacing character assembled in different parts of
London; fears of riots were generally entertained, especially as the
examination of a still greater delinquent was expected by many to have a
similar termination. Mr. Aislabie, whose high office and deep
responsibilities should have kept him honest, even had native principle
been insufficient, was very justly regarded as perhaps the greatest
criminal of all. His case was entered into on the day succeeding the
acquittal of Mr. Stanhope. Great excitement prevailed, and the lobbies and
avenues of the House were beset by crowds, impatient to know the result.
The debate lasted the whole day. Mr. Aislabie found few friends: his guilt
was so apparent and so heinous that nobody had courage to stand up in his
favour. It was finally resolved, without a dissentient voice, that Mr.
Aislabie had encouraged and promoted the destructive execution of the
South-Sea scheme with a view to his own exorbitant profit, and had
combined with the directors in their pernicious practices, to the ruin of
the public trade and credit of the kingdom: that he should for his
offences be ignominiously expelled from the House of Commons, and
committed a close prisoner to the Tower of London; that he should be
restrained from going out of the kingdom for a whole year, or till the end
of the next session of Parliament; and that he should make out a correct
account of all his estate, in order that it might be applied to the relief
of those who had suffered by his mal-practices.

This verdict caused the greatest joy. Though it was delivered at half-past
twelve at night, it soon spread over the city. Several persons illuminated
their houses in token of their joy. On the following day, when Mr.
Aislabie was conveyed to the Tower, the mob assembled on Tower-hill with
the intention of hooting and pelting him. Not succeeding in this, they
kindled a large bonfire, and danced around it in the exuberance of their
delight. Several bonfires were made in other places; London presented the
appearance of a holiday, and people congratulated one another as if they
had just escaped from some great calamity. The rage upon the acquittal of
Mr. Stanhope had grown to such a height that none could tell where it
would have ended, had Mr. Aislabie met with the like indulgence.

To increase the public satisfaction, Sir George Caswall, of the firm of
Turner, Caswall, and Co., was expelled from the House on the following
day, committed to the Tower, and ordered to refund the sum of 250,000l.

[Illustration: EARL OF SUNDERLAND.]

That part of the report of the Committee of Secrecy which related to the
Earl of Sunderland was next taken into consideration. Every effort was
made to clear his lordship from the imputation. As the case against him
rested chiefly on the evidence extorted from Sir John Blunt, great pains
were taken to make it appear that Sir John's word was not to be believed,
especially in a matter affecting the honour of a peer and privy
councillor. All the friends of the ministry rallied around the earl, it
being generally reported that a verdict of guilty against him would bring
a Tory ministry into power. He was eventually acquitted by a majority of
233 against 172; but the country was convinced of his guilt. The greatest
indignation was every where expressed, and menacing mobs again assembled
in London. Happily no disturbance took place.

This was the day on which Mr. Craggs the elder expired. The morrow had
been appointed for the consideration of his case. It was very generally
believed that he had poisoned himself. It appeared, however, that grief
for the loss of his son, one of the secretaries of the Treasury, who had
died five weeks previously of the small-pox, preyed much on his mind. For
this son, dearly beloved, he had been amassing vast heaps of riches: he
had been getting money, but not honestly; and he for whose sake he had
bartered his honour and sullied his fame was now no more. The dread of
further exposure increased his trouble of mind, and ultimately brought on
an apoplectic fit, in which he expired. He left a fortune of a million and
a half, which was afterwards confiscated for the benefit of the sufferers
by the unhappy delusion he had been so mainly instrumental in raising.

One by one the case of every director of the company was taken into
consideration. A sum amounting to two millions and fourteen thousand
pounds was confiscated from their estates towards repairing the mischief
they had done, each man being allowed a certain residue in proportion to
his conduct and circumstances, with which he might begin the world anew.
Sir John Blunt was only allowed 5,000l. out of his fortune of upwards of
183,000l.; Sir John Fellows was allowed 10,000l. out of 243,000l.; Sir
Theodore Janssen, 50,000l. out of 243,000l.; Mr. Edward Gibbon, 10,000l.
out of 106,000l.; Sir John Lambert, 5000l. out of 72,000l. Others, less
deeply involved, were treated with greater liberality. Gibbon, the
historian, whose grandfather was the Mr. Edward Gibbon so severely
mulcted, has given, in the _Memoirs of his Life and Writings_, an
interesting account of the proceedings in parliament at this time. He owns
that he is not an unprejudiced witness; but, as all the writers from which
it is possible to extract any notice of the proceedings of these
disastrous years were prejudiced on the other side, the statements of the
great historian become of additional value. If only on the principle _audi
alteram partem_, his opinion is entitled to consideration. "In the year
1716," he says, "my grandfather was elected one of the directors of the
South-Sea company, and his books exhibited the proof that before his
acceptance of that fatal office, he had acquired an independent fortune of
60,000l. But his fortune was overwhelmed in the shipwreck of the year
1720, and the labours of thirty years were blasted in a single day. Of the
use or abuse of the South-Sea scheme, of the guilt or innocence of my
grandfather and his brother directors, I am neither a competent nor a
disinterested judge. Yet the equity of modern times must condemn the
violent and arbitrary proceedings, which would have disgraced the cause of
justice, and rendered injustice still more odious. No sooner had the
nation awakened from its golden dream, than a popular and even a
parliamentary clamour demanded its victims; but it was acknowledged on all
sides, that the directors, however guilty, could not be touched by any
known laws of the land. The intemperate notions of Lord Molesworth were
not literally acted on; but a bill of pains and penalties was
introduced--a retro-active statute, to punish the offences which did not
exist at the time they were committed. The legislature restrained the
persons of the directors, imposed an exorbitant security for their
appearance, and marked their character with a previous note of ignominy.
They were compelled to deliver, upon oath, the strict value of their
estates, and were disabled from making any transfer or alienation of any
part of their property. Against a bill of pains and penalties, it is the
common right of every subject to be heard by his counsel at the bar. They
prayed to be heard. Their prayer was refused, and their oppressors, who
required no evidence, would listen to no defence. It had been at first
proposed, that one-eighth of their respective estates should be allowed
for the future support of the directors; but it was especially urged that,
in the various shades of opulence and guilt, such a proportion would be
too light for many, and for some might possibly be too heavy. The
character and conduct of each man were separately weighed; but, instead of
the calm solemnity of a judicial inquiry, the fortune and honour of
thirty-three Englishmen were made the topics of hasty conversation, the
sport of a lawless majority; and the basest member of the committee, by a
malicious word or a silent vote, might indulge his general spleen or
personal animosity. Injury was aggravated by insult, and insult was
embittered by pleasantry. Allowances of 20l. or 1s. were facetiously
moved. A vague report that a director had formerly been concerned in
another project, by which some unknown persons had lost their money, was
admitted as a proof of his actual guilt. One man was ruined because he had
dropped a foolish speech, that his horses should feed upon gold; another,
because he was grown so proud, that one day, at the Treasury, he had
refused a civil answer to persons much above him. All were condemned,
absent and unheard, in arbitrary fines and forfeitures, which swept away
the greatest part of their substance. Such bold oppression can scarcely be
shielded by the omnipotence of parliament. My grandfather could not expect
to be treated with more lenity than his companions. His Tory principles
and connexions rendered him obnoxious to the ruling powers. His name was
reported in a suspicious secret. His well-known abilities could not plead
the excuse of ignorance or error. In the first proceedings against the
South-Sea directors, Mr. Gibbon was one of the first taken into custody,
and in the final sentence the measure of his fine proclaimed him eminently
guilty. The total estimate, which he delivered on oath to the House of
Commons, amounted to 106,543l. 5s. 6d., exclusive of antecedent
settlements. Two different allowances of 15,000l. and of 10,000l. were
moved for Mr. Gibbon; but on the question being put, it was carried
without a division for the smaller sum. On these ruins, with the skill and
credit of which parliament had not been able to despoil him, my
grandfather, at a mature age, erected the edifice of a new fortune. The
labours of sixteen years were amply rewarded; and I have reason to believe
that the second structure was not much inferior to the first."


    [26] Emblematic print of the South-Sea Scheme. By W. Hogarth.

The next consideration of the legislature, after the punishment of the
directors, was to restore public credit. The scheme of Walpole had been
found insufficient, and had fallen into disrepute. A computation was made
of the whole capital stock of the South-Sea company at the end of the year
1720. It was found to amount to thirty-seven millions eight hundred
thousand pounds, of which the stock allotted to all the proprietors only
amounted to twenty-four millions five hundred thousand pounds. The
remainder of thirteen millions three hundred thousand pounds belonged to
the company in their corporate capacity, and was the profit they had made
by the national delusion. Upwards of eight millions of this were taken
from the company, and divided among the proprietors and subscribers
generally, making a dividend of about 33l. 6s. 8d. per cent. This was a
great relief. It was further ordered, that such persons as had borrowed
money from the South-Sea company upon stock actually transferred and
pledged at the time of borrowing to or for the use of the company, should
be free from all demands, upon payment of ten per cent of the sums so
borrowed. They had lent about eleven millions in this manner, at a time
when prices were unnaturally raised; and they now received back one
million one hundred thousand, when prices had sunk to their ordinary

But it was a long time before public credit was thoroughly restored.
Enterprise, like Icarus, had soared too high, and melted the wax of her
wings; like Icarus, she had fallen into a sea, and learned, while
floundering in its waves, that her proper element was the solid ground.
She has never since attempted so high a flight.

In times of great commercial prosperity there has been a tendency to
over-speculation on several occasions since then. The success of one
project generally produces others of a similar kind. Popular imitativeness
will always, in a trading nation, seize hold of such successes, and drag a
community too anxious for profits into an abyss from which extrication is
difficult. Bubble companies, of a kind similar to those engendered by the
South-Sea project, lived their little day in the famous year of the panic,
1825. On that occasion, as in 1720, knavery gathered a rich harvest from
cupidity, but both suffered when the day of reckoning came. The schemes of
the year 1836 threatened, at one time, results as disastrous; but they
were happily averted before it was too late.[27]

    [27] The South-Sea project remained until 1845 the greatest
         example in British history of the infatuation of the people
         for commercial gambling. The first edition of these volumes
         was published some time before the outbreak of the Great
         Railway Mania of that and the following year.


[Illustration: CONRAD GESNER.]


    Quis furor, ô cives!--_Lucan_.

The tulip,--so named, it is said, from a Turkish word, signifying a
turban,--was introduced into western Europe about the middle of the
sixteenth century. Conrad Gesner, who claims the merit of having brought
it into repute,--little dreaming of the commotion it was shortly
afterwards to make in the world,--says that he first saw it in the year
1559, in a garden at Augsburg, belonging to the learned Counsellor
Herwart, a man very famous in his day for his collection of rare exotics.
The bulbs were sent to this gentleman by a friend at Constantinople, where
the flower had long been a favourite. In the course of ten or eleven years
after this period, tulips were much sought after by the wealthy,
especially in Holland and Germany. Rich people at Amsterdam sent for the
bulbs direct to Constantinople, and paid the most extravagant prices for
them. The first roots planted in England were brought from Vienna in 1600.
Until the year 1634 the tulip annually increased in reputation, until it
was deemed a proof of bad taste in any man of fortune to be without a
collection of them. Many learned men, including Pompeius de Angelis and
the celebrated Lipsius of Leyden, the author of the treatise "De
Constantia," were passionately fond of tulips. The rage for possessing
them soon caught the middle classes of society, and merchants and
shopkeepers, even of moderate means, began to vie with each other in the
rarity of these flowers and the preposterous prices they paid for them. A
trader at Harlaem was known to pay one-half of his fortune for a single
root, not with the design of selling it again at a profit, but to keep in
his own conservatory for the admiration of his acquaintance.

One would suppose that there must have been some great virtue in this
flower to have made it so valuable in the eyes of so prudent a people as
the Dutch; but it has neither the beauty nor the perfume of the
rose--hardly the beauty of the "sweet, sweet-pea;" neither is it as
enduring as either. Cowley, it is true, is loud in its praise. He says--

   "The tulip next appeared, all over gay,
    But wanton, full of pride, and full of play;
    The world can't shew a dye but here has place;
    Nay, by new mixtures, she can change her face;
    Purple and gold are both beneath her care,
    The richest needlework she loves to wear;
    Her only study is to please the eye,
    And to outshine the rest in finery."

This, though not very poetical, is the description of a poet. Beckmann, in
his _History of Inventions_, paints it with more fidelity, and in prose
more pleasing than Cowley's poetry. He says, "There are few plants which
acquire, through accident, weakness, or disease, so many variegations as
the tulip. When uncultivated, and in its natural state, it is almost of
one colour, has large leaves, and an extraordinarily long stem. When it
has been weakened by cultivation, it becomes more agreeable in the eyes of
the florist. The petals are then paler, smaller, and more diversified in
hue; and the leaves acquire a softer green colour. Thus this masterpiece
of culture, the more beautiful it turns, grows so much the weaker, so
that, with the greatest skill and most careful attention, it can scarcely
be transplanted, or even kept alive."

Many persons grow insensibly attached to that which gives them a great
deal of trouble, as a mother often loves her sick and ever-ailing child
better than her more healthy offspring. Upon the same principle we must
account for the unmerited encomia lavished upon these fragile blossoms. In
1634, the rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the
ordinary industry of the country was neglected, and the population, even
to its lowest dregs, embarked in the tulip trade. As the mania increased,
prices augmented, until, in the year 1635, many persons were known to
invest a fortune of 100,000 florins in the purchase of forty roots. It
then became necessary to sell them by their weight in _perits_, a small
weight less than a grain. A tulip of the species called _Admiral Liefken_,
weighing 400 _perits_, was worth 4400 florins; an _Admiral Van der Eyck_,
weighing 446 _perits_, was worth 1260 florins; a _Childer_ of 106 _perits_
was worth 1615 florins; a _Viceroy_ of 400 _perits_, 3000 florins, and,
most precious of all, a _Semper Augustus_, weighing 200 _perits_, was
thought to be very cheap at 5500 florins. The latter was much sought
after, and even an inferior bulb might command a price of 2000 florins. It
is related that, at one time, early in 1636, there were only two roots of
this description to be had in all Holland, and those not of the best. One
was in the possession of a dealer in Amsterdam, and the other in Harlaem.
So anxious were the speculators to obtain them, that one person offered
the fee-simple of twelve acres of building-ground for the Harlaem tulip.
That of Amsterdam was bought for 4600 florins, a new carriage, two grey
horses, and a complete suit of harness. Hunting, an industrious author of
that day, who wrote a folio volume of one thousand pages upon the
tulipomania, has preserved the folio wing list of the various articles,
and their value, which were delivered for one single root of the rare
species called the _Viceroy_:

    Two lasts of wheat              448
    Four lasts of rye               558
    Four fat oxen                   480
    Eight fat swine                 240
    Twelve fat sheep                120
    Two hogsheads of wine            70
    Four tuns of beer                32
    Two tuns of butter              192
    One thousand lbs. of cheese     120
    A complete bed                  100
    A suit of clothes                80
    A silver drinking-cup            60

People who had been absent from Holland, and whose chance it was to return
when this folly was at its maximum, were sometimes led into awkward
dilemmas by their ignorance. There is an amusing instance of the kind
related in Blainville's _Travels_. A wealthy merchant, who prided himself
not a little on his rare tulips, received upon one occasion a very
valuable consignment of merchandise from the Levant. Intelligence of its
arrival was brought him by a sailor, who presented himself for that
purpose at the counting-house, among bales of goods of every description.
The merchant, to reward him for his news, munificently made him a present
of a fine red herring for his breakfast. The sailor had, it appears, a
great partiality for onions, and seeing a bulb very like an onion lying
upon the counter of this liberal trader, and thinking it, no doubt, very
much out of its place among silks and velvets, he slily seized an
opportunity and slipped it into his pocket, as a relish for his herring.
He got clear off with his prize, and proceeded to the quay to eat his
breakfast. Hardly was his back turned when the merchant missed his
valuable _Semper Augustus_, worth three thousand florins, or about 280l.
sterling. The whole establishment was instantly in an uproar; search was
every where made for the precious root, but it was not to be found. Great
was the merchant's distress of mind. The search was renewed, but again
without success. At last some one thought of the sailor.

The unhappy merchant sprang into the street at the bare suggestion. His
alarmed household followed him. The sailor, simple soul! had not thought
of concealment. He was found quietly sitting on a coil of ropes,
masticating the last morsel of his "_onion_". Little did he dream that he
had been eating a breakfast whose cost might have regaled a whole ship's
crew for a twelvemonth; or, as the plundered merchant himself expressed
it, "might have sumptuously feasted the Prince of Orange and the whole
court of the Stadtholder." Anthony caused pearls to be dissolved in wine
to drink the health of Cleopatra; Sir Richard Whittington was as foolishly
magnificent in an entertainment to King Henry V.; and Sir Thomas Gresham
drank a diamond dissolved in wine to the health of Queen Elizabeth, when
she opened the Royal Exchange; but the breakfast of this roguish Dutchman
was as splendid as either. He had an advantage, too, over his wasteful
predecessors: _their_ gems did not improve the taste or the wholesomeness
of _their_ wine, while _his_ tulip was quite delicious with his red
herring. The most unfortunate part of the business for him was, that he
remained in prison for some months on a charge of felony preferred against
him by the merchant.

Another story is told of an English traveller, which is scarcely less
ludicrous. This gentleman, an amateur botanist, happened to see a
tulip-root lying in the conservatory of a wealthy Dutchman. Being ignorant
of its quality, he took out his penknife, and peeled off its coats, with
the view of making experiments upon it. When it was by this means reduced
to half its size, he cut it into two equal sections, making all the time
many learned remarks on the singular appearances of the unknown bulb.
Suddenly, the owner pounced upon him, and, with fury in his eyes, asked
him if he knew what he had been doing? "Peeling a most extraordinary
onion," replied the philosopher. "_Hundert tausend duyvel!_" said the
Duchman; "it's an _Admiral Van der Eyck_." "Thank you," replied the
traveller, taking out his note-book to make a memorandum of the same; "are
these admirals common in your country?" "Death and the devil!" said the
Dutchman, seizing the astonished man of science by the collar; "come
before the syndic, and you shall see." In spite of his remonstrances, the
traveller was led through the streets followed by a mob of persons. When
brought into the presence of the magistrate, he learned, to his
consternation, that the root upon which he had been experimentalising was
worth four thousand florins; and, notwithstanding all he could urge in
extenuation, he was lodged in prison until he found securities for the
payment of this sum.

The demand for tulips of a rare species increased so much in the year
1636, that regular marts for their sale were established on the Stock
Exchange of Amsterdam, in Rotterdam, Harlaem, Leyden, Alkmar, Hoorn, and
other towns. Symptoms of gambling now became, for the first time,
apparent. The stock-jobbers, ever on the alert for a new speculation,
dealt largely in tulips, making use of all the means they so well knew how
to employ, to cause fluctuations in prices. At first, as in all these
gambling mania, confidence was at its height, and every body gained. The
tulip-jobbers speculated in the rise and fall of the tulip stocks, and
made large profits by buying when prices fell, and selling out when they
rose. Many individuals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait hung temptingly
out before the people, and one after the other, they rushed to the
tulip-marts, like flies around a honey-pot. Every one imagined that the
passion for tulips would last for ever, and that the wealthy from every
part of the world would send to Holland, and pay whatever prices were
asked for them. The riches of Europe would be concentrated on the shores
of the Zuyder Zee, and poverty banished from the favoured clime of
Holland. Nobles, citizens, farmers, mechanics, sea-men, footmen,
maid-servants, even chimney-sweeps and old clothes-women, dabbled in
tulips. People of all grades converted their property into cash, and
invested it in flowers. Houses and lands were offered for sale at
ruinously low prices, or assigned in payment of bargains made at the
tulip-mart. Foreigners became smitten with the same frenzy, and money
poured into Holland from all directions. The prices of the necessaries of
life rose again by degrees: houses and lands, horses and carriages, and
luxuries of every sort, rose in value with them, and for some months
Holland seemed the very antechamber of Plutus. The operations of the trade
became so extensive and so intricate, that it was found necessary to draw
up a code of laws for the guidance of the dealers. Notaries and clerks
were also appointed, who devoted themselves exclusively to the interests
of the trade. The designation of public notary was hardly known in some
towns, that of tulip-notary usurping its place. In the smaller towns,
where there was no exchange, the principal tavern was usually selected as
the "show-place," where high and low traded in tulips, and confirmed their
bargains over sumptuous entertainments. These dinners were sometimes
attended by two or three hundred persons, and large vases of tulips, in
full bloom, were placed at regular intervals upon the tables and
sideboards for their gratification during the repast.

At last, however, the more prudent began to see that this folly could not
last for ever. Rich people no longer bought the flowers to keep them in
their gardens, but to sell them again at cent per cent profit. It was seen
that somebody must lose fearfully in the end. As this conviction spread,
prices fell, and never rose again. Confidence was destroyed, and a
universal panic seized upon the dealers. _A_ had agreed to purchase ten
_Semper Augustines_ from _B_, at four thousand florins each, at six weeks
after the signing of the contract. _B_ was ready with the flowers at the
appointed time; but the price had fallen to three or four hundred florins,
and _A_ refused either to pay the difference or receive the tulips.
Defaulters were announced day after day in all the towns of Holland.
Hundreds who, a few months previously, had begun to doubt that there was
such a thing as poverty in the land, suddenly found themselves the
possessors of a few bulbs, which nobody would buy, even though they
offered them at one quarter of the sums they had paid for them. The cry of
distress resounded every where, and each man accused his neighbour. The
few who had contrived to enrich themselves hid their wealth from the
knowledge of their fellow-citizens, and invested it in the English or
other funds. Many who, for a brief season, had emerged from the humbler
walks of life, were cast back into their original obscurity. Substantial
merchants were reduced almost to beggary, and many a representative of a
noble line saw the fortunes of his house ruined beyond redemption.

When the first alarm subsided, the tulip-holders in the several towns held
public meetings to devise what measures, were best to be taken to restore
public credit. It was generally agreed, that deputies should be sent from
all parts to Amsterdam, to consult with the government upon some remedy
for the evil. The government at first refused to interfere, but advised
the tulip-holders to agree to some plan among themselves. Several meetings
were held for this purpose; but no measure could be devised likely to give
satisfaction to the deluded people, or repair even a slight portion of the
mischief that had been done. The language of complaint and reproach was in
every body's mouth, and all the meetings were of the most stormy
character. At last, however, after much bickering and ill-will, it was
agreed, at Amsterdam, by the assembled deputies, that all contracts made
in the height of the mania, or prior to the month of November 1636, should
be declared null and void, and that, in those made after that date,
purchasers should be freed from their engagements, on paying ten per cent
to the vendor. This decision gave no satisfaction. The vendors who had
their tulips on hand were, of course, discontented, and those who had
pledged themselves to purchase, thought themselves hardly treated. Tulips
which had, at one time, been worth six thousand florins, were now to be
procured for five hundred; so that the composition of ten per cent was one
hundred florins more than the actual value. Actions for breach of contract
were threatened in all the courts of the country; but the latter refused
to take cognisance of gambling transactions.

The matter was finally referred to the Provincial Council at the Hague,
and it was confidently expected that the wisdom of this body would invent
some measure by which credit should be restored. Expectation was on the
stretch for its decision, but it never came. The members continued to
deliberate week after week, and at last, after thinking about it for three
months, declared that they could offer no final decision until they had
more information. They advised, however, that, in the mean time, every
vendor should, in the presence of witnesses, offer the tulips _in natura_
to the purchaser for the sums agreed upon. If the latter refused to take
them, they might be put up for sale by public auction, and the original
contractor held responsible for the difference between the actual and the
stipulated price. This was exactly the plan recommended by the deputies,
and which was already shewn to be of no avail. There was no court in
Holland which would enforce payment. The question was raised in Amsterdam,
but the judges unanimously refused to interfere, on the ground that debts
contracted in gambling were no debts in law.

Thus the matter rested. To find a remedy was beyond the power of the
government. Those who were unlucky enough to have had stores of tulips on
hand at the time of the sudden reaction were left to bear their ruin as
philosophically as they could; those who had made profits were allowed to
keep them; but the commerce of the country suffered a severe shock, from
which it was many years ere it recovered.

The example of the Dutch was imitated to some extent in England. In the
year 1636 tulips were publicly sold in the Exchange of London, and the
jobbers exerted themselves to the utmost to raise them to the fictitious
value they had acquired in Amsterdam. In Paris also the jobbers strove to
create a tulipomania. In both cities they only partially succeeded.
However, the force of example brought the flowers into great favour, and
amongst a certain class of people tulips have ever since been prized more
highly than any other flowers of the field. The Dutch are still notorious
for their partiality to them, and continue to pay higher prices for them
than any other people. As the rich Englishman boasts of his fine
race-horses or his old pictures, so does the wealthy Dutchman vaunt him of
his tulips.

In England, in our day, strange as it may appear, a tulip will produce
more money than an oak. If one could be found, _rara in terris_, and black
as the black swan of Juvenal, its price would equal that of a dozen acres
of standing corn. In Scotland, towards the close of the seventeenth
century, the highest price for tulips, according to the authority of a
writer in the supplement to the third edition of the _Encyclopedia
Britannica_, was ten guineas. Their value appears to have diminished from
that time till the year 1769, when the two most valuable species in
England were the _Don Quevedo_ and the _Valentinier_, the former of which
was worth two guineas and the latter two guineas and a half. These prices
appear to have been the minimum. In the year 1800, a common price was
fifteen guineas for a single bulb. In 1835, a bulb of the species called
the Miss Fanny Kemble was sold by public auction in London for
seventy-five pounds. Still more remarkable was the price of a tulip in the
possession of a gardener in the King's Road, Chelsea;--in his catalogues
it was labelled at two hundred guineas.




Searchers for the Philosopher's Stone and the Water of Life.

    _Mercury_ (_loquitur_). The mischief a secret any of them know,
    above the consuming of coals and drawing of usquebaugh! howsoever
    they may pretend, under the specious names of Geber, Arnold,
    Lulli, 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! I am their
    crude and their sublimate, their precipitate and their unctions;
    their male and their female, sometimes their hermaphrodite--what
    they list to style me! They will calcine you a grave matron, as it
    might be a mother of the maids, and spring up a young virgin out
    of her ashes, as fresh as a phoenix; lay you an old courtier on
    the coals, like a sausage or a bloat-herring, and, after they have
    broiled him enough, blow a soul into him with a pair of bellows!
    See, they begin to muster again, and draw their forces out against
    me! The genius of the place defend me!--BEN JONSON'S _Masque:
    Mercury vindicated from the Alchymists_.

Dissatisfaction with his lot seems to be the characteristic of man in all
ages and climates. So far, however, from being an evil, as at first might
be supposed, it has been the great civiliser of our race; and has tended,
more than any thing else, to raise us above the condition of the brutes.
But the same discontent which has been the source of all improvement, has
been the parent of no small progeny of follies and absurdities; to trace
these latter is our present object. Vast as the subject appears, it is
easily reducible within such limits as will make it comprehensive without
being wearisome, and render its study both instructive and amusing.

Three causes especially have excited the discontent of mankind; and, by
impelling us to seek for remedies for the irremediable, have bewildered us
in a maze of madness and error. These are death, toil, and ignorance of
the future--the doom of man upon this sphere, and for which he shews his
antipathy by his love of life, his longing for abundance, and his craving
curiosity to pierce the secrets of the days to come. The first has led
many to imagine that they might find means to avoid death, or failing in
this, that they might, nevertheless, so prolong existence as to reckon it
by centuries instead of units. From this sprang the search, so long
continued and still pursued, for the _elixir vitæ_, or _water of life_,
which has led thousands to pretend to it and millions to believe in it.
From the second sprang the search for the philosopher's stone, which was
to create plenty by changing all metals into gold; and from the third, the
false sciences of astrology, divination, and their divisions of
necromancy, chiromancy, augury, with all their train of signs, portents,
and omens.

In tracing the career of the erring philosophers, or the wilful cheats,
who have encouraged or preyed upon the credulity of mankind, it will
simplify and elucidate the subject, if we divide it into three classes:
the first comprising alchymists, or those in general who have devoted
themselves to the discovering of the philosopher's stone and the water of
life; the second comprising astrologers, necromancers, sorcerers,
geomancers, and all those who pretended to discover futurity; and the
third consisting of the dealers in charms, amulets, philters,
universal-panacea mongers, touchers for the evil, seventh sons of a
seventh son, sympathetic powder compounders, homoeopathists, animal
magnetisers, and all the motley tribe of quacks, empirics, and charlatans.

But in narrating the career of such men, it will be found that many of
them united several or all of the functions just mentioned; that the
alchymist was a fortune-teller, or a necromancer--that he pretended to
cure all maladies by touch or charm, and to work miracles of every kind.
In the dark and early ages of European history this is more especially the
case. Even as we advance to more recent periods, we shall find great
difficulty in separating the characters. The alchymist seldom confined
himself strictly to his pretended science--the sorcerer and necromancer to
theirs, or the medical charlatan to his. Beginning with alchymy, some
confusion of these classes is unavoidable; but the ground will clear for
us as we advance.

Let us not, in the pride of our superior knowledge, turn with contempt
from the follies of our predecessors. The study of the errors into which
great minds have fallen in the pursuit of truth can never be
uninstructive. As the man looks back to the days of his childhood and his
youth, and recalls to his mind the strange notions and false opinions that
swayed his actions at that time, that he may wonder at them; so should
society, for its edification, look back to the opinions which governed the
ages fled. He is but a superficial thinker who would despise and refuse to
hear of them merely because they are absurd. No man is so wise but that he
may learn some wisdom from his past errors, either of thought or action;
and no society has made such advances as to be capable of no improvement
from the retrospect of its past folly and credulity. And not only is such
a study instructive: he who reads for amusement only will find no chapter
in the annals of the human mind more amusing than this. It opens out the
whole realm of fiction--the wild, the fantastic, and the wonderful, and
all the immense variety of things "that are not, and cannot be; but that
have been imagined and believed."

       *       *       *       *       *

For more than a thousand years the art of alchymy captivated many noble
spirits, and was believed in by millions. Its origin is involved in
obscurity. Some of its devotees have claimed for it an antiquity coeval
with the creation of man himself, others, again, would trace it no further
back than the time of Noah. Vincent de Beauvais argues, indeed, that all
the antediluvians must have possessed a knowledge of alchymy; and
particularly cites Noah as having been acquainted with the _elixir vitæ_,
or he could not have lived to so prodigious an age, and have begotten
children when upwards of five hundred. Lenglet du Fresnoy, in his _History
of the Hermetic Philosophy_, says, "Most of them pretended that Shem, or
Chem, the son of Noah, was an adept in the art, and thought it highly
probable that the words _chemistry_ and _alchymy_ are both derived from
his name." Others say, the art was derived from the Egyptians, amongst
whom it was first founded by Hermes Trismegistus. Moses, who is looked
upon as a first-rate alchymist, gained his knowledge in Egypt; but he kept
it all to himself, and would not instruct the children of Israel in its
mysteries. All the writers upon alchymy triumphantly cite the story of the
golden calf, in the 32d chapter of Exodus, to prove that this great
lawgiver was an adept, and could make or unmake gold at his pleasure. It
is recorded, that Moses was so wrath with the Israelites for their
idolatry, "that he took the calf which they had made, and burned it in the
fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the
children of Israel drink of it." This, say the alchymists, he never could
have done had he not been in possession of the philosopher's stone; by no
other means could he have made the powder of gold float upon the water.
But we must leave this knotty point for the consideration of the adepts in
the art, if any such there be, and come to more modern periods of its
history. The Jesuit, Father Martini, in his _Historia Sinica_, says, it
was practised by the Chinese two thousand five hundred years before the
birth of Christ; but his assertion, being unsupported, is worth nothing.
It would appear, however, that pretenders to the art of making gold and
silver existed in Rome in the first centuries after the Christian era, and
that, when discovered, they were liable to punishment as knaves and
impostors. At Constantinople, in the fourth century, the transmutation of
metals was very generally believed in, and many of the Greek ecclesiastics
wrote treatises upon the subject. Their names are preserved, and some
notice of their works given, in the third volume of Langlet du Fresnoy's
_History of the Hermetic Philosophy_. Their notion appears to have been,
that all metals were composed of two substances; the one, metallic earth;
and the other, a red inflammable matter, which they called sulphur. The
pure union of these substances formed gold; but other metals were mixed
with and contaminated by various foreign ingredients. The object of the
philosopher's stone was to dissolve or neutralise all these ingredients,
by which iron, lead, copper, and all metals would be transmuted into the
original gold. Many learned and clever men wasted their time, their
health, and their energies, in this vain pursuit; but for several
centuries it took no great hold upon the imagination of the people. The
history of the delusion appears, in a manner, lost from this time till the
eighth century, when it appeared amongst the Arabians. From this period it
becomes easier to trace its progress. A master then appeared, who was long
looked upon as the father of the science, and whose name is indissolubly
connected with it.


Of this philosopher, who devoted his life to the study of alchymy, but few
particulars are known. He is thought to have lived in the year 730. His
true name was Abou Moussah Djafar, to which was added Al Sofi, or "The
Wise," and he was born at Houran, in Mesopotamia.[28] Some have thought
he was a Greek, others a Spaniard, and others a prince of Hindostan; but
of all the mistakes which have been made respecting him, the most
ludicrous was that made by the French translator of Sprenger's _History of
Medicine_, who thought, from the sound of his name, that he was a German,
and rendered it as the "Donnateur," or Giver. No details of his life are
known; but it is asserted, that he wrote more than five hundred works upon
the philosopher's stone and the water of life. He was a great enthusiast
in his art, and compared the incredulous to little children shut up in a
narrow room, without windows or aperture, who, because they saw nothing
beyond, denied the existence of the great globe itself. He thought that a
preparation of gold would cure all maladies, not only in man, but in the
inferior animals and plants. He also imagined that all the metals laboured
under disease, with the exception of gold, which was the only one in
perfect health. He affirmed, that the secret of the philosopher's stone
had been more than once discovered; but that the ancient and wise men who
had hit upon it would never, by word or writing, communicate it to men,
because of their unworthiness and incredulity.[29] But the life of Geber,
though spent in the pursuit of this vain chimera, was not altogether
useless. He stumbled upon discoveries which he did not seek; and science
is indebted to him for the first mention of corrosive sublimate, the red
oxide of mercury, nitric acid, and the nitrate of silver.[30]

    [28] _Biographie Universelle_.

    [29] His sum "of perfection," or instructions to students to aid
         them in the laborious search for the stone and elixir, has
         been translated into most of the languages of Europe. An
         English translation, by a great enthusiast in alchymy, one
         Richard Russell, was published in London in 1686. The preface
         is dated eight years previously from the house of the
         alchymist, "at the Star, in Newmarket, in Wapping, near the
         Dock." His design in undertaking the translation was, as he
         informs us, to expose the false pretences of the many
         ignorant pretenders to the science who abounded in his day.

    [30] Article, Geber, _Biographie Universelle_.

For more than two hundred years after the death of Geber, the Arabian
philosophers devoted themselves to the study of alchymy, joining with it
that of astrology. Of these the most celebrated was


Alfarabi flourished at the commencement of the tenth century, and enjoyed
the reputation of being one of the most learned men of his age. He spent
his life in travelling from country to country, that he might gather the
opinions of philosophers upon the great secrets of nature. No danger
dismayed him; no toil wearied him of the pursuit. Many sovereigns
endeavoured to retain him at their courts; but he refused to rest until he
had discovered the great object of his life--the art of preserving it for
centuries, and of making gold as much as he needed. This wandering mode of
life at last proved fatal to him. He had been on a visit to Mecca, not so
much for religious as for philosophical purposes, when, returning through
Syria, he stopped at the court of the Sultan Seifeddoulet, who was
renowned as the patron of learning. He presented himself in his travelling
attire in the presence of that monarch and his courtiers; and, without
invitation, coolly sat himself down on the sofa beside the prince. The
courtiers and wise men were indignant; and the sultan, who did not know
the intruder, was at first inclined to follow their example. He turned to
one of his officers, and ordered him to eject the presumptuous stranger
from the room; but Alfarabi, without moving, dared them to lay hands upon
him; and, turning himself calmly to the prince, remarked, that he did not
know who was his guest, or he would treat him with honour, not with
violence. The sultan, instead of being still further incensed, as many
potentates would have been, admired his coolness; and, requesting him to
sit still closer to him on the sofa, entered into a long conversation with
him upon science and divine philosophy. All the court were charmed with
the stranger. Questions for discussion were propounded, on all of which he
shewed superior knowledge. He convinced every one who ventured to dispute
with him; and spoke so eloquently upon the science of alchymy, that he was
at once recognised as only second to the great Geber himself. One of the
doctors present inquired whether a man who knew so many sciences was
acquainted with music? Alfarabi made no reply, but merely requested that a
lute should be brought him. The lute was brought; and he played such
ravishing and tender melodies, that all the court were melted into tears.
He then changed his theme, and played airs so sprightly, that he set the
grave philosophers, sultan and all, dancing as fast as their legs could
carry them. He then sobered them again by a mournful strain, and made them
sob and sigh as if broken-hearted. The sultan, highly delighted with his
powers, entreated him to stay, offering him every inducement that wealth,
power, and dignity could supply; but the alchymist resolutely refused, it
being decreed, he said, that he should never repose till he had discovered
the philosopher's stone. He set out accordingly the same evening, and was
murdered by some thieves in the deserts of Syria. His biographers give no
further particulars of his life beyond mentioning that he wrote several
valuable treatises on his art, all of which, however, have been lost. His
death happened in the year 954.


Avicenna, whose real name was Ebn Cinna, another great alchymist, was born
at Bokhara in 980. His reputation as a physician and a man skilled in all
sciences was so great, that the Sultan Magdal Douleth resolved to try his
powers in the great science of government. He was accordingly made Grand
Vizier of that prince, and ruled the state with some advantage; but in a
science still more difficult, he failed completely. He could not rule his
own passions, but gave himself up to wine and women, and led a life of
shameless debauchery. Amid the multifarious pursuits of business and
pleasure, he nevertheless found time to write seven treatises upon the
philosopher's stone, which were for many ages looked upon as of great
value by pretenders to the art. It is rare that an eminent physician as
Avicenna appears to have been, abandons himself to sensual gratification;
but so completely did he become enthralled in the course of a few years,
that he was dismissed from his high office, and died shortly afterwards of
premature old age and a complication of maladies, brought on by
debauchery. His death took place in the year 1036. After his time few
philosophers of any note in Arabia are heard of as devoting themselves to
the study of alchymy; but it began shortly afterwards to attract greater
attention in Europe. Learned men in France, England, Spain, and Italy,
expressed their belief in the science, and many devoted their whole
energies to it. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries especially, it was
extensively pursued, and some of the brightest names of that age are
connected with it. Among the most eminent of them are


The first of these philosophers was born in the year 1193, of a noble
family at Lawingen, in the Duchy of Neuburg, on the Danube. For the first
thirty years of his life he appeared remarkably dull and stupid, and it
was feared by every one that no good could come of him. He entered a
Dominican monastery at an early age; but made so little progress in his
studies, that he was more than once upon the point of abandoning them in
despair, but he was endowed with extraordinary perseverance. As he
advanced to middle age, his mind expanded, and he learned whatever he
applied himself to with extreme facility. So remarkable a change was not
in that age to be accounted for but by a miracle. It was asserted and
believed that the Holy Virgin, touched with his great desire to become
learned and famous, took pity upon his incapacity, and appeared to him in
the cloister where he sat almost despairing, and asked him whether he
wished to excel in philosophy or divinity. He chose philosophy, to the
chagrin of the Virgin, who reproached him in mild and sorrowful accents
that he had not made a better choice. She, however, granted his request,
that he should become the most excellent philosopher of the age; but set
this drawback to his pleasure, that he should relapse, when at the height
of his fame, into his former incapacity and stupidity. Albertus never took
the trouble to contradict the story, but prosecuted his studies with such
unremitting zeal, that his reputation speedily spread over all Europe. In
the year 1244, the celebrated Thomas Aquinas placed himself under his
tuition. Many extraordinary stories are told of the master and his pupil.
While they paid all due attention to other branches of science, they never
neglected the pursuit of the philosopher's stone and the _elixir vitæ_.
Although they discovered neither, it was believed that Albert had seized
some portion of the secret of life, and found means to animate a brazen
statue, upon the formation of which, under proper conjunctions of the
planets, he had been occupied many years of his life. He and Thomas
Aquinas completed it together, endowed it with the faculty of speech, and
made it perform the functions of a domestic servant. In this capacity it
was exceedingly useful; but, through some defect in the machinery, it
chattered much more than was agreeable to either philosopher. Various
remedies were tried to cure it of its garrulity, but in vain; and one day,
Thomas Aquinas was so enraged at the noise it made when he was in the
midst of a mathematical problem, that he seized a ponderous hammer and
smashed it to pieces.[31] He was sorry afterwards for what he had done,
and was reproved by his master for giving way to his anger, so unbecoming
in a philosopher. They made no attempt to re-animate the statue.

    [31] Naudé, _Apologie des Grands Hommes accusés de Magie_,
         chap. xviii.

[Illustration: ALBERTUS MAGNUS.]

Such stories as these shew the spirit of the age. Every great man who
attempted to study the secrets of nature was thought a magician; and it is
not to be wondered at that, when philosophers themselves pretended to
discover an elixir for conferring immortality, or a red stone which was to
create boundless wealth, that popular opinion should have enhanced upon
their pretensions, and have endowed them with powers still more
miraculous. It was believed of Albertus Magnus that he could even change
the course of the seasons, a feat which the many thought less difficult
than the discovery of the grand elixir. Albertus was desirous of obtaining
a piece of ground on which to build a monastery in the neighbourhood of
Cologne. The ground belonged to William Count of Holland and King of the
Romans, who for some reason or other did not wish to part with it.
Albertus is reported to have gained it by the following extraordinary
method: He invited the prince as he was passing through Cologne to a
magnificent entertainment prepared for him and all his court. The prince
accepted it, and repaired with a lordly retinue to the residence of the
sage. It was in the midst of winter, the Rhine was frozen over, and the
cold was so bitter, that the knights could not sit on horseback without
running the risk of losing their toes by the frost. Great, therefore, was
their surprise, on arriving at Albert's house, to find that the repast was
spread in his garden, in which the snow had drifted to the depth of
several feet. The earl in high dudgeon remounted his steed, but Albert at
last prevailed upon him to take his seat at the table. He had no sooner
done so, than the dark clouds rolled away from the sky--a warm sun shone
forth--the cold north wind veered suddenly round and blew a mild breeze
from the south--the snows melted away--the ice was unbound upon the
streams, and the trees put forth their green leaves and their
fruit--flowers sprang up beneath their feet, while larks, nightingales,
blackbirds, cuckoos, thrushes, and every sweet song-bird sang hymns from
every tree. The earl and his attendants wondered greatly; but they ate
their dinner, and in recompense for it, Albert got his piece of ground to
build a convent on. He had not, however, shewn them all his power.
Immediately that the repast was over, he gave the word, and dark clouds
obscured the sun--the snow fell in large flakes--the singing-birds fell
dead--the leaves dropped from the trees, and the winds blew so cold and
howled so mournfully, that the guests wrapped themselves up in their thick
cloaks, and retreated into the house to warm themselves at the blazing
fire in Albert's kitchen.[32]

    [32] Lenglet, _Histoire de la Philosophie Hermétique_. See also
         Godwin's _Lives of the Necromancers_.

Thomas Aquinas also could work wonders as well as his master. It is
related of him that he lodged in a street at Cologne, where he was much
annoyed by the incessant clatter made by the horses' hoofs, as they were
led through it daily to exercise by their grooms. He had entreated the
latter to select some other spot, where they might not disturb a
philosopher; but the grooms turned a deaf ear to all his solicitations. In
this emergency he had recourse to the aid of magic. He constructed a small
horse of bronze, upon which he inscribed certain cabalistic characters,
and buried it at midnight in the midst of the highway. The next morning a
troop of grooms came riding along as usual; but the horses, as they
arrived at the spot where the magic horse was buried, reared and plunged
violently--their nostrils distended with terror--their manes grew erect,
and the perspiration ran down their sides in streams. In vain the riders
applied the spur--in vain they coaxed or threatened, the animals would not
pass the spot. On the following day their success was no better. They were
at length compelled to seek another spot for their exercise, and Thomas
Aquinas was left in peace.[33]

    [33] Naudé, _Apologie des Grands Hommes accusés de Magie_,
         chap. xvii.

Albertus Magnus was made Bishop of Ratisbon in 1259; but he occupied the
see only four years, when he resigned, on the ground that its duties
occupied too much of the time which he was anxious to devote to
philosophy. He died in Cologne in 1280, at the advanced age of
eighty-seven. The Dominican writers deny that he ever sought the
philosopher's stone, but his treatise upon minerals sufficiently proves
that he did.


Artephius, a name noted in the annals of alchymy, was born in the early
part of the twelfth century. He wrote two famous treatises; the one upon
the philosopher's stone, and the other on the art of prolonging human
life. In the latter he vaunts his great qualifications for instructing
mankind on such a matter, as he was at that time in the thousand and
twenty-fifth year of his age! He had many disciples who believed in his
extreme age, and who attempted to prove that he was Apollonius of Tyana,
who lived soon after the advent of Jesus Christ, and the particulars of
whose life and pretended miracles have been so fully described by
Philostratus. He took good care never to contradict a story which so much
increased the power he was desirous of wielding over his fellow-mortals.
On all convenient occasions, he boasted of it; and having an excellent
memory, a fertile imagination, and a thorough knowledge of all existing
history, he was never at a loss for an answer when questioned as to the
personal appearance, the manners, or the character of the great men of
antiquity. He also pretended to have found the philosopher's stone; and
said that, in search of it, he had descended to hell, and seen the devil
sitting on a throne of gold, with a legion of imps and fiends around him.
His works on alchymy have been translated into French, and were published
in Paris in 1609 or 1610.


Contemporary with Albertus Magnus was Alain de Lisle of Flanders, who was
named, from his great learning, the "universal doctor." He was thought to
possess a knowledge of all the sciences, and, like Artephius, to have
discovered the _elixir vitæ_. He became one of the friars of the abbey of
Citeaux, and died in 1298, aged about one hundred and ten years. It was
said of him that he was at the point of death when in his fiftieth year,
but that the fortunate discovery of the elixir enabled him to add sixty
years to his existence. He wrote a commentary on the prophecies of Merlin.


This philosopher has left a much greater reputation. He was born in the
year 1245, and studied medicine with great success in the university of
Paris. He afterwards travelled for twenty years in Italy and Germany,
where he made acquaintance with Pietro d'Apone, a man of a character akin
to his own, and addicted to the same pursuits. As a physician, he was
thought, in his own lifetime, to be the most able the world had ever seen.
Like all the learned men of that day, he dabbled in astrology and alchymy,
and was thought to have made immense quantities of gold from lead and
copper. When Pietro d'Apone was arrested in Italy, and brought to trial as
a sorcerer, a similar accusation was made against Arnold; but he managed
to leave the country in time, and escape the fate of his unfortunate
friend. He lost some credit by predicting the end of the world, but
afterwards regained it. The time of his death is not exactly known; but it
must have been prior to the year 1311, when Pope Clement V. wrote a
circular letter to all the clergy of Europe who lived under his obedience,
praying them to use their utmost efforts to discover the famous treatise
of Arnold on _The Practice of Medicine_. The author had promised, during
his lifetime, to make a present of the work to the Holy See, but died
without fulfilling it.


In a very curious work by Monsieur Longeville Harcouet, entitled _The
History of the Persons who have lived several centuries and then grown
young again_, there is a receipt, said to have been given by Arnold de
Villeneuve, by means of which any one might prolong his life for a few
hundred years or so. In the first place, say Arnold and Monsieur Harcouet,
"the person intending so to prolong his life must rub himself well, two or
three times a week, with the juice or marrow of cassia (_moëlle de la
casse_). Every night, upon going to bed, he must put upon his heart a
plaster, composed of a certain quantity of oriental saffron, red
rose-leaves, sandal-wood, aloes, and amber, liquified in oil of roses and
the best white wax. In the morning, he must take it off, and enclose it
carefully in a leaden box till the next night, when it must be again
applied. If he be of a sanguine temperament, he shall take sixteen
chickens; if phlegmatic, twenty-five; and if melancholy, thirty, which he
shall put into a yard where the air and the water are pure. Upon these he
is to feed, eating one a day; but previously the chickens are to be
fattened by a peculiar method, which will impregnate their flesh with the
qualities that are to produce longevity in the eater. Being deprived of
all other nourishment till they are almost dying of hunger, they are to be
fed upon broth made of serpents and vinegar, which broth is to be
thickened with wheat and bran." Various ceremonies are to be performed in
the cooking of this mess, which those may see in the book of M. Harcouet
who are at all interested in the matter; and the chickens are to be fed
upon it for two months. They are then fit for table, and are to be washed
down with moderate quantities of good white wine or claret. This regimen
is to be followed regularly every seven years, and any one may live to be
as old as Methuselah! It is right to state that M. Harcouet has but little
authority for attributing this precious composition to Arnold of
Villeneuve. It is not found in the collected works of that philosopher;
but was first brought to light by a M. Poirier, at the commencement of the
sixteenth century, who asserted that he had discovered it in MS. in the
undoubted writing of Arnold.


This unlucky sage was born at Apone, near Padua, in the year 1250. Like
his friend Arnold de Villeneuve, he was an eminent physician, and a
pretender to the arts of astrology and alchymy. He practised for many
years in Paris, and made great wealth by killing and curing, and telling
fortunes. In an evil day for him, he returned to his own country, with the
reputation of being a magician of the first order. It was universally
believed that he had drawn seven evil spirits from the infernal regions,
whom he kept enclosed in seven crystal vases until he required their
services, when he sent them forth to the ends of the earth to execute his
pleasure. One spirit excelled in philosophy; a second, in alchymy; a
third, in astrology; a fourth, in physic; a fifth, in poetry; a sixth, in
music; and the seventh, in painting: and whenever Pietro wished for
information or instruction in any of these arts, he had only to go to his
crystal vase and liberate the presiding spirit. Immediately all the
secrets of the art were revealed to him; and he might, if it pleased him,
excel Homer in poetry, Apelles in painting, or Pythagoras himself in
philosophy. Although he could make gold out of brass, it was said of him
that he was very sparing of his powers in that respect, and kept himself
constantly supplied with money by other and less creditable means.
Whenever he disbursed gold, he muttered a certain charm, known only to
himself, and next morning the gold was safe again in his own possession.
The trader to whom he gave it might lock it in his strong box and have it
guarded by a troop of soldiers, but the charmed metal flew back to its old
master. Even if it were buried in the earth, or thrown into the sea, the
dawn of the next morning would behold it in the pockets of Pietro. Few
people, in consequence, liked to have dealings with such a personage,
especially for gold. Some, bolder than the rest, thought that his power
did not extend over silver; but, when they made the experiment, they found
themselves mistaken. Bolts and bars could not restrain it, and it
sometimes became invisible in their very hands, and was whisked through
the air to the purse of the magician. He necessarily acquired a very bad
character; and, having given utterance to some sentiments regarding
religion which were the very reverse of orthodox, he was summoned before
the tribunals of the Inquisition to answer for his crimes as a heretic and
a sorcerer. He loudly protested his innocence, even upon the rack, where
he suffered more torture than nature could support. He died in prison ere
his trial was concluded, but was afterwards found guilty. His bones were
ordered to be dug up and publicly burned. He was also burned in effigy in
the streets of Padua.


[Illustration: RAYMOND LULLI.]

While Arnold de Villeneuve and Pietro d'Apone flourished in France and
Italy, a more celebrated adept than either appeared in Spain. This was
Raymond Lulli, a name which stands in the first rank among the alchymists.
Unlike many of his predecessors, he made no pretensions to astrology or
necromancy; but, taking Geber for his model, studied intently the nature
and composition of metals, without reference to charms, incantations, or
any foolish ceremonies. It was not, however, till late in life that he
commenced his study of the art. His early and middle age were spent in a
different manner, and his whole history is romantic in the extreme. He was
born of an illustrious family, in Majorca, in the year 1235. When that
island was taken from the Saracens by James I. king of Aragon, in 1230,
the father of Raymond, who was originally of Catalonia, settled there, and
received a considerable appointment from the crown. Raymond married at an
early age; and, being fond of pleasure, he left the solitudes of his
native isle, and passed over with his bride into Spain. He was made Grand
Seneschal at the court of King James, and led a gay life for several
years. Faithless to his wife, he was always in the pursuit of some new
beauty, till his heart was fixed at last by the lovely but unkind Ambrosia
de Castello. This lady, like her admirer, was married; but, unlike him,
was faithful to her vows, and treated all his solicitations with disdain.
Raymond was so enamoured, that repulse only increased his flame; he
lingered all night under her windows, wrote passionate verses in her
praise, neglected his affairs, and made himself the butt of all the
courtiers. One day, while watching under her lattice, he by chance caught
sight of her bosom, as her neckerchief was blown aside by the wind. The
fit of inspiration came over him, and he sat down and composed some tender
stanzas upon the subject, and sent them to the lady. The fair Ambrosia had
never before condescended to answer his letters; but she replied to this.
She told him that she could never listen to his suit; that it was
unbecoming in a wise man to fix his thoughts, as he had done, on any other
than his God; and entreated him to devote himself to a religious life, and
conquer the unworthy passion which he had suffered to consume him. She,
however, offered, if he wished it, to shew him the _fair_ bosom which had
so captivated him. Raymond was delighted. He thought the latter part of
this epistle but ill corresponded with the former, and that Ambrosia, in
spite of the good advice she gave him, had at last relented, and would
make him as happy as he desired. He followed her about from place to
place, entreating her to fulfil her promise: but still Ambrosia was cold,
and implored him with tears to importune her no longer; for that she never
could be his, and never would, if she were free to-morrow. "What means
your letter, then?" said the despairing lover. "I will shew you!" replied
Ambrosia, who immediately uncovered her bosom, and exposed to the eyes of
her horror-stricken admirer a large cancer which had extended to both
breasts. She saw that he was shocked; and, extending her hand to him, she
prayed him once more to lead a religious life, and set his heart upon the
Creator, and not upon the creature. He went home an altered man. He threw
up, on the morrow, his valuable appointment at the court, separated from
his wife, and took a farewell of his children, after dividing one-half of
his ample fortune among them. The other half he shared among the poor. He
then threw himself at the foot of a crucifix, and devoted himself to the
service of God, vowing, as the most acceptable atonement for his errors,
that he would employ the remainder of his days in the task of converting
the Mussulmans to the Christian religion. In his dreams he saw Jesus
Christ, who said to him, "Raymond! Raymond! follow me!" The vision was
three times repeated, and Raymond was convinced that it was an intimation
direct from heaven. Having put his affairs in order, he set out on a
pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostello, and afterwards lived
for ten years in solitude amid the mountains of Aranda. Here he learned
the Arabic, to qualify himself for his mission of converting the
Mahometans. He also studied various sciences, as taught in the works of
the learned men of the East, and first made acquaintance with the writings
of Geber, which were destined to exercise so much influence over his
future life.

At the end of this probation, and when he had entered his fortieth year,
he emerged from his solitude into more active life. With some remains of
his fortune, which had accumulated during his retirement, he founded a
college for the study of Arabic, which was approved of by the pope, with
many commendations upon his zeal and piety. At this time he narrowly
escaped assassination from an Arabian youth whom he had taken into his
service. Raymond had prayed to God, in some of his accesses of fanaticism,
that he might suffer martyrdom in his holy cause. His servant had
overheard him: and, being as great a fanatic as his master, he resolved to
gratify his wish, and punish him, at the same time, for the curses which
he incessantly launched against Mahomet and all who believed in him, by
stabbing him to the heart. He therefore aimed a blow at his master as he
sat one day at table; but the instinct of self-preservation being stronger
than the desire of martyrdom, Raymond grappled with his antagonist, and
overthrew him. He scorned to take his life himself; but handed him over to
the authorities of the town, by whom he was afterwards found dead in his

After this adventure Raymond travelled to Paris, where he resided for some
time, and made the acquaintance of Arnold de Villeneuve. From him he
probably received some encouragement to search for the philosopher's
stone, as he began from that time forth to devote less of his attention to
religious matters, and more to the study of alchymy. Still he never lost
sight of the great object for which he lived--the conversion of the
Mahometans--and proceeded to Rome, to communicate personally with Pope
John XXI. on the best measures to be adopted for that end. The Pope gave
him encouragement in words, but failed to associate any other persons with
him in the enterprise which he meditated. Raymond, therefore, set out for
Tunis alone, and was kindly received by many Arabian philosophers, who had
heard of his fame as a professor of alchymy. If he had stuck to alchymy
while in their country, it would have been well for him; but he began
cursing Mahomet, and got himself into trouble. While preaching the
doctrines of Christianity in the great bazaar of Tunis, he was arrested
and thrown into prison. He was shortly afterwards brought to trial, and
sentenced to death. Some of his philosophic friends interceded hard for
him, and he was pardoned upon condition that he left Africa immediately
and never again set foot in it. If he was found there again, no matter
what his object might be, or whatever length of time might intervene, his
original sentence would be carried into execution. Raymond was not at all
solicitous of martyrdom when it came to the point, whatever he might have
been when there was no danger, and he gladly accepted his life upon these
conditions, and left Tunis with the intention of proceeding to Rome. He
afterwards changed his plan, and established himself at Milan, where, for
a length of time, he practised alchymy, and some say astrology, with great

Most writers who believed in the secrets of alchymy, and who have noticed
the life of Raymond Lulli, assert, that while in Milan, he received
letters from Edward King of England, inviting him to settle in his states.
They add that Lulli gladly accepted the invitation, and had apartments
assigned for his use in the Tower of London, where he refined much gold;
superintended the coinage of "rose-nobles," and made gold out of iron,
quicksilver, lead, and pewter, to the amount of six millions. The writers
in the _Biographie Universelle_, an excellent authority in general, deny
that Raymond was ever in England, and say, that in all these stories of
his wondrous powers as an alchymist, he has been mistaken for another
Raymond, a Jew of Tarragona. Naudé, in his _Apologie_, says, simply, "that
six millions were given by Raymond Lulli to King Edward, to make war
against the Turks and other infidels:" not that he transmuted so much
metal into gold; but, as he afterwards adds, that he advised Edward to lay
a tax upon wool, which produced that amount. To shew that Raymond went to
England, his admirers quote a work attributed to him, _De Transmutatione
Animæ Metallorum_, in which he expressly says that he was in England at
the intercession of the king.[34] The hermetic writers are not agreed
whether it was Edward I. or Edward II. who invited him over; but, by
fixing the date of his journey in 1312, they make it appear that it was
Edward II. Edmond Dickenson, in his work on the _Quintessences of the
Philosophers_, says, that Raymond worked in Westminster Abbey, where, a
long time after his departure, there was found in the cell which he had
occupied a great quantity of golden dust, of which the architects made a
great profit. In the biographical sketch of John Cremer, Abbot of
Westminster, given by Lenglet, it is said that it was chiefly through his
instrumentality that Raymond came to England. Cremer had been himself for
thirty years occupied in the vain search for the philosopher's stone, when
he accidentally met Raymond in Italy, and endeavoured to induce him to
communicate his grand secret. Raymond told him that he must find it for
himself, as all great alchymists had done before him. Cremer, on his
return to England, spoke to King Edward in high terms of the wonderful
attainments of the philosopher, and a letter of invitation was forthwith
sent him. Robert Constantinus, in the _Nomenclator Scriptorum Medicorum_,
published in 1515, says, that after a great deal of research, he found
that Raymond Lulli resided for some time in London, and that he actually
made gold, by means of the philosopher's stone, in the Tower; that he had
seen the golden pieces of his coinage, which were still named in England
the nobles of Raymond, or rose-nobles. Lulli himself appears to have
boasted that he made gold; for, in his well-known _Testamentum_, he states
that he converted no less than fifty thousand pounds weight of
quicksilver, lead, and pewter into that metal.[35] It seems highly
probable that the English king, believing in the extraordinary powers of
the alchymist, invited him to England to make test of them, and that he
was employed in refining gold and in coining. Camden, who is not credulous
in matters like these, affords his countenance to the story of his coinage
of nobles; and there is nothing at all wonderful in the fact of a man
famous for his knowledge of metals being employed in such a capacity.
Raymond was, at this time, an old man, in his seventy-seventh year, and
somewhat in his dotage. He was willing enough to have it believed that he
had discovered the grand secret, and supported the rumour rather than
contradicted it. He did not long remain in England, but returned to Rome
to carry out the projects which were nearer to his heart than the
profession of alchymy. He had proposed them to several successive popes
with little or no success. The first was a plan for the introduction of
the oriental languages into all the monasteries of Europe; the second, for
the reduction into one of all the military orders, that, being united,
they might move more efficaciously against the Saracens; and the third,
that the sovereign pontiff should forbid the works of Averroes to be read
in the schools, as being more favourable to Mahometanism than to
Christianity. The pope did not receive the old man with much cordiality;
and, after remaining for about two years in Rome, he proceeded once more
to Africa, alone and unprotected, to preach the Gospel of Jesus. He landed
at Bona in 1314, and so irritated the Mahometans by cursing their prophet,
that they stoned him, and left him for dead on the sea-shore. He was found
some hours afterwards by a party of Genoese merchants, who conveyed him on
board their vessel, and sailed towards Majorca. The unfortunate man still
breathed, but could not articulate. He lingered in this state for some
days, and expired just as the vessel arrived within sight of his native
shores. His body was conveyed with great pomp to the church of St.
Eulalia, at Palma, where a public funeral was instituted in his honour.
Miracles were afterwards said to have been worked at his tomb.

    [34] Vidimus omnia ista _dum ad Angliam transiimus, propter
         intercessionem domini Regis Edoardi illustrissimi_.

    [35] Converti una vice in aurum ad L millia pondo argenti vivi,
         plumbi, et stanni.--_Lullii Testamentum_.

Thus ended the career of Raymond Lulli, one of the most extraordinary men
of his age; and, with the exception of his last boast about the six
millions of gold, the least inclined to quackery of any of the professors
of alchymy. His writings were very numerous, and include nearly five
hundred volumes, upon grammar, rhetoric, morals, theology, politics, civil
and canon law, physics, metaphysics, astronomy, medicine, and chemistry.


The powerful delusion of alchymy seized upon a mind still greater than
that of Raymond Lulli. Roger Bacon firmly believed in the philosopher's
stone, and spent much of his time in search of it. His example helped to
render all the learned men of the time more convinced of its
practicability, and more eager in the pursuit. He was born at Ilchester,
in the county of Somerset, in the year 1214. He studied for some time in
the University of Oxford, and afterwards in that of Paris, in which he
received the degree of doctor of divinity. Returning to England in 1240,
he became a monk of the order of St. Francis. He was by far the most
learned man of his age; and his acquirements were so much above the
comprehension of his contemporaries, that they could only account for them
by supposing that he was indebted for them to the devil. Voltaire has not
inaptly designated him "De l'or encrouté de toutes les ordures de son
siècle;" but the crust of superstition that enveloped his powerful mind,
though it may have dimmed, could not obscure the brightness of his genius.
To him, and apparently to him only, among all the inquiring spirits of the
time, were known the properties of the concave and convex lens. He also
invented the magic lantern; that pretty plaything of modern days, which
acquired for him a reputation that embittered his life. In a history of
alchymy, the name of this great man cannot be omitted, although unlike
many others of whom we shall have occasion to speak, he only made it
secondary to other pursuits. The love of universal knowledge that filled
his mind, would not allow him to neglect one branch of science, of which
neither he nor the world could yet see the absurdity. He made ample amends
for his time lost in this pursuit by his knowledge in physics and his
acquaintance with astronomy. The telescope, burning-glasses, and
gunpowder, are discoveries which may well carry his fame to the remotest
time, and make the world blind to the one spot of folly--the diagnosis of
the age in which he lived, and the circumstances by which he was
surrounded. His treatise on the _Admirable Power of Art and Nature in the
Production of the Philosopher's Stone_ was translated into French by
Girard de Tormes, and published at Lyons in 1557. His _Mirror of Alchymy_
was also published in French in the same year, and in Paris in 1612, with
some additions from the works of Raymond Lulli. A complete list of all the
published treatises upon the subject may be seen in Lenglet du Fresnoy.


This prelate is said to have been the friend and pupil of Arnold de
Villeneuve, by whom he was instructed in all the secrets of alchymy.
Tradition asserts of him, that he made great quantities of gold, and died
as rich as Croesus. He was born at Cahors, in the province of Guienne, in
the year 1244. He was a very eloquent preacher, and soon reached high
dignity in the Church. He wrote a work on the transmutation of metals, and
had a famous laboratory at Avignon. He issued two bulls against the
numerous pretenders to the art, who had sprung up in every part of
Christendom; from which it might be inferred that he was himself free from
the delusion. The alchymists claim him, however, as one of the most
distinguished and successful professors of their art, and say that his
bulls were not directed against the real adepts, but the false pretenders.
They lay particular stress upon these words in his bull, "Spondent, quas
non exhibent, divitias, _pauperes_ alchymistæ." These, it is clear, they
say, relate only to _poor_ alchymists, and therefore false ones. He died
in the year 1344, leaving in his coffers a sum of eighteen millions of
florins. Popular belief alleged that he had made, and not amassed, this
treasure; and alchymists complacently cite this as a proof that the
philosopher's stone was not such a chimera as the incredulous pretended.
They take it for granted that John really left this money, and ask by what
possible means he could have accumulated it. Replying to their own
question, they say triumphantly, "His book shews it was by alchymy, the
secrets of which he learned from Arnold de Villeneuve and Raymond Lulli.
But he was as prudent as all other hermetic philosophers. Whoever would
read his book to find out his secret, would employ all his labour in vain;
the pope took good care not to divulge it." Unluckily for their own
credit, all these gold-makers are in the same predicament; their great
secret loses its worth most wonderfully in the telling, and therefore they
keep it snugly to themselves. Perhaps they thought that, if everybody
could transmute metals, gold would be so plentiful that it would be no
longer valuable, and that some new art would be requisite to transmute it
back again into steel and iron. If so, society is much indebted to them
for their forbearance.


All classes of men dabbled in the art at this time; the last mentioned was
a pope, the one of whom we now speak was a poet. Jean de Meung, the
celebrated author of the _Roman de la Rose_, was born in the year 1279 or
1280, and was a great personage at the courts of Louis X., Philip the
Long, Charles IV., and Philip de Valois. His famous poem of the _Roman de
la Rose_, which treats of every subject in vogue at that day, necessarily
makes great mention of alchymy. Jean was a firm believer in the art, and
wrote, besides his Roman, two shorter poems, the one entitled _The
Remonstrance of Nature to the wandering Alchymist_ and _The Reply of the
Alchymist to Nature_. Poetry and alchymy were his delight, and priests and
women were his abomination. A pleasant story is related of him and the
ladies of the court of Charles IV. He had written the following libellous
couplet upon the fair sex:

   "Toutes êtes, serez, ou fûtes,
    De fait ou de volonté, putains;
    Et qui très bien vous chercherait,
    Toutes putains vous trouverait."[36]

    [36] These verses are but a coarser expression of the slanderous
         line of Pope, that "every woman is at heart a rake."

This naturally gave great offence; and being perceived one day in the
king's antechamber, by some ladies who were waiting for an audience, they
resolved to punish him. To the number of ten or twelve, they armed
themselves with canes and rods, and surrounding the unlucky poet, called
upon the gentlemen present to strip him naked, that they might wreak just
vengeance upon him, and lash him through the streets of the town. Some of
the lords present were in no wise loath, and promised themselves great
sport from his punishment. But Jean de Meung was unmoved by their threats,
and stood up calmly in the midst of them, begging them to hear him first,
and then, if not satisfied, they might do as they liked with him. Silence
being restored, he stood upon a chair, and entered on his defence. He
acknowledged that he was the author of the obnoxious verses, but denied
that they bore reference to all womankind. He only meant to speak of the
vicious and abandoned, whereas those whom he saw around him were patterns
of virtue, loveliness, and modesty. If, however, any lady present thought
herself aggrieved, he would consent to be stripped, and she might lash him
till her arms were wearied. It is added, that by this means Jean escaped
his flogging, and that the wrath of the fair ones immediately subsided.
The gentlemen present were, however, of opinion, that if every lady in the
room whose character corresponded with the verses had taken him at his
word; the poet would in all probability have been beaten to death. All his
life long he evinced a great animosity towards the priesthood, and his
famous poem abounds with passages reflecting upon their avarice, cruelty,
and immorality. At his death he left a large box, filled with some weighty
material, which he bequeathed to the Cordeliers, as a peace-offering, for
the abuse he had lavished upon them. As his practice of alchymy was well
known, it was thought the box was filled with gold and silver, and the
Cordeliers congratulated each other on their rich acquisition. When it
came to be opened, they found to their horror that it was filled only with
_slates_, scratched with hieroglyphic and cabalistic characters. Indignant
at the insult, they determined to refuse him Christian burial, on pretence
that he was a sorcerer. He was, however, honourably buried in Paris, the
whole court attending his funeral.


The story of this alchymist, as handed down by tradition, and enshrined in
the pages of Lenglet da Fresnoy, is not a little marvellous. He was born
at Pontoise, of a poor but respectable family, at the end of the
thirteenth, or beginning of the fourteenth century. Having no patrimony,
he set out for Paris at an early age, to try his fortune as a public
scribe. He had received a good education, was well skilled in the learned
languages, and was an excellent penman. He soon procured occupation as a
letter-writer and copyist, and used to sit at the corner of the Rue de
Marivaux, and practise his calling; but he hardly made profit enough to
keep body and soul together. To mend his fortunes he tried poetry; but
this was a more wretched occupation still. As a transcriber he had at
least gained bread and cheese; but his rhymes were not worth a crust. He
then tried painting with as little success; and as a last resource, began
to search for the philosopher's stone and tell fortunes. This was a
happier idea; he soon increased in substance, and had wherewithal to live
comfortably. He therefore took unto himself his wife Petronella, and began
to save money; but continued to all outward appearance as poor and
miserable as before. In the course of a few years, he became desperately
addicted to the study of alchymy, and thought of nothing but the
philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, and the universal alkahest. In
the year 1257, he bought by chance an old book for two florins, which soon
became his sole study. It was written with a steel instrument upon the
bark of trees, and contained twenty-one, or as he himself always expressed
it, three times seven, leaves. The writing was very elegant and in the
Latin language. Each seventh leaf contained a picture and no writing. On
the first of these was a serpent swallowing rods; on the second, a cross
with a serpent crucified; and on the third, the representation of a
desert, in the midst of which was a fountain, with serpents crawling from
side to side. It purported to be written by no less a personage than
"Abraham, patriarch, Jew, prince, philosopher, priest, Levite, and
astrologer;" and invoked curses upon any one who should cast eyes upon it,
without being "a sacrificer or a scribe." Nicholas Flamel never thought it
extraordinary that Abraham should have known Latin, and was convinced that
the characters on his book had been traced by the hands of that great
patriarch himself. He was at first afraid to read it, after he became
aware of the curse it contained; but he got over that difficulty by
recollecting that, although he was not a sacrificer, he had practised as a
scribe. As he read he was filled with admiration, and found that it was a
perfect treatise upon the transmutation of metals. All the processes were
clearly explained; the vessels, the retorts, the mixtures, and the proper
times and seasons for experiment. But as ill-luck would have it, the
possession of the philosopher's stone, or prime agent in the work, was
presupposed. This was a difficulty which was not to be got over. It was
like telling a starving man how to cook a beef-steak, instead of giving
him the money to buy one. But Nicholas did not despair, and set about
studying the hieroglyphics and allegorical representations with which the
book abounded. He soon convinced himself that it had been one of the
sacred books of the Jews, and that it was taken from the temple of
Jerusalem on its destruction by Titus. The process of reasoning by which
he arrived at this conclusion is not stated.

From some expression in the treatise, he learned that the allegorical
drawings on the fourth and fifth leaves enshrined the secret of the
philosopher's stone, without which all the fine Latin of the directions
was utterly unavailing. He invited all the alchymists and learned men of
Paris to come and examine them, but they all departed as wise as they
came. Nobody could make any thing either of Nicholas or his pictures; and
some even went so far as to say that his invaluable book was not worth a
farthing. This was not to be borne; and Nicholas resolved to discover the
great secret by himself, without troubling the philosophers. He found on
the first page of the fourth leaf, the picture of Mercury attacked by an
old man resembling Saturn or Time. The latter had an hour-glass on his
head, and in his hand a scythe, with which he aimed a blow at Mercury's
feet. The reverse of the leaf represented a flower growing on a mountain
top, shaken rudely by the wind, with a blue stalk, red and white blossoms,
and leaves of pure gold. Around it were a great number of dragons and
griffins. On the first page of the fifth leaf was a fine garden, in the
midst of which was a rose-tree in full bloom, supported against the trunk
of a gigantic oak. At the foot of this there bubbled up a fountain of
milk-white water, which, forming a small stream, flowed through the
garden, and was afterwards lost in the sands. On the second page was a
king, with a sword in his hand, superintending a number of soldiers, who,
in execution of his orders, were killing a great multitude of young
children, spurning the prayers and tears of their mothers, who tried to
save them from destruction. The blood of the children was carefully
collected by another party of soldiers, and put into a large vessel, in
which two allegorical figures of the sun and moon were bathing themselves.

For twenty-one years poor Nicholas wearied himself with the study of these
pictures, but still he could make nothing of them. His wife Petronella at
last persuaded him to find out some learned rabbi; but there was no rabbi
in Paris learned enough to be of any service to him. The Jews met but
small encouragement to fix their abode in France, and all the chiefs of
that people were located in Spain. To Spain accordingly Nicholas Flamel
repaired. He left his book in Paris, for fear, perhaps, that he might be
robbed of it on the road; and telling his neighbours that he was going on
a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostello, he trudged on foot
towards Madrid in search of a rabbi. He was absent two years in that
country, and made himself known to a great number of Jews, descendants of
those who had been expelled from France in the reign of Philip Augustus.
The believers in the philosopher's stone give the following account of his
adventures: They say that at Leon he made the acquaintance of a converted
Jew, named Cauches, a very learned physician, to whom he explained the
title and nature of his little book. The doctor was transported with joy
as soon as he heard it named, and immediately resolved to accompany
Nicholas to Paris, that he might have a sight of it. The two set out
together; the doctor on the way entertaining his companion with the
history of his book, which, if the genuine book he thought it to be, from
the description he had heard of it, was in the handwriting of Abraham
himself, and had been in the possession of personages no less
distinguished than Moses, Joshua, Solomon, and Esdras. It contained all
the secrets of alchymy and of many other sciences, and was the most
valuable book that had ever existed in this world. The doctor was himself
no mean adept, and Nicholas profited greatly by his discourse, as in the
garb of poor pilgrims they wended their way to Paris, convinced of their
power to turn every old shovel in that capital into pure gold. But,
unfortunately, when they reached Orleans, the doctor was taken dangerously
ill. Nicholas watched by his bedside, and acted the double part of a
physician and nurse to him; but he died after a few days, lamenting with
his last breath that he had not lived long enough to see the precious
volume. Nicholas rendered the last honours to his body; and with a
sorrowful heart, and not one _sou_ in his pocket, proceeded home to his
wife Petronella. He immediately recommenced the study of his pictures; but
for two whole years he was as far from understanding them as ever. At
last, in the third year, a glimmer of light stole over his understanding.
He recalled some expression of his friend the doctor, which had hitherto
escaped his memory, and he found that all his previous experiments had
been conducted on a wrong basis. He recommenced them now with renewed
energy, and at the end of the year had the satisfaction to see all his
toils rewarded. On the 13th January 1382, says Lenglet, he made a
projection on mercury, and had some very excellent silver. On the 25th
April following, he converted a large quantity of mercury into gold, and
the great secret was his.

Nicholas was now about eighty years of age, and still a hale and stout old
man. His friends say that by a simultaneous discovery of the elixir of
life, he found means to keep death at a distance for another quarter of a
century; and that he died in 1415, at the age of 116. In this interval he
made immense quantities of gold, though to all outward appearance he was
as poor as a mouse. At an early period of his changed fortune, he had,
like a worthy man, taken counsel with his old wife Petronella, as to the
best use he could make of his wealth. Petronella replied, that as
unfortunately they had no children, the best thing he could do, was to
build hospitals and endow churches. Nicholas thought so too, especially
when he began to find that his elixir could not keep off death, and that
the grim foe was making rapid advances upon him. He richly endowed the
church of St. Jacques de la Boucherie, near the Rue de Marivaux, where he
had all his life resided, besides seven others in different parts of the
kingdom. He also endowed fourteen hospitals, and built three chapels.

The fame of his great wealth and his munificent benefactions soon spread
over all the country, and he was visited, among others, by the celebrated
doctors of that day, Jean Gerson, Jean de Courtecuisse, and Pierre
d'Ailli. They found him in his humble apartment, meanly clad, and eating
porridge out of an earthen vessel; and with regard to his secret, as
impenetrable as all his predecessors in alchymy. His fame reached the ears
of the king, Charles VI., who sent M. de Cramoisi, the Master of Requests,
to find out whether Nicholas had indeed discovered the philosopher's
stone. But M. de Cramoisi took nothing by his visit; all his attempts to
sound the alchymist were unavailing, and he returned to his royal master
no wiser than he came. It was in this year, 1414, that he lost his
faithful Petronella. He did not long survive her, but died in the
following year, and was buried with great pomp by the grateful priests of
St. Jacques de la Boucherie.

The great wealth of Nicholas Flamel is undoubted, as the records of
several churches and hospitals in France can testify. That he practised
alchymy is equally certain, as he left behind several works upon the
subject. Those who knew him well, and who were incredulous about the
philosopher's stone, give a satisfactory solution of the secret of his
wealth. They say that he was always a miser and a usurer; that his journey
to Spain was undertaken with very different motives from those pretended
by the alchymists; that, in fact, he went to collect debts due from Jews
in that country to their brethren in Paris, and that he charged a
commission of fully cent per cent in consideration of the difficulty of
collecting and the dangers of the road; that when he possessed thousands,
he lived upon almost nothing; and was the general money-lender, at
enormous profits, to all the dissipated young men at the French court.

Among the works written by Nicholas Flamel on the subject of alchymy is
_The Philosophic Summary_, a poem, reprinted in 1735, as an appendix to
the third volume of the _Roman de la Rose_. He also wrote three treatises
upon natural philosophy, and an alchymic allegory, entitled _Le Désir
désiré_. Specimens of his writing, and a fac-simile of the drawings in his
book of Abraham, may be seen in Salmon's _Bibliothèque des Philosophes
Chimiques_. The writer of the article _Flamel_ in the _Biographie
Universelle_ says, that for a hundred years after the death of Flamel,
many of the adepts believed that he was still alive, and that he would
live for upwards of six hundred years. The house he formerly occupied, at
the corner of the Rue de Marivaux, has been often taken by credulous
speculators, and ransacked from top to bottom, in the hopes that gold
might be found. A report was current in Paris, not long previous to the
year 1816, that some lodgers had found in the cellars several jars filled
with a dark-coloured ponderous matter. Upon the strength of the rumour, a
believer in all the wondrous tales told of Nicholas Flamel bought the
house, and nearly pulled it to pieces in ransacking the walls and
wainscoting for hidden gold. He got nothing for his pains, however, and
had a heavy bill to pay to restore his dilapidations.


While alchymy was thus cultivated on the continent of Europe, it was not
neglected in the isles of Britain. Since the time of Roger Bacon, it had
fascinated the imagination of many ardent men in England. In the year 1404
an act of parliament was passed declaring the making of gold and silver to
be felony. Great alarm was felt at that time lest any alchymist should
succeed in his projects, and perhaps bring ruin upon the state by
furnishing boundless wealth to some designing tyrant, who would make use
of it to enslave his country. This alarm appears to have soon subsided;
for, in the year 1455, King Henry VI., by advice of his council and
parliament, granted four successive patents and commissions to several
knights, citizens of London, chemists, monks, mass-priests, and others, to
find out the philosopher's stone and elixir, "to the great benefit," said
the patent, "of the realm, and the enabling of the king to pay all the
debts of the crown in real gold and silver." Prinn, in his _Aurum Reginæ_,
observes, as a note to this passage, that the king's reason for granting
this patent to ecclesiastics was, that "they were such good artists in
transubstantiating bread and wine in the eucharist, and therefore the more
likely to be able to effect the transmutation of baser metals into
better." No gold, of course, was ever made; and next year the king,
doubting very much of the practicability of the thing, took further
advice, and appointed a commission of ten learned men and persons of
eminence to judge and certify to him whether the transmutation of metals
were a thing practicable or no. It does not appear whether the commission
ever made any report upon the subject.

In the succeeding reign an alchymist appeared who pretended to have
discovered the secret. This was George Ripley, the canon of Bridlington,
in Yorkshire. He studied for twenty years in the universities of Italy,
and was a great favourite with Pope Innocent VIII., who made him one of
his domestic chaplains, and master of the ceremonies in his household.
Returning to England in 1477, he dedicated to King Edward IV. his famous
work, _The Compound of Alchymy_; or, _the Twelve Gates leading to the
Discovery of the Philosopher's Stone_. These gates he described to be
calcination, solution, separation, conjunction, putrefaction, congelation,
cibation, sublimation, fermentation, exaltation, multiplication, and
projection; to which he might have added botheration, the most important
process of all. He was very rich, and allowed it to be believed that he
could make gold out of iron. Fuller, in his _Worthies of England_, says
that an English gentleman of good credit reported, that in his travels
abroad he saw a record in the island of Malta which declared that Ripley
gave yearly to the knights of that island, and of Rhodes, the enormous sum
of one hundred thousand pounds sterling to enable them to carry on the war
against the Turks. In his old age he became an anchorite near Boston, and
wrote twenty-five volumes upon the subject of alchymy, the most important
of which is the _Duodecim Portarum_ already mentioned. Before he died, he
seems to have acknowledged that he had mis-spent his life in this vain
study, and requested that all men, when they met with any of his books,
would burn them, or afford them no credit, as they had been written merely
from his opinion, and not from proof; and that subsequent trial had made
manifest to him that they were false and vain.[37]

    [37] Fuller's _Worthies of England_.


Germany also produced many famous alchymists in the fifteenth century, the
chief of whom are Basil Valentine, Bernard of Trèves, and the Abbot
Trithemius. Basil Valentine was born at Mayence, and was made prior of St.
Peter's, at Erfurt, about the year 1414. It was known, during his life,
that he diligently sought the philosopher's stone, and that he had written
some works upon the process of transmutation. They were thought for many
years to be lost, but were, after his death, discovered enclosed in the
stone-work of one of the pillars in the Abbey. They were twenty-one in
number, and are fully set forth in the third volume of Lenglet's _History
of the Hermetic Philosophy_. The alchymists asserted that heaven itself
conspired to bring to light these extraordinary works; and that the pillar
in which they were enclosed was miraculously shattered by a thunderbolt;
and that as soon as the manuscripts were liberated, the pillar closed up
again of its own accord!


The life of this philosopher is a remarkable instance of talent and
perseverance misapplied. In the search of his chimera nothing could daunt
him. Repeated disappointment never diminished his hopes; and from the age
of fourteen to that of eighty-five he was incessantly employed among the
drugs and furnaces of his laboratory, wasting his life with the view of
prolonging it, and reducing himself to beggary in the hopes of growing

He was born at either Trèves or Padua in the year 1406. His father is said
by some to have been a physician in the latter city, and by others to have
been Count of the Marches of Trèves, and one of the most wealthy nobles of
his country. At all events, whether noble or physician, he was a rich man,
and left his son a magnificent estate. At the age of fourteen he first
became enamoured of the science of alchymy, and read the Arabian authors
in their own language. He himself has left a most interesting record of
his labours and wanderings, from which the following particulars are
chiefly extracted. The first book which fell into his hands was that of
the Arabian philosopher Rhazes, from the reading of which he imagined that
he had discovered the means of augmenting gold a hundredfold. For four
years he worked in his laboratory, with the book of Rhazes continually
before him. At the end of that time, he found that he had spent no less
than eight hundred crowns upon his experiment, and had got nothing but
fire and smoke for his pains. He now began to lose confidence in Rhazes,
and turned to the works of Geber. He studied him assiduously for two
years; and being young, rich, and credulous, Was beset by all the
alchymists of the town, who kindly assisted him in spending his money. He
did not lose his faith in Geber, or patience with his hungry assistants,
until he had lost two thousand crowns--a very considerable sum in those

Among all the crowd of pretended men of science who surrounded him, there
was but one as enthusiastic and as disinterested as himself. With this
man, who was a monk of the order of St. Francis, he contracted an intimate
friendship, and spent nearly all his time. Some obscure treatises of
Rupecissa and Sacrobosco having fallen into their hands, they were
persuaded, from reading them, that highly rectified spirits of wine was
the universal alkahest, or dissolvent, which would aid them greatly in the
process of transmutation. They rectified the alcohol thirty times, till
they made it so strong as to burst the vessels which contained it. After
they had worked three years, and spent three hundred crowns in the liquor,
they discovered that they were on the wrong track. They next tried alum
and copperas; but the great secret still escaped them. They afterwards
imagined that there was a marvellous virtue in all excrement, especially
the human, and actually employed more than two years in experimentalising
upon it with mercury, salt, and molten lead! Again the adepts flocked
around him from far and near to aid him with their counsels. He received
them all hospitably, and divided his wealth among them so generously and
unhesitatingly, that they gave him the name of the "Good Trevisan," by
which he is still often mentioned in works that treat on alchymy. For
twelve years he led this life, making experiments every day upon some new
substance, and praying to God night and morning that he might discover the
secret of transmutation.

In this interval he lost his friend the monk, and was joined by a
magistrate of the city of Trèves, as ardent as himself in the search. His
new acquaintance imagined that the ocean was the mother of gold, and that
sea-salt would change lead or iron into the precious metals. Bernard
resolved to try; and, transporting his laboratory to a house on the shores
of the Baltic, he worked upon salt for more than a year, melting it,
sublimating it, crystallising it, and occasionally drinking it, for the
sake of other experiments. Still the strange enthusiast was not wholly
discouraged, and his failure in one trial only made him the more anxious
to attempt another.

He was now approaching the age of fifty, and had as yet seen nothing of
the world. He therefore determined to travel through Germany, Italy,
France, and Spain. Wherever he stopped he made inquiries whether there
were any alchymists in the neighbourhood. He invariably sought them out;
and if they were poor, relieved, and if affluent, encouraged them. At
Citeaux he became acquainted with one Geoffrey Leuvier, a monk of that
place, who persuaded him that the essence of egg-shells was a valuable
ingredient. He tried, therefore, what could be done; and was only
prevented from wasting a year or two on the experiment by the opinions of
an attorney, at Berghem, in Flanders, who said that the great secret
resided in vinegar and copperas. He was not convinced of the absurdity of
this idea until he had nearly poisoned himself. He resided in France for
about five years, when, hearing accidentally that one Master Henry,
confessor to the Emperor Frederic III., had discovered the philosopher's
stone, he set out for Germany to pay him a visit. He had, as usual,
surrounded himself with a set of hungry dependants, several of whom
determined to accompany him. He had not heart to refuse them, and he
arrived at Vienna with five of them. Bernard sent a polite invitation to
the confessor, and gave him a sumptuous entertainment, at which were
present nearly all the alchymists of Vienna. Master Henry frankly
confessed that he had not discovered the philosopher's stone, but that he
had all his life been employed in searching for it, and would so continue
till he found it, or died. This was a man after Bernard's own heart, and
they vowed with each other an eternal friendship. It was resolved, at
supper, that each alchymist present should contribute a certain sum
towards raising forty-two marks of gold, which, in five days, it was
confidently asserted by Master Henry, would increase, in his furnace,
fivefold. Bernard, being the richest man, contributed the lion's share,
ten marks of gold, Master Henry five, and the others one or two a-piece,
except the dependants of Bernard, who were obliged to borrow their quota
from their patron. The grand experiment was duly made; the golden marks
were put into a crucible, with a quantity of salt, copperas, aquafortis,
egg-shells, mercury, lead, and dung. The alchymists watched this precious
mess with intense interest, expecting that it would agglomerate into one
lump of pure gold. At the end of three weeks they gave up the trial, upon
some excuse that the crucible was not strong enough, or that some
necessary ingredient was wanting. Whether any thief had put his hands into
the crucible is not known, but it is alleged that the gold found therein
at the close of the experiment was worth only sixteen marks, instead of
the forty-two, which were put there at the beginning.

Bernard, though he made no gold at Vienna, made away with a very
considerable quantity. He felt the loss so acutely, that he vowed to think
no more of the philosopher's stone. This wise resolution he kept for two
months; but he was miserable. He was in the condition of the gambler, who
cannot resist the fascination of the game while he has a coin remaining,
but plays on with the hope of retrieving former losses, till hope forsakes
him, and he can live no longer. He returned once more to his beloved
crucibles, and resolved to prosecute his journey in search of a
philosopher who had discovered the secret, and would communicate it to so
zealous and persevering an adept as himself. From Vienna he travelled to
Rome, and from Rome to Madrid. Taking ship at Gibraltar, he proceeded to
Messina; from Messina to Cyprus; from Cyprus to Greece; from Greece to
Constantinople; and thence into Egypt, Palestine, and Persia. These
wanderings occupied him about eight years. From Persia he made his way
back to Messina, and from thence into France. He afterwards passed over
into England, still in search of his great chimera; and this occupied four
years more of his life. He was now growing both old and poor; for he was
sixty-two years of age, and had been obliged to sell a great portion of
his patrimony to provide for his expenses. His journey to Persia had cost
upwards of thirteen thousand crowns, about one-half of which had been
fairly melted in his all-devouring furnaces; the other half was lavished
upon the sycophants that he made it his business to search out in every
town he stopped at.

On his return to Trèves he found, to his sorrow, that, if not an actual
beggar, he was not much better. His relatives looked upon him as a madman,
and refused even to see him. Too proud to ask for favours from any one,
and still confident that, some day or other, he would be the possessor of
unbounded wealth, he made up his mind to retire to the island of Rhodes,
where he might, in the mean time, hide his poverty from the eyes of the
world. Here he might have lived unknown and happy; but, as ill luck would
have it, he fell in with a monk as mad as himself upon the subject of
transmutation. They were, however, both so poor that they could not afford
to buy the proper materials to work with. They kept up each other's
spirits by learned discourses on the hermetic philosophy, and in the
reading of all the great authors who had written upon the subject. Thus
did they nurse their folly, as the good wife of Tam O'Shanter did her
wrath, "to keep it warm." After Bernard had resided about a year in
Rhodes, a merchant, who knew his family, advanced him the sum of eight
thousand florins, upon the security of the last-remaining acres of his
formerly large estate. Once more provided with funds, he recommenced his
labours with all the zeal and enthusiasm of a young man. For three years
he hardly stepped out of his laboratory: he ate there, and slept there,
and did not even give himself time to wash his hands and clean his beard,
so intense was his application. It is melancholy to think that such
wonderful perseverance should have been wasted in so vain a pursuit, and
that energies so unconquerable should have had no worthier field to strive
in. Even when he had fumed away his last coin, and had nothing left in
prospective to keep his old age from starvation, hope never forsook him.
He still dreamed of ultimate success, and sat down a grey-headed man of
eighty, to read over all the authors on the hermetic mysteries, from Geber
to his own day, lest he should have misunderstood some process, which it
was not yet too late to recommence. The alchymists say, that he succeeded
at last, and discovered the secret of transmutation in his eighty-second
year. They add that he lived three years afterwards to enjoy his wealth.
He lived, it is true, to this great age, and made a valuable
discovery--more valuable than gold or gems. He learned, as he himself
informs us, just before he had attained his eighty-third year, that the
great secret of philosophy was contentment with our lot. Happy would it
have been for him if he had discovered it sooner, and before he became
decrepit, a beggar, and an exile!

He died at Rhodes, in the year 1490, and all the alchymists of Europe sang
elegies over him, and sounded his praise as the "good Trevisan." He wrote
several treatises upon his chimera, the chief of which are, the _Book of
Chemistry_, the _Verbum dimissum_, and an essay _De Natura Ovi_.


The name of this eminent man has become famous in the annals of alchymy,
although he did but little to gain so questionable an honour. He was born
in the year 1462, at the village of Trittheim, in the electorate of
Trèves. His father was John Heidenberg, a vine-grower, in easy
circumstances, who, dying when his son was but seven years old, left him
to the care of his mother. The latter married again very shortly
afterwards, and neglected the poor boy, the offspring of her first
marriage. At the age of fifteen he did not even know his letters, and was,
besides, half starved, and otherwise ill-treated by his step-father; but
the love of knowledge germinated in the breast of the unfortunate youth,
and he learned to read at the house of a neighbour. His father-in-law set
him to work in the vineyards, and thus occupied all his days; but the
nights were his own. He often stole out unheeded, when all the household
were fast asleep, poring over his studies in the fields, by the light of
the moon; and thus taught himself Latin and the rudiments of Greek. He was
subjected to so much ill-usage at home, in consequence of this love of
study, that he determined to leave it. Demanding the patrimony which his
father had left him, he proceeded to Trèves; and assuming the name of
Trithemius, from that of his native village of Trittheim, lived there for
some months under the tuition of eminent masters, by whom he was prepared
for the university. At the age of twenty, he took it into his head that he
should like to see his mother once more; and he set out on foot from the
distant university for that purpose. On his arrival near Spannheim, late
in the evening of a gloomy winter's day, it came on to snow so thickly,
that he could not proceed onwards to the town. He therefore took refuge
for the night in a neighbouring monastery; but the storm continued several
days, the roads became impassable, and the hospitable monks would not hear
of his departure. He was so pleased with them and their manner of life,
that he suddenly resolved to fix his abode among them, and renounce the
world. They were no less pleased with him, and gladly received him as a
brother. In the course of two years, although still so young, he was
unanimously elected their abbot. The financial affairs of the
establishment had been greatly neglected, the walls of the building were
falling into ruin, and every thing was in disorder. Trithemius, by his
good management and regularity, introduced a reform in every branch of
expenditure. The monastery was repaired, and a yearly surplus, instead of
a deficiency, rewarded him for his pains. He did not like to see the monks
idle, or occupied solely between prayers for their business, and chess for
their relaxation. He, therefore, set them to work to copy the writings of
eminent authors. They laboured so assiduously, that, in the course of a
few years, their library, which had contained only about forty volumes,
was enriched with several hundred valuable manuscripts, comprising many of
the classical Latin authors, besides the works of the early fathers, and
the principal historians, and philosophers of more modern date. He
retained the dignity of Abbot of Spannheim for twenty-one years, when the
monks, tired of the severe discipline he maintained, revolted against him,
and chose another abbot in his place. He was afterwards made Abbot of St.
James, in Wurzburg, where he died in 1516.

During his learned leisure at Spannheim, he wrote several works upon the
occult sciences, the chief of which are an essay on geomancy, or
divination by means of lines and circles on the ground; another upon
sorcery; a third upon alchymy; and a fourth upon the government of the
world by its presiding angels, which was translated into English, and
published by the famous William Lilly in 1647.

It has been alleged by the believers in the possibility of transmutation,
that the prosperity of the abbey of Spannheim, while under his
superintendence, was owing more to the philosopher's stone than to wise
economy. Trithemius, in common with many other learned men, has been
accused of magic; and a marvellous story is told of his having raised from
the grave the form of Mary of Burgundy, at the intercession of her widowed
husband, the Emperor Maximilian. His work on steganographia, or cabalistic
writing, was denounced to the Count Palatine, Frederic II., as magical and
devilish; and it was by him taken from the shelves of his library and
thrown into the fire. Trithemius is said to be the first writer who makes
mention of the wonderful story of the devil and Dr. Faustus, the truth of
which he firmly believed. He also recounts the freaks of a spirit named
_Hudekin_, by whom he was at times tormented.[38]

    [38] _Biographie Universelle._


One of the greatest encouragers of alchymy in the fifteenth century was
Gilles de Laval, Lord of Rays and a Marshal of France. His name and deeds
are little known; but in the annals of crime and folly, they might claim
the highest and worst pre-eminence. Fiction has never invented any thing
wilder or more horrible than his career; and were not the details but too
well authenticated by legal and other documents which admit no doubt, the
lover of romance might easily imagine they were drawn to please him from
the stores of the prolific brain, and not from the page of history.

He was born about the year 1420, of one of the noblest families of
Brittany. His father dying when Gilles had attained his twentieth year, he
came into uncontrolled possession, at that early age, of a fortune which
the monarchs of France might have envied him. He was a near kinsman of the
Montmorencys, the Roncys, and the Craons; possessed fifteen princely
domains, and had an annual revenue of about three hundred thousand livres.
Besides this, he was handsome, learned, and brave. He distinguished
himself greatly in the wars of Charles VII., and was rewarded by that
monarch with the dignity of a marshal of France. But he was extravagant
and magnificent in his style of living, and accustomed from his earliest
years to the gratification of every wish and passion; and this, at last,
led him from vice to vice and from crime to crime, till a blacker name
than his is not to be found in any record of human iniquity.

In his castle of Champtocé he lived with all the splendour of an eastern
caliph. He kept up a troop of two hundred horsemen to accompany him
wherever he went; and his excursions for the purposes of hawking and
hunting were the wonder of all the country around, so magnificent were the
caparisons of his steeds and the dresses of his retainers. Day and night
his castle was open all the year round to comers of every degree. He made
it a rule to regale even the poorest beggar with wine and hippocrass.
Every day an ox was roasted whole in his spacious kitchens, besides sheep,
pigs, and poultry sufficient to feed five hundred persons. He was equally
magnificent in his devotions. His private chapel at Champtocé was the most
beautiful in France, and far surpassed any of those in the richly-endowed
cathedrals of Notre Dame in Paris, of Amiens, of Beauvais, or of Rouen. It
was hung with cloth of gold and rich velvet. All the chandeliers were of
pure gold curiously inlaid with silver. The great crucifix over the altar
was of solid silver, and the chalices and incense-burners were of pure
gold. He had besides a fine organ, which he caused to be carried from one
castle to another on the shoulders of six men, whenever he changed his
residence. He kept up a choir of twenty-five young children of both sexes,
who were instructed in singing by the first musicians of the day. The
master of his chapel he called a bishop, who had under him his deans,
arch-deacons, and vicars, each receiving great salaries; the bishop four
hundred crowns a year, and the rest in proportion.

He also maintained a whole troop of players, including ten dancing girls
and as many ballad-singers, besides morris-dancers, jugglers, and
mountebanks of every description. The theatre on which they performed was
fitted up without any regard to expense, and they played mysteries or
danced the morris-dance every evening for the amusement of himself and
household, and such strangers as were sharing his prodigal hospitality.

At the age of twenty-three he married Catherine, the wealthy heiress of
the house of Touars, for whom he refurnished his castle at an expense of a
hundred thousand crowns. His marriage was the signal for new extravagance,
and he launched out more madly than ever he had done before; sending for
fine singers or celebrated dancers from foreign countries to amuse him and
his spouse; and instituting tilts and tournaments in his great court-yard
almost every week for all the knights and nobles of the province of
Brittany. The Duke of Brittany's court was not half so splendid as that of
the Maréchal de Rays. His utter disregard for wealth was so well known,
that he was made to pay three times its value for every thing he
purchased. His castle was filled with needy parasites and panderers to his
pleasures, amongst whom he lavished rewards with an unsparing hand. But
the ordinary round of sensual gratification ceased at last to afford him
delight; he was observed to be more abstemious in the pleasures of the
table, and to neglect the beauteous dancing girls who used formerly to
occupy so much of his attention. He was sometimes gloomy and reserved, and
there was an unnatural wildness in his eye which gave indications of
incipient madness. Still his discourse was as reasonable as ever, his
urbanity to the guests that flocked from far and near to Champtocé
suffered no diminution; and learned priests, when they conversed with him,
thought to themselves that few of the nobles of France were so well
informed as Gilles de Laval. But dark rumours spread gradually over the
country; murder, and, if possible, still more atrocious deeds were hinted
at; and it was remarked that many young children of both sexes suddenly
disappeared, and were never afterwards heard of. One or two had been
traced to the castle of Champtocé, and had never been seen to leave it;
but no one dared to accuse openly so powerful a man as the Maréchal de
Rays. Whenever the subject of the lost children was mentioned in his
presence, he manifested the greatest astonishment at the mystery which
involved their fate, and indignation against those who might be guilty of
kidnapping them. Still the world was not wholly deceived; his name became
as formidable to young children as that of the devouring ogre in fairy
tales, and they were taught to go miles round, rather than pass under the
turrets of Champtocé.

In the course of a few years, the reckless extravagance of the marshal
drained him of all his funds, and he was obliged to put up some of his
estates for sale. The Duke of Brittany entered into a treaty with him for
the valuable seignory of Ingrande; but the heirs of Gilles implored the
interference of Charles VII. to stay the sale. Charles immediately issued
an edict, which was confirmed by the provincial Parliament of Brittany,
forbidding him to alienate his paternal estates. Gilles had no alternative
but to submit. He had nothing to support his extravagance but his
allowance as a marshal of France, which did not cover the one-tenth of his
expenses. A man of his habits and character could not retrench his
wasteful expenditure, and live reasonably; he could not dismiss without a
pang his horsemen, his jesters, his morris-dancers, his choristers, and
his parasites, or confine his hospitality to those who really needed it.
Notwithstanding his diminished resources, he resolved to live as he had
lived before, and turn alchymist, that he might make gold out of iron, and
be still the wealthiest and most magnificent among the nobles of Brittany.

In pursuance of this determination, he sent to Paris, Italy, Germany, and
Spain, inviting all the adepts in the science to visit him at Champtocé.
The messengers he despatched on this mission were two of his most needy
and unprincipled dependants, Gilles de Sillé and Roger de Bricqueville.
The latter, the obsequious panderer to his most secret and abominable
pleasures, he had entrusted with the education of his motherless daughter,
a child but five years of age, with permission that he might marry her at
the proper time to any person he chose, or to himself if he liked it
better. This man entered into the new plans of his master with great zeal,
and introduced to him one Prelati, an alchymist of Padua, and a physician
of Poitou, who was addicted to the same pursuits.

The marshal caused a splendid laboratory to be fitted up for them, and the
three commenced the search for the philosopher's stone. They were soon
afterwards joined by another pretended philosopher, named Anthony Palermo,
who aided in their operations for upwards of a year. They all fared
sumptuously at the marshal's expense, draining him of the ready money he
possessed, and leading him on from day to day with the hope that they
would succeed in the object of their search. From time to time new
aspirants from the remotest parts of Europe arrived at his castle, and for
months he had upwards of twenty alchymists at work, trying to transmute
copper into gold; and wasting the gold which was still his own in drugs
and elixirs.

But the Lord of Rays was not a man to abide patiently their lingering
processes. Pleased with their comfortable quarters, they jogged on from
day to day, and would have done so for years, had they been permitted. But
he suddenly dismissed them all, with the exception of the Italian Prelati,
and the physician of Poitou. These he retained to aid him to discover the
secret of the philosopher's stone by a bolder method. The Poitousan had
persuaded him that the devil was the great depository of that and all
other secrets, and that he would raise him before Gilles, who might enter
into any contract he pleased with him. Gilles expressed his readiness, and
promised to give the devil any thing but his soul, or do any deed that the
arch-enemy might impose upon him. Attended solely by the physician, he
proceeded at midnight to a wild-looking place in a neighbouring forest;
the physician drew a magic circle around them on the sward, and muttered
for half an hour an invocation to the evil spirit to arise at his bidding,
and disclose the secrets of alchymy. Gilles looked on with intense
interest, and expected every moment to see the earth open, and deliver to
his gaze the great enemy of mankind. At last the eyes of the physician
became fixed, his hair stood on end, and he spoke, as if addressing the
fiend. But Gilles saw nothing except his companion. At last the physician
fell down on the sward as if insensible. Gilles looked calmly on to see
the end. After a few minutes the physician arose, and asked him if he had
not seen how angry the devil looked? Gilles replied that he had seen
nothing; upon which his companion informed him that Beelzebub had appeared
in the form of a wild leopard, growled at him savagely, and said nothing;
and that the reason why the marshal had neither seen nor heard him was,
that he hesitated in his own mind as to devoting himself entirely to the
service. De Rays owned that he had indeed misgivings, and inquired what
was to be done to make the devil speak out, and unfold his secret? The
physician replied, that some person must go to Spain and Africa to collect
certain herbs which only grew in those countries, and offered to go
himself, if De Rays would provide the necessary funds. De Rays at once
consented; and the physician set out on the following day with all the
gold that his dupe could spare him. The marshal never saw his face again.

But the eager Lord of Champtocé could not rest. Gold was necessary for his
pleasures; and unless by supernatural aid, he had no means of procuring
any further supplies. The physician was hardly twenty leagues on his
journey, before Gilles resolved to make another effort to force the devil
to divulge the art of gold-making. He went out alone for that purpose; but
all his conjurations were of no effect. Beelzebub was obstinate, and would
not appear. Determined to conquer him if he could, he unbosomed himself to
the Italian alchymist, Prelati. The latter offered to undertake the
business, upon condition that De Rays did not interfere in the
conjurations, and consented besides to furnish him with all the charms and
talismans that might be required. He was further to open a vein in his
arm, and sign with his blood a contract that "he would work the devil's
will in all things," and offer up to him a sacrifice of the heart, lungs,
hands, eyes, and blood of a young child. The grasping monomaniac made no
hesitation, but agreed at once to the disgusting terms proposed to him. On
the following night, Prelati went out alone, and after having been absent
for three or four hours, returned to Gilles, who sat anxiously awaiting
him. Prelati then informed him that he had seen the devil in the shape of
a handsome youth of twenty. He further said, that the devil desired to be
called _Barron_ in all future invocations; and had shewn him a great
number of ingots of pure gold, buried under a large oak in the
neighbouring forest, all of which, and as many more as he desired, should
become the property of the Maréchal de Rays if he remained firm, and broke
no condition of the contract. Prelati further shewed him a small casket of
black dust, which would turn iron into gold; but as the process was very
troublesome, he advised that they should be contented with the ingots they
found under the oak tree, and which would more than supply all the wants
that the most extravagant imagination could desire. They were not,
however, to attempt to look for the gold till a period of seven times
seven weeks, or they would find nothing but slates and stones for their
pains. Gilles expressed the utmost chagrin and disappointment, and at once
said that he could not wait for so long a period; if the devil were not
more, prompt Prelati might tell him that the Maréchal de Rays was not to
be trifled with, and would decline all further communication with him.
Prelati at last persuaded him to wait seven times seven days. They then
went at midnight with picks and shovels to dig up the ground under the
oak, where they found nothing to reward them but a great quantity of
slates, marked with hieroglyphics. It was now Prelati's turn to be angry;
and he loudly swore that the devil was nothing but a liar and a cheat. The
marshal joined cordially in the opinion, but was easily persuaded by the
cunning Italian to make one more trial. He promised at the same time that
he would endeavour on the following night to discover the reason why the
devil had broken his word. He went out alone accordingly, and on his
return informed his patron that he had seen Barron, who was exceedingly
angry that they had not waited the proper time ere they looked for the
ingots. Barron had also said, that the Maréchal de Rays could hardly
expect any favours from him, at a time when he must know that he had been
meditating a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to make atonement for his sins.
The Italian had doubtless surmised this from some incautious expression of
his patron, for de Rays frankly confessed that there were times when, sick
of the world and all its pomps and vanities, he thought of devoting
himself to the service of God.

In this manner the Italian lured on from month to month his credulous and
guilty patron, extracting from him all the valuables he possessed, and
only waiting a favourable opportunity to decamp with his plunder. But the
day of retribution was at hand for both. Young girls and boys continued to
disappear in the most mysterious manner; and the rumours against the owner
of Champtocé grew so loud and distinct, that the Church was compelled to
interfere. Representations were made by the Bishop of Nantes to the Duke
of Brittany, that it would be a public scandal if the accusations against
the Maréchal de Rays were not inquired into. He was arrested accordingly
in his own castle, along with his accomplice Prelati, and thrown into a
dungeon at Nantes to await his trial.

The judges appointed to try him were the Bishop of Nantes Chancellor of
Brittany, the Vicar of the Inquisition in France, and the celebrated
Pierre l'Hôpital, the President of the provincial Parliament. The offences
laid to his charge were, sorcery, sodomy, and murder. Gilles, on the first
day of his trial, conducted himself with the utmost insolence. He braved
the judges on the judgment-seat, calling them simoniacs and persons of
impure life, and said he would rather be hanged by the neck like a dog
without trial, than plead either guilty or not guilty before such
contemptible miscreants. But his confidence forsook him as the trial
proceeded, and he was found guilty on the clearest evidence of all the
crimes laid to his charge. It was proved that he took insane pleasure in
stabbing the victims of his lust and in observing the quivering of their
flesh, and the fading lustre of their eyes as they expired. The confession
of Prelati first made the judges acquainted with this horrid madness, and
Gilles himself confirmed it before his death. Nearly a hundred children of
the villagers around his two castles of Champtocé and Machecoue, had been
missed within three years, the greater part, if not all, of whom were
immolated to the lust or the cupidity of this monster. He imagined that he
thus made the devil his friend, and that his recompense would be the
secret of the philosopher's stone.

Gilles and Prelati were both condemned to be burned alive. At the place of
execution they assumed the air of penitence and religion. Gilles tenderly
embraced Prelati, saying, "_Farewell, friend Francis! In this world we
shall never meet again; but let us place our hopes in God; we shall see
each other in Paradise_." Out of consideration for his high rank and
connexions, the punishment of the marshal was so far mitigated, that he
was not burned alive like Prelati. He was first strangled, and then thrown
into the flames: his body, when half consumed, was given over to his
relatives for interment, while that of the Italian was burned to ashes,
and then scattered to the winds.[39]

   [39] For full details of this extraordinary trial, see Lobineau's
         _Nouvelle Histoire de Bretagne_, and D'Argentré's work on the
         same subject. The character and life of Gilles de Rays are
         believed to have suggested the famous Blue Beard of the
         nursery tale.


This remarkable pretender to the secret of the philosopher's stone was
contemporary with the last mentioned. He was a great personage at the
court of Charles VII., and in the events of his reign played a prominent
part. From a very humble origin he rose to the highest honours of the
state, and amassed enormous wealth by peculation and plunder of the
country which he should have served. It was to hide his delinquencies in
this respect, and to divert attention from the real source of his riches,
that he boasted of having discovered the art of transmuting the inferior
metals into gold and silver.

His father was a goldsmith in the city of Bourges; but so reduced in
circumstances towards the latter years of his life, that he was unable to
pay the necessary fees to procure his son's admission into the guild.
Young Jacques became, however, a workman in the Royal Mint of Bourges, in
1428, and behaved himself so well, and shewed so much knowledge of
metallurgy, that he attained rapid promotion in that establishment. He had
also the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the fair Agnes Sorel, by
whom he was patronised and much esteemed. Jacques had now three things in
his favour--ability, perseverance, and the countenance of the king's
mistress. Many a man succeeds with but one of these to help him forward;
and it would have been strange indeed if Jacques Coeur, who had them all,
should have languished in obscurity. While still a young man, he was made
master of the mint, in which he had been a journeyman, and installed at
the same time into the vacant office of grand treasurer of the royal

He possessed an extensive knowledge of finance, and turned it wonderfully
to his own advantage, as soon as he became entrusted with extensive funds.
He speculated in articles of the first necessity, and made himself popular
by buying up grain, honey, wines, and other produce, till there was a
scarcity, when he sold it again at enormous profit. Strong in the royal
favour, he did not hesitate to oppress the poor by continual acts of
forestalling and monopoly. As there is no enemy so bitter as the estranged
friend, so of all the tyrants and tramplers upon the poor, there is none
so fierce and reckless as the upstart that sprang from their ranks. The
offensive pride of Jacques Coeur to his inferiors was the theme of
indignant reproach in his own city, and his cringing humility to those
above him was as much an object of contempt to the aristocrats into whose
society he thrust himself. But Jacques did not care for the former, and to
the latter he was blind. He continued his career till he became the
richest man in France, and so useful to the king that no important
enterprise was set on foot until he had been consulted. He was sent, in
1446, on an embassy to Genoa, and in the following year to Pope Nicholas
V. In both these missions he acquitted himself to the satisfaction of his
sovereign, and was rewarded with a lucrative appointment, in addition to
those which he already held.

In the year 1449, the English in Normandy, deprived of their great
general, the Duke of Bedford, broke the truce with the French king, and
took possession of a small town belonging to the Duke of Brittany. This
was the signal for the recommencement of a war, in which the French
regained possession of nearly the whole province. The money for this war
was advanced, for the most part, by Jacques Coeur. When Rouen yielded to
the French, and Charles made his triumphal entry into that city,
accompanied by Dunois and his most famous generals, Jacques was among the
most brilliant of his _cortège_. His chariot and horses vied with those of
the king in the magnificence of their trappings; and his enemies said of
him that he publicly boasted that he alone had driven out the English, and
that the valour of the troops would have been nothing without his gold.

Dunois appears, also, to have been partly of the same opinion. Without
disparaging the courage of the army, he acknowledged the utility of the
able financier, by whose means they had been fed and paid, and constantly
afforded him his powerful protection.

When peace returned, Jacques again devoted himself to commerce, and fitted
up several galleys to trade with the Genoese. He also bought large estates
in various parts of France; the chief of which were the baronies of St.
Fargeau, Meneton, Salone, Maubranche, Meaune, St. Gerant de Vaux, and St.
Aon de Boissy; the earldoms or counties of La Palisse, Champignelle,
Beaumont, and Villeneuve la Genêt, and the marquisate of Toucy. He also
procured for his son, Jean Coeur, who had chosen the Church for his
profession, a post no less distinguished than that of Archbishop of

Every body said that so much wealth could not have been honestly acquired;
and both rich and poor longed for the day that should humble the pride of
the man, whom the one class regarded as an upstart and the other as an
oppressor. Jacques was somewhat alarmed at the rumours that were afloat
respecting him, and of dark hints that he had debased the coin of the
realm and forged the king's seal to an important document, by which he had
defrauded the state of very considerable sums. To silence these rumours,
he invited many alchymists from foreign countries to reside with him, and
circulated a counter rumour, that he had discovered the secret of the
philosopher's stone. He also built a magnificent house in his native city,
over the entrance of which he caused to be sculptured the emblems of that
science. Some time afterwards he built another, no less splendid, at
Montpellier, which he inscribed in a similar manner. He also wrote a
treatise upon the hermetic philosophy, in which he pretended that he knew
the secret of transmuting metals.


But all these attempts to disguise his numerous acts of peculation proved
unavailing; and he was arrested in 1452, and brought to trial on several
charges. Upon one only, which the malice of his enemies invented to ruin
him, was he acquitted; which was, that he had been accessory to the death,
by poison, of his kind patroness, Agnes Sorel. Upon the others he was
found guilty, and sentenced to be banished the kingdom, and to pay the
enormous fine of four hundred thousand crowns. It was proved that he had
forged the king's seal; that in his capacity of master of the mint of
Bourges, he had debased, to a very great extent, the gold and silver coin
of the realm; and that he had not hesitated to supply the Turks with arms
and money to enable them to carry on war against their Christian
neighbours, for which service he had received the most munificent
recompenses. Charles VII. was deeply grieved at his condemnation, and
believed to the last that he was innocent. By his means the fine was
reduced within a sum which Jacques Coeur could pay. After remaining for
some time in prison, he was liberated, and left France with a large sum of
money, part of which, it was alleged, was secretly paid him by Charles out
of the produce of his confiscated estates. He retired to Cyprus, where he
died about 1460, the richest and most conspicuous personage of the island.

The writers upon alchymy all claim Jacques Coeur as a member of their
fraternity, and treat as false and libellous the more rational explanation
of his wealth which the records of his trial afford. Pierre Borel, in his
_Antiquités Gauloises_, maintains the opinion that Jacques was an honest
man, and that he made his gold out of lead and copper by means of the
philosopher's stone. The alchymic adepts in general were of the same
opinion; but they found it difficult to persuade even his contemporaries
of the fact. Posterity is still less likely to believe it.


Many other pretenders to the secrets of the philosopher's stone appeared
in every country in Europe, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The possibility of transmutation was so generally admitted, that every
chemist was more or less an alchymist. Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain,
Poland, France, and England produced thousands of obscure adepts, who
supported themselves, in the pursuit of their chimera, by the more
profitable resources of astrology and divination. The monarchs of Europe
were no less persuaded than their subjects of the possibility of
discovering the philosopher's stone. Henry VI. and Edward IV. of England
encouraged alchymy. In Germany, the Emperors Maximilian, Rudolph, and
Frederic II. devoted much of their attention to it; and every inferior
potentate within their dominions imitated their example. It was a common
practice in Germany, among the nobles and petty sovereigns, to invite an
alchymist to take up his residence among them, that they might confine him
in a dungeon till he made gold enough to pay millions for his ransom. Many
poor wretches suffered perpetual imprisonment in consequence. A similar
fate appears to have been intended by Edward II. for Raymond Lulli, who,
upon the pretence that he was thereby honoured, was accommodated with
apartments in the Tower of London. He found out in time the trick that was
about to be played him, and managed to make his escape; some of his
biographers say, by jumping into the Thames, and swimming to a vessel that
lay waiting to receive him. In the sixteenth century, the same system was
pursued, as will be shewn more fully in the life of Seton the Cosmopolite.

The following is a catalogue of the chief authors upon alchymy, who
flourished during this epoch, and whose lives and adventures are either
unknown or are unworthy of more detailed notice. John Dowston, an
Englishman, lived in 1315, and wrote two treatises on the philosopher's
stone. Richard, or, as some call him, Robert, also an Englishman, lived in
1330, and wrote a work entitled _Correctorium Alchymiæ_, which was much
esteemed till the time of Paracelsus. In the same year lived Peter of
Lombardy, who wrote what he called a _Complete Treatise upon the Hermetic
Science_, an abridgment of which was afterwards published by Lacini, a
monk of Calabria. In 1330 the most famous alchymist of Paris was one
Odomare, whose work, _De Practica Magistri_, was for a long time a
hand-book among the brethren of the science. John de Rupecissa, a French
monk of the order of St. Francis, flourished in 1357, and pretended to be
a prophet as well as an alchymist. Some of his prophecies were so
disagreeable to Pope Innocent VI., that the pontiff determined to put a
stop to them, by locking up the prophet in the dungeons of the Vatican. It
is generally believed that he died there, though there is no evidence of
the fact. His chief works are, the _Book of Light_, the _Five Essences_,
the _Heaven of Philosophers_, and his grand work, _De Confectione
Lapidis_. He was not thought a shining light among the adepts. Ortholani
was another pretender, of whom nothing is known, but that he exercised the
arts of alchymy and astrology at Paris, shortly before the time of
Nicholas Flamel. His work on the practice of alchymy was written in that
city in 1358. Isaac of Holland wrote, it is supposed, about this time; and
his son also devoted himself to the science. Nothing worth repeating is
known of their lives. Boerhaave speaks with commendation of many passages
in their works, and Paracelsus esteemed them highly: the chief are, _De
Triplici Ordine Elixiris et Lapidis Theoria_, printed at Berne in 1608;
and _Mineralia Opera, seu de Lapide Philosophico_, printed at Middleburg
in 1600. They also wrote eight other works upon the same subject.
Koffstky, a Pole, wrote an alchymical treatise, entitled _The Tincture of
Minerals_, about the year 1488. In this list of authors a royal name must
not be forgotten. Charles VI. of France, one of the most credulous princes
of the day, whose court absolutely swarmed with alchymists, conjurers,
astrologers, and quacks of every description, made several attempts to
discover the philosopher's stone, and thought he knew so much about it,
that he determined to enlighten the world with a treatise; it is called
the _Royal Work of Charles VI. of France, and the Treasure of Philosophy_.
It is said to be the original from which Nicholas Flamel took the idea of
his _Désir désiré_. Lenglet du Fresnoy says it is very allegorical, and
utterly incomprehensible. For a more complete list of the hermetic
philosophers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the reader is
referred to the third volume of Lenglet's History, already quoted.

       *       *       *       *       *


During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the search for the
philosopher's stone was continued by thousands of the enthusiastic and the
credulous; but a great change was introduced during this period. The
eminent men who devoted themselves to the study totally changed its
aspect, and referred to the possession of their wondrous stone and elixir,
not only the conversion of the base into the precious metals, but the
solution of all the difficulties of other sciences. They pretended that by
its means man would be brought into closer communion with his Maker; that
disease and sorrow would be banished from the world; and that "the
millions of spiritual beings who walk the earth unseen" would be rendered
visible, and become the friends, companions, and instructors of mankind.
In the seventeenth century more especially, these poetical and fantastic
doctrines excited the notice of Europe; and from Germany, where they had
been first disseminated by Rosencreutz, spread into France and England,
and ran away with the sound judgment of many clever but too enthusiastic
searchers for the truth. Paracelsus, Dee, and many others of less note,
were captivated by the grace and beauty of the new mythology, which was
arising to adorn the literature of Europe. Most of the alchymists of the
sixteenth century, although ignorant of the Rosicrucians as a sect, were,
in some degree, tinctured with their fanciful tenets: but before we speak
more fully of these poetical visionaries, it will be necessary to resume
the history of the hermetic folly, and trace the gradual change that stole
over the dreams of the adepts. It will be seen that the infatuation
increased rather than diminished as the world grew older.


Among the alchymists who were born in the fifteenth, and distinguished
themselves in the sixteenth century, the first in point of date is John
Aurelio Augurello. He was born at Rimini in 1441, and became professor of
the _belles lettres_ at Venice and Trevisa. He was early convinced of the
truth of the hermetic science, and used to pray to God that he might be
happy enough to discover the philosopher's stone. He was continually
surrounded by the paraphernalia of chemistry, and expended all his wealth
in the purchase of drugs and metals. He was also a poet, but of less merit
than pretensions. His _Chrysopeia_, in which he pretended to teach the art
of making gold, he dedicated to Pope Leo X., in the hope that the pontiff
would reward him handsomely for the compliment; but the pope was too good
a judge of poetry to be pleased with the worse than mediocrity of his
poem, and too good a philosopher to approve of the strange doctrines which
it inculcated; he was, therefore, far from gratified at the dedication. It
is said, that when Augurello applied to him for a reward, the pope, with
great ceremony and much apparent kindness and cordiality, drew an empty
purse from his pocket, and presented it to the alchymist, saying, that
since he was able to make gold, the most appropriate present that could be
made him, was a purse to put it in. This scurvy reward was all that the
poor alchymist ever got either for his poetry or his alchymy. He died in a
state of extreme poverty, in the eighty-third year of his age.


This alchymist has left a distinguished reputation.  The most
extraordinary tales were told and believed of his powers. He could turn
iron into gold by his mere word. All the spirits of the air and demons of
the earth were under his command, and bound to obey him in everything. He
could raise from the dead the forms of the great men of other days, and
make them appear, "in their habit as they lived," to the gaze of the
curious who had courage enough to abide their presence.

[Illustration: CORNELIUS AGRIPPA.]

He was born at Cologne in 1486, and began at an early age the study of
chemistry and philosophy. By some means or other, which have never been
very clearly explained, he managed to impress his contemporaries with a
great idea of his wonderful attainments. At the early age of twenty, so
great was his reputation as an alchymist, that the principal adepts of
Paris wrote to Cologne, inviting him to settle in France, and aid them
with his experience in discovering the philosopher's stone. Honours poured
upon him in thick succession; and he was highly esteemed by all the
learned men of his time. Melancthon speaks of him with respect and
commendation. Erasmus also bears testimony in his favour; and the general
voice of his age proclaimed him a light of literature and an ornament to
philosophy. Some men, by dint of excessive egotism, manage to persuade
their contemporaries that they are very great men indeed: they publish
their acquirements so loudly in people's ears, and keep up their own
praises so incessantly, that the world's applause is actually taken by
storm. Such seems to have been the case with Agrippa. He called himself a
sublime theologian, an excellent jurisconsult, an able physician, a great
philosopher, and a successful alchymist. The world at last took him at his
word; and thought that a man who talked so big, must have some merit to
recommend him,--that it was, indeed, a great trumpet which sounded so
obstreperous a blast. He was made secretary to the Emperor Maximilian, who
conferred upon him the title of chevalier, and gave him the honorary
command of a regiment. He afterwards became professor of Hebrew and the
_belles lettres_ at the University of Dôle, in France; but quarrelling
with the Franciscan monks upon some knotty points of divinity, he was
obliged to quit the town. He took refuge in London, where he taught Hebrew
and cast nativities, for about a year. From London he proceeded to Pavia,
and gave lectures upon the writings, real or supposed, of Hermes
Trismegistus; and might have lived there in peace and honour, had he not
again quarrelled with the clergy. By their means his position became so
disagreeable that he was glad to accept an offer made him by the
magistracy of Metz, to become their syndic and advocate-general. Here,
again, his love of disputation made him enemies: the theological wiseacres
of that city asserted that St. Ann had three husbands, in which opinion
they were confirmed by the popular belief of the day. Agrippa needlessly
ran foul of this opinion, or prejudice as he called it, and thereby lost
much of his influence. Another dispute, more creditable to his character,
occurred soon after, and sank him for ever in the estimation of the
Metzians. Humanely taking the part of a young girl who was accused of
witchcraft, his enemies asserted that he was himself a sorcerer, and
raised such a storm over his head, that he was forced to fly the city.
After this he became physician to Louisa de Savoy, mother of King Francis
I. This lady was curious to know the future, and required her physician to
cast her nativity. Agrippa replied that he would not encourage such idle
curiosity. The result was, he lost her confidence, and was forthwith
dismissed. If it had been through his belief in the worthlessness of
astrology, that he had made his answer, we might admire his honest and
fearless independence; but when it is known that, at the very same time,
he was in the constant habit of divination and fortune-telling, and that
he was predicting splendid success, in all his undertakings, to the
Constable of Bourbon, we can only wonder at his thus estranging a powerful
friend through mere petulance and perversity.

He was about this time invited, both by Henry VIII. of England, and
Margaret of Austria, governess of the Low Countries, to fix his residence
in their dominions. He chose the service of the latter, by whose influence
he was made historiographer to the Emperor Charles V. Unfortunately for
Agrippa, he never had stability enough to remain long in one position, and
offended his patrons by his restlessness and presumption. After the death
of Margaret he was imprisoned at Brussels, on a charge of sorcery. He was
released after a year; and quitting the country, experienced many
vicissitudes. He died in great poverty in 1534, aged forty-eight years.

While in the service of Margaret of Austria, he resided principally at
Louvain, in which city he wrote his famous work on the _Vanity and
Nothingness of Human Knowledge_. He also wrote to please his royal
mistress, a treatise upon the _Superiority of the Female Sex_, which he
dedicated to her in token of his gratitude for the favours she had heaped
upon him. The reputation he left behind him in these provinces was any
thing but favourable. A great number of the marvellous tales that are told
of him relate to this period of his life. It was said, that the gold which
he paid to the traders with whom he dealt, always looked remarkably
bright, but invariably turned into pieces of slate and stone in the course
of four-and-twenty hours. Of this spurious gold he was believed to have
made large quantities by the aid of the devil, who, it would appear from
this, had but a very superficial knowledge of alchymy, and much less than
the Maréchal de Rays gave him credit for. The Jesuit Delrio, in his book
on magic and sorcery, relates a still more extraordinary story of him. One
day, Agrippa left his house at Louvain, and intending to be absent for
some time, gave the key of his study to his wife, with strict orders that
no one should enter it during his absence. The lady herself, strange as it
may appear, had no curiosity to pry into her husband's secrets, and never
once thought of entering the forbidden room; but a young student, who had
been accommodated with an attic in the philosopher's house, burned with a
fierce desire to examine the study; hoping, perchance, that he might
purloin some book or implement which would instruct him in the art of
transmuting metals. The youth, being handsome, eloquent, and, above all,
highly complimentary to the charms of the lady, she was persuaded without
much difficulty to lend him the key, but gave him strict orders not to
remove any thing. The student promised implicit obedience, and entered
Agrippa's study. The first object that caught his attention was a large
_grimoire_, or book of spells, which lay open on the philosopher's desk.
He sat himself down immediately and began to read. At the first word he
uttered, he fancied he heard a knock at the door. He listened, but all was
silent. Thinking that his imagination had deceived him, he read on, when
immediately a louder knock was heard, which so terrified him, that he
started to his feet. He tried to say "Come in," but his tongue refused its
office, and he could not articulate a sound. He fixed his eyes upon the
door, which, slowly opening, disclosed a stranger of majestic form, but
scowling features, who demanded sternly, why he was summoned? "I did not
summon you," said the trembling student. "You did!" said the stranger,
advancing angrily; "and the demons are not to be invoked in vain." The
student could make no reply; and the demon, enraged that one of the
uninitiated should have summoned him out of mere presumption, seized him
by the throat and strangled him. When Agrippa returned, a few days
afterwards, he found his house beset with devils. Some of them were
sitting on the chimney-pots, kicking up their legs in the air; while
others were playing at leapfrog on the very edge of the parapet. His study
was so filled with them, that he found it difficult to make his way to his
desk. When, at last, he had elbowed his way through them, he found his
book open, and the student lying dead upon the floor. He saw immediately
how the mischief had been done; and dismissing all the inferior imps,
asked the principal demon how he could have been so rash as to kill the
young man. The demon replied, that he had been needlessly invoked by an
insulting youth, and could do no less than kill him for his presumption.
Agrippa reprimanded him severely, and ordered him immediately to reanimate
the dead body, and walk about with it in the market-place for the whole of
the afternoon. The demon did so; the student revived, and putting his arm
through that of his unearthly murderer, walked very lovingly with him in
sight of all the people. At sunset, the body fell down again, cold and
lifeless as before, and was carried by the crowd to the hospital, it being
the general opinion that he had expired in a fit of apoplexy. His
conductor immediately disappeared. When the body was examined, marks of
strangulation were found on the neck, and prints of the long claws of the
demon on various parts of it. These appearances, together with a story,
which soon obtained currency, that the companion of the young man had
vanished in a cloud of flame and smoke, opened people's eyes to the truth.
The magistrates of Louvain instituted inquiries, and the result was, that
Agrippa was obliged to quit the town.

Other authors besides Delrio relate similar stories of this philosopher.
The world in those days was always willing enough to believe in tales of
magic and sorcery; and when, as in Agrippa's case, the alleged magician
gave himself out for such, and claimed credit for the wonders he worked,
it is not surprising that the age should have allowed his pretensions. It
was dangerous boasting, which sometimes led to the stake or the gallows,
and therefore was thought to be not without foundation. Paulus Jovius, in
his _Eulogia Doctorum Virorum_, says, that the devil, in the shape of a
large black dog, attended Agrippa wherever he went. Thomas Nash, in his
_Adventures of Jack Wilton_, relates, that, at the request of Lord Surrey,
Erasmus, and some other learned men, Agrippa called up from the grave many
of the great philosophers of antiquity; among others, Tully, whom he
caused to re-deliver his celebrated oration for Roscius. He also shewed
Lord Surrey, when in Germany, an exact resemblance in a glass of his
mistress, the fair Geraldine. She was represented on a couch weeping for
the absence of her lover. Lord Surrey made a note of the exact time at
which he saw this vision, and ascertained afterwards that his mistress was
actually so employed at the very minute. To Thomas Lord Cromwell, Agrippa
represented King Henry VIII. hunting in Windsor Park, with the principal
lords of his court; and to please the Emperor Charles V. he summoned King
David and King Solomon from the tomb.

Naudé, in his "_Apology for the great Men who have been falsely suspected
of Magic_," takes a great deal of pains to clear Agrippa from the
imputations cast upon him by Delrio, Paulus Jovius, and other such
ignorant and prejudiced scribblers. Such stories demanded refutation in
the days of Naudé, but they may now be safely left to decay in their own
absurdity. That they should have attached, however, to the memory of a man
who claimed the power of making iron obey him when he told it to become
gold, and who wrote such a work as that upon magic, which goes by his
name, is not at all surprising.


This philosopher, called by Naudé "the zenith and rising sun of all the
alchymists," was born at Einsiedeln, near Zurich, in the year 1493. His
true name was Hohenheim; to which, as he himself informs us, were prefixed
the baptismal names of Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastes Paracelsus. The
last of these he chose for his common designation while he was yet a boy;
and rendered it, before he died, one of the most famous in the annals of
his time. His father, who was a physician, educated his son for the same
pursuit. The latter was an apt scholar, and made great progress. By chance
the work of Isaac Hollandus fell into his hands, and from that time he
became smitten with the mania of the philosopher's stone. All his thoughts
henceforth were devoted to metallurgy; and he travelled into Sweden that
he might visit the mines of that country, and examine the ores while they
yet lay in the bowels of the earth. He also visited Trithemius at the
monastery of Spannheim, and obtained instructions from him in the science
of alchymy. Continuing his travels, he proceeded through Prussia and
Austria into Turkey, Egypt, and Tartary, and thence returning to
Constantinople, learned, as he boasted, the art of transmutation, and
became possessed of the _elixir vitæ_. He then established himself as a
physician in his native Switzerland at Zurich, and commenced writing works
upon alchymy and medicine, which immediately fixed the attention of
Europe. Their great obscurity was no impediment to their fame; for the
less the author was understood, the more the demonologists, fanatics, and
philosopher's-stone hunters seemed to appreciate him. His fame as a
physician kept pace with that which he enjoyed as an alchymist, owing to
his having effected some happy cures by means of mercury and opium,--drugs
unceremoniously condemned by his professional brethren. In the year 1526,
he was chosen professor of physics and natural philosophy in the
University of Basle, where his lectures attracted vast numbers of
students. He denounced the writings of all former physicians as tending to
mislead; and publicly burned the works of Galen and Avicenna, as quacks
and impostors. He exclaimed, in presence of the admiring and
half-bewildered crowd, who assembled to witness the ceremony, that there
was more knowledge in his shoe-strings than in the writings of these
physicians. Continuing in the same strain, he said, all the Universities
in the world were full of ignorant quacks; but that he, Paracelsus,
overflowed with wisdom. "You will all follow my new system," said he, with
furious gesticulations, "Avicenna, Galen, Rhazis, Montagnana, Memé,--you
will all follow me, ye professors of Paris, Montpellier, Germany, Cologne,
and Vienna! and all ye that dwell on the Rhine and the Danube,--ye that
inhabit the isles of the sea; and ye also, Italians, Dalmatians,
Athenians, Arabians, Jews,--ye will all follow my doctrines, for I am the
monarch of medicine!"

[Illustration: PARACELSUS.]

But he did not long enjoy the esteem of the good citizens of Basle. It is
said that he indulged in wine so freely, as not unfrequently to be seen in
the streets in a state of intoxication. This was ruinous for a physician,
and his good fame decreased rapidly. His ill fame increased in still
greater proportion, especially when he assumed the airs of a sorcerer. He
boasted of the legions of spirits at his command; and of one especially,
which he kept imprisoned in the hilt of his sword. Wetteras, who lived
twenty-seven months in his service, relates that he often threatened to
invoke a whole army of demons, and shew him the great authority which he
could exercise over them. He let it be believed that the spirit in his
sword had custody of the elixir of life, by means of which he could make
any one live to be as old as the antediluvians. He also boasted that he
had a spirit at his command, called "Azoth," whom he kept imprisoned in a
jewel; and in many of the old portraits he is represented with a jewel,
inscribed with the word "Azoth, in his hand."

If a sober prophet has little honour in his own country, a drunken one has
still less. Paracelsus found it at last convenient to quit Basle, and
establish himself at Strasbourg. The immediate cause of this change of
residence was as follows. A citizen lay at the point of death, and was
given over by all the physicians of the town. As a last resource
Paracelsus was called in, to whom the sick man promised a magnificent
recompense, if, by his means, he were cured. Paracelsus gave him two small
pills, which the man took, and rapidly recovered. When he was quite well,
Paracelsus sent for his fee; but the citizen had no great opinion of the
value of a cure which had been so speedily effected. He had no notion of
paying a handful of gold for two pills, although they had saved his life,
and he refused to pay more than the usual fee for a single visit.
Paracelsus brought an action against him, and lost it. This result so
exasperated him, that he left Basle in high dudgeon. He resumed his
wandering life, and travelled in Germany and Hungary, supporting himself
as he went on the credulity and infatuation of all classes of society. He
cast nativities--told fortunes--aided those who had money to throw away
upon the experiment, to find the philosopher's stone--prescribed remedies
for cows and pigs, and aided in the recovery of stolen goods. After
residing successively at Nuremburg, Augsburg, Vienna, and Mindelheim, he
retired in the year 1541 to Saltzbourg, and died in a state of abject
poverty in the hospital of that town.

If this strange charlatan found hundreds of admirers during his life, he
found thousands after his death. A sect of Paracelsists sprang up in
France and Germany, to perpetuate the extravagant doctrines of their
founder upon all the sciences, and upon alchymy in particular. The chief
leaders were Bodenstein and Dorneus. The following is a summary of his
doctrine, founded upon the supposed existence of the philosopher's stone;
it is worth preserving from its very absurdity, and is altogether
unparalleled in the history of philosophy. First of all, he maintained
that the contemplation of the perfection of the Deity sufficed to procure
all wisdom and knowledge; that the Bible was the key to the theory of all
diseases, and that it was necessary to search into the Apocalypse to know
the signification of magic medicine. The man who blindly obeyed the will
of God, and who succeeded in identifying himself with the celestial
intelligences, possessed the philosopher's stone--he could cure all
diseases, and prolong life to as many centuries as he pleased; it being by
the very same means that Adam and the antediluvian patriarchs prolonged
theirs. Life was an emanation from the stars--the sun governed the heart,
and the moon the brain. Jupiter governed the liver, Saturn the gall,
Mercury the lungs, Mars the bile, and Venus the loins. In the stomach of
every human being there dwelt a demon, or intelligence, that was a sort of
alchymist in his way, and mixed, in their due proportions, in his
crucible, the various aliments that were sent into that grand laboratory,
the belly.[40] He was proud of the title of magician, and boasted that
he kept up a regular correspondence with Galen from hell; and that he
often summoned Avicenna from the same regions to dispute with him on the
false notions he had promulgated respecting alchymy, and especially
regarding potable gold and the elixir of life. He imagined that gold could
cure ossification of the heart, and, in fact, all diseases, if it were
gold which had been transmuted from an inferior metal by means of the
philosopher's stone, and if it were applied under certain conjunctions of
the planets. The mere list of the works in which he advances these frantic
imaginings, which he called a doctrine, would occupy several pages.

    [40] See the article "Paracelsus," by the learned Renaudin, in the
         _Biographie Universelle_.


This alchymist was born in the province of Misnia, in 1494. His real name
was _Bauer_, meaning a husbandman, which, in accordance with the common
fashion of his age, he latinised into Agricola. From his early youth, he
delighted in the visions of the hermetic science. Ere he was sixteen, he
longed for the great elixir which was to make him live for seven hundred
years, and for the stone which was to procure him wealth to cheer him in
his multiplicity of days. He published a small treatise upon the subject
at Cologne, in 1531, which obtained him the patronage of the celebrated
Maurice duke of Saxony. After practising for some years as a physician at
Joachimsthal, in Bohemia, he was employed by Maurice as superintendent of
the silver mines of Chemnitz. He led a happy life among the miners, making
various experiments in alchymy while deep in the bowels of the earth. He
acquired a great knowledge of metals, and gradually got rid of his
extravagant notions about the philosopher's stone. The miners had no faith
in alchymy; and they converted him to their way of thinking, not only in
that but in other respects. From their legends, he became firmly convinced
that the bowels of the earth were inhabited by good and evil spirits, and
that firedamp and other explosions sprang from no other causes than the
mischievous propensities of the latter. He died in the year 1555, leaving
behind him the reputation of a very able and intelligent man.


Autobiography, written by a wise man who was once a fool, is not only the
most instructive, but the most delightful of reading. Denis Zachaire, an
alchymist of the sixteenth century, has performed this task, and left a
record of his folly and infatuation in pursuit of the philosopher's stone,
which well repays perusal. He was born in the year 1510, of an ancient
family in Guienne, and was early sent to the university of Bordeaux, under
the care of a tutor to direct his studies. Unfortunately his tutor was a
searcher for the grand elixir, and soon rendered his pupil as mad as
himself upon the subject. With this introduction, we will allow Denis
Zachaire to speak for himself, and continue his narrative in his own
words: "I received from home," says he, "the sum of two hundred crowns for
the expenses of myself and master; but before the end of the year, all our
money went away in the smoke of our furnaces. My master, at the same time,
died of a fever, brought on by the parching heat of our laboratory, from
which he seldom or never stirred, and which was scarcely less hot than the
arsenal of Venice. His death was the more unfortunate for me, as my
parents took the opportunity of reducing my allowance, and sending me only
sufficient for my board and lodging, instead of the sum I required to
continue my operations in alchymy.

"To meet this difficulty and get out of leading-strings, I returned home
at the age of twenty-five, and mortgaged part of my property for four
hundred crowns. This sum was necessary to perform an operation of the
science, which had been communicated to me by an Italian at Toulouse, and
who, as he said, had proved its efficacy. I retained this man in my
service, that we might see the end of the experiment. I then, by means of
strong distillations, tried to calcinate gold and silver; but all my
labour was in vain. The weight of the gold I drew out of my furnace was
diminished by one-half since I put it in, and my four hundred crowns were
very soon reduced to two hundred and thirty. I gave twenty of these to my
Italian, in order that he might travel to Milan, where the author of the
receipt resided, and ask him the explanation of some passages which we
thought obscure. I remained at Toulouse all the winter, in the hope of his
return; but I might have remained there till this day if I had waited for
him, for I never saw his face again.

"In the succeeding summer there was a great plague, which forced me to
quit the town. I did not, however, lose sight of my work. I went to
Cahors, where I remained six months, and made the acquaintance of an old
man, who was commonly known to the people as 'the Philosopher;' a name
which, in country places, is often bestowed upon people whose only merit
is, that they are less ignorant than their neighbours. I shewed him my
collection of alchymical receipts, and asked his opinion upon them. He
picked out ten or twelve of them, merely saying that they were better than
the others. When the plague ceased, I returned to Toulouse, and
recommenced my experiments in search of the stone. I worked to such effect
that my four hundred crowns were reduced to one hundred and seventy.

"That I might continue my work on a safer method, I made acquaintance, in
1537, with a certain abbé who resided in the neighbourhood. He was smitten
with the same mania as myself, and told me that one of his friends, who
had followed to Rome in the retinue of the Cardinal d'Armagnac, had sent
him from that city a new receipt which could not fail to transmute iron
and copper, but which would cost two hundred crowns. I provided half this
money, and the abbé the rest; and we began to operate at our joint
expense. As we required spirits of wine for our experiment, I bought a tun
of excellent _vin de Gaillac_. I extracted the spirit, and rectified it
several times. We took a quantity of this, into which we put four marks of
silver and one of gold that had been undergoing the process of calcination
for a month. We put this mixture cleverly into a sort of horn-shaped
vessel, with another to serve as a retort; and placed the whole apparatus
upon our furnace to produce congelation. This experiment lasted a year;
but, not to remain idle, we amused ourselves with many other less
important operations. We drew quite as much profit from these as from our
great work.

"The whole of the year 1537 passed over without producing any change
whatever; in fact we might have waited till doomsday for the congelation
of our spirits of wine. However, we made a projection with it upon some
heated quicksilver; but all was in vain. Judge of our chagrin, especially
of that of the abbé, who had already boasted to all the monks of his
monastery, that they had only to bring the large pump which stood in a
corner of the cloister, and he would convert it into gold: but this ill
luck did not prevent us from persevering. I once more mortgaged my
paternal lands for four hundred crowns, the whole of which I determined to
devote to a renewal of my search for the great secret. The abbé
contributed the same sum; and with these eight hundred crowns I proceeded
to Paris, a city more abounding with alchymists than any other in the
world, resolved never to leave it until I had either found the
philosopher's stone or spent all my money. This journey gave the greatest
offence to all my relations and friends, who, imagining that I was fitted
to be a great lawyer, were anxious that I should establish myself in that
profession. For the sake of quietness, I pretended, at last, that such was
my object.

"After travelling for fifteen days, I arrived in Paris on the 9th of
January 1539. I remained for a month almost unknown; but I had no sooner
begun to frequent the amateurs of the science, and visited the shops of
the furnace-makers, than I had the acquaintance of more than a hundred
operative alchymists, each of whom had a different theory and a different
mode of working. Some of them preferred cementation; others sought the
universal alkahest or dissolvent; and some of them boasted the great
efficacy of the essence of emery. Some of them endeavoured to extract
mercury from other metals, to fix it afterwards; and, in order that each
of us should be thoroughly acquainted with the proceedings of the others,
we agreed to meet somewhere every night and report progress. We met
sometimes at the house of one, and sometimes in the garret of another; not
only on week days, but on Sundays and the great festivals of the Church.
'Ah!' one used to say, 'if I had the means of recommencing this
experiment, I should do something.' 'Yes,' said another, 'if my crucible
had not cracked, I should have succeeded before now;' while a third
exclaimed, with a sigh, 'If I had but had a round copper vessel of
sufficient strength, I would have fixed mercury with silver.' There was
not one among them who had not some excuse for his failure; but I was deaf
to all their speeches. I did not want to part with my money to any of
them, remembering how often I had been the dupe of such promises.

"A Greek at last presented himself; and with him I worked a long time
uselessly upon nails made of cinnabar or vermilion. I was also acquainted
with a foreign gentleman newly arrived in Paris, and often accompanied him
to the shops of the goldsmiths to sell pieces of gold and silver, the
produce, as he said, of his experiments. I stuck closely to him for a long
time, in the hope that he would impart his secret. He refused for a long
time, but acceded at last on my earnest entreaty, and I found that it was
nothing more than an ingenious trick. I did not fail to inform my friend
the abbé, whom I had left at Toulouse, of all my adventures; and sent him,
among other matters, a relation of the trick by which this gentleman
pretended to turn lead into gold. The abbé still imagined that I should
succeed at last, and advised me to remain another year in Paris, where I
had made so good a beginning. I remained there three years; but,
notwithstanding all my efforts, I had no more success than I had had

"I had just got to the end of my money, when I received a letter from the
abbé, telling me to leave every thing, and join him immediately at
Toulouse. I went accordingly, and found that he had received letters from
the king of Navarre (grandfather of Henry IV.). This prince was a great
lover of philosophy, full of curiosity, and had written to the abbé that I
should visit him at Pau; and that he would give me three or four thousand
crowns if I would communicate the secret I had learned from the foreign
gentleman. The abbé's ears were so tickled with the four thousand crowns,
that he let me have no peace night or day until he had fairly seen me on
the road to Pau. I arrived at that place in the month of May 1542. I
worked away, and succeeded, according to the receipt I had obtained. When
I had finished to the satisfaction of the king, he gave me the reward that
I expected. Although he was willing enough to do me further service, he
was dissuaded from it by the lords of his court; even by many of those who
had been most anxious that I should come. He sent me then about my
business, with many thanks; saying, that if there was any thing in his
kingdom which he could give me--such as the produce of confiscations or
the like--he should be most happy. I thought I might stay long enough for
these prospective confiscations, and never get them at last; and I
therefore determined to go back to my friend the abbé.

"I learned that, on the road between Pau and Toulouse, there resided a
monk who was very skilful in all matters of natural philosophy. On my
return, I paid him a visit. He. pitied me very much, and advised me, with
much warmth and kindness of expression, not to amuse myself any longer
with such experiments as these, which were all false and sophistical; but
that I should read the good books of the old philosophers, where I might
not only find the true matter of the science of alchymy, but learn also
the exact order of operations which ought to be followed. I very much
approved of this wise advice; but before I acted upon it, I went back to
my abbé of Toulouse, to give him ail account of the eight hundred crowns
which we had had in common, and, at the same time, share with him such
reward as I had received from the king of Navarre. If he was little
satisfied with the relation of my adventures since our first separation,
he appeared still less satisfied when I told him I had formed a resolution
to renounce the search for the philosopher's stone. The reason was that he
thought me a good artist. Of our eight hundred crowns, there remained but
one hundred and seventy-six. When I quitted the abbé, I went to my own
house with the intention of remaining there, till I had read all the old
philosophers, and of then proceeding to Paris.

"I arrived in Paris on the day after All Saints, of the year 1546, and
devoted another year to the assiduous study of great authors. Among
others, the _Turba Philosophorum_ of the Good Trevisan, the _Remonstrance
of Nature to the Wandering Alchymist_, by Jean de Meung, and several
others of the best books; but, as I had no right principles, I did not
well know what course to follow.

"At last I left my solitude, not to see my former acquaintances, the
adepts and operators, but to frequent the society of true philosophers.
Among them I fell into still greater uncertainties; being, in fact,
completely bewildered by the variety of operations which they shewed me.
Spurred on, nevertheless, by a sort of frenzy or inspiration, I threw
myself into the works of Raymond Lulli and of Arnold de Villeneuve. The
reading of these, and the reflections I made upon them, occupied me for
another year, when I finally determined on the course I should adopt. I
was obliged to wait, however, until I had mortgaged another very
considerable portion of my patrimony. This business was not settled until
the beginning of Lent, 1549, when I commenced my operations. I laid in a
stock of all that was necessary, and began to work the day after Easter.
It was not, however, without some disquietude and opposition from my
friends who came about me; one asking me what I was going to do, and
whether I had not already spent money enough upon such follies? Another
assured me that, if I bought so much charcoal, I should strengthen the
suspicion already existing, that I was a coiner of base money. Another
advised me to purchase some place in the magistracy, as I was already a
Doctor of Laws. My relations spoke in terms still more annoying to me, and
even threatened that, if I continued to make such a fool of myself, they
would send a posse of police-officers into my house, and break all my
furnaces and crucibles into atoms. I was wearied almost to death by this
continued persecution; but I found comfort in my work and in the progress
of my experiment, to which I was very attentive, and which went on bravely
from day to day. About this time, there was a dreadful plague in Paris,
which interrupted all intercourse between man and man, and left me as much
to myself as I could desire. I soon had the satisfaction to remark the
progress and succession of the three colours which, according to the
philosophers, always prognosticate the approaching perfection of the work.
I observed them distinctly, one after the other; and next year, being
Easter Sunday, 1550, I made the great trial. Some common quicksilver,
which I put into a small crucible on the fire, was, in less than an hour,
converted into very good gold. You may judge how great was my joy, but I
took care not to boast of it. I returned thanks to God for the favour he
had shewn me, and prayed that I might only be permitted to make such use
of it as would redound to his glory.

"On the following day, I went towards Toulouse to find, the abbé, in
accordance with a mutual promise, that we should communicate our
discoveries to each other. On my way, I called in to see the sage monk who
had assisted me with his counsels; but I had the sorrow to learn that they
were both dead. After this, I would not return to my own home, but retired
to another place, to await one of my relations whom I had left in charge
of my estate. I gave him orders to sell all that belonged to me, as well
movable as immovable--to pay my debts with the proceeds, and divide all
the rest among those in any way related to me who might stand in need of
it, in order that they might enjoy some share of the good fortune which
had befallen me. There was a great deal of talk in the neighbourhood about
my precipitate retreat; the wisest of my acquaintance imagining that,
broken down and ruined by my mad expenses, I sold my little remaining
property, that I might go and hide my shame in distant countries.

"My relative already spoken of rejoined me on the 1st of July, after
having performed all the business I had entrusted him with. We took our
departure together, to seek a land of liberty. We first retired to
Lausanne, in Switzerland, when, after remaining there for some time, we
resolved to pass the remainder of our days in some of the most celebrated
cities of Germany, living quietly and without splendour."

Thus ends the story of Denis Zachaire, as written by himself. He has not
been so candid at its conclusion as at its commencement, and has left the
world in doubt as to his real motives for pretending that he had
discovered the philosopher's stone. It seems probable that the sentence he
puts into the mouths of his wisest acquaintances was the true reason of
his retreat; that he was, in fact, reduced to poverty, and hid his shame
in foreign countries. Nothing further is known of his life, and his real
name has never yet been discovered. He wrote a work on alchymy, entitled
_The true Natural Philosophy of Metals_.


John Dee and Edward Kelly claim to be mentioned together, having been so
long associated in the same pursuits, and undergone so many strange
vicissitudes in each other's society. Dee was altogether a wonderful man,
and had he lived in an age when folly and superstition were less rife, he
would, with the same powers which he enjoyed, have left behind him a
bright and enduring reputation. He was born in London in the year 1527,
and very early manifested a love for study. At the age of fifteen he was
sent to Cambridge, and delighted so much in his books, that he passed
regularly eighteen hours every day among them. Of the other six, he
devoted four to sleep and two for refreshment. Such intense application
did not injure his health, and could not fail to make him one of the first
scholars of his time. Unfortunately, however, he quitted the mathematics
and the pursuits of true philosophy, to indulge in the unprofitable
reveries of the occult sciences. He studied alchymy, astrology, and magic,
and thereby rendered himself obnoxious to the authorities at Cambridge. To
avoid persecution, he was at last obliged to retire to the university of
Louvain; the rumours of sorcery that were current respecting him rendering
his longer stay in England not altogether without danger. He found at
Louvain many kindred spirits who had known Cornelius Agrippa while he
resided among them, and by whom he was constantly entertained with the
wondrous deeds of that great master of the hermetic mysteries. From their
conversation he received much encouragement to continue the search for the
philosopher's stone, which soon began to occupy nearly all his thoughts.

[Illustration: DR. DEE.]

He did not long remain on the Continent, but returned to England in 1551,
being at that time in the twenty-fourth year of his age. By the influence
of his friend Sir John Cheek, he was kindly received at the court of King
Edward VI., and rewarded (it is difficult to say for what) with a pension
of one hundred crowns. He continued for several years to practise in
London as an astrologer; casting nativities, telling fortunes, and
pointing out lucky and unlucky days. During the reign of Queen Mary he got
into trouble, being suspected of heresy, and charged with attempting
Mary's life by means of enchantments. He was tried for the latter offence,
and acquitted; but was retained in prison on the former charge, and left
to the tender mercies of Bishop Bonner. He had a very narrow escape from
being burned in Smithfield, but he somehow or other contrived to persuade
that fierce bigot that his orthodoxy was unimpeachable, and was set at
liberty in 1555.

On the accession of Elizabeth, a brighter day dawned upon him. During her
retirement at Woodstock, her servants appear to have consulted him as to
the time of Mary's death, which circumstance no doubt first gave rise to
the serious charge for which he was brought to trial. They now came to
consult him more openly as to the fortunes of their mistress; and Robert
Dudley, the celebrated Earl of Leicester, was sent by command of the Queen
herself to know the most auspicious day for her coronation. So great was
the favour he enjoyed, that, some years afterwards, Elizabeth condescended
to pay him a visit at his house in Mortlake, to view his museum of
curiosities, and when he was ill, sent her own physician to attend upon

Astrology was the means whereby he lived, and he continued to practise it
with great assiduity; but his heart was in alchymy. The philosopher's
stone and the elixir of life haunted his daily thoughts and his nightly
dreams. The Talmudic mysteries, which he had also deeply studied,
impressed him with the belief, that he might hold converse with spirits
and angels, and learn from them all the mysteries of the universe. Holding
the same idea as the then obscure sect of the Rosicrucians, some of whom
he had perhaps encountered in his travels in Germany, he imagined that, by
means of the philosopher's stone, he could summon these kindly spirits at
his will. By dint of continually brooding upon the subject, his
imagination became so diseased, that he at last persuaded himself that an
angel appeared to him, and promised to be his friend and companion as long
as he lived. He relates that, one day, in November 1582, while he was
engaged in fervent prayer, the window of his museum looking towards the
west suddenly glowed with a dazzling light, in the midst of which, in all
his glory, stood the great angel Uriel. Awe and wonder rendered him
speechless; but the angel smiling graciously upon him, gave him a crystal,
of a convex form, and told him that whenever he wished to hold converse
with the beings of another sphere, he had only to gaze intently upon it,
and they would appear in the crystal, and unveil to him all the secrets of
futurity.[41] Thus saying, the angel disappeared. Dee found from
experience of the crystal that it was necessary that all the faculties of
the soul should be concentrated upon it, otherwise the spirits did not
appear. He also found that he could never recollect the conversations he
had with the angels. He therefore determined to communicate the secret to
another person, who might converse with the spirit while he (Dee) sat in
another part of the room, and took down in writing the revelations which
they made.

    [41] The "crystal" alluded to appears to have been a black stone,
         or piece of polished coal. The following account of it is
         given, in the supplement to Granger's _Biographical History_.
         "The black stone into which Dee used to call his
         spirits was in the collection of the Earls of Peterborough,
         from whence it came to Lady Elizabeth Germaine. It was next
         the property of the late Duke of Argyle, and is now Mr.
         Walpole's. It appears upon examination to be nothing more
         than a polished piece of cannel coal; but this is what Butler
         means when he says,

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


He had at this time in his service, as his assistant, one Edward Kelly,
who, like himself, was crazy upon the subject of the philosopher's stone.
There was this difference, however, between them, that, while Dee was more
of an enthusiast than an impostor, Kelly was more of an impostor than an
enthusiast. In early life he was a notary, and had the misfortune to lose
both his ears for forgery. This mutilation, degrading enough in any man,
was destructive to a philosopher; Kelly, therefore, lest his wisdom should
suffer in the world's opinion, wore a black skull-cap, which, fitting
close to his head, and descending over both his cheeks, not only concealed
his loss, but gave him a very solemn and oracular appearance. So well did
he keep his secret, that even Dee, with whom he lived so many years,
appears never to have discovered it. Kelly, with this character, was just
the man to carry on any piece of roguery for his own advantage, or to
nurture the delusions of his master for the same purpose. No sooner did
Dee inform him of the visit he had received from the glorious Uriel, than
Kelly expressed such a fervour of belief, that Dee's heart glowed with
delight. He set about consulting his crystal forthwith, and on the 2d of
December, 1581, the spirits appeared, and held a very extraordinary
discourse with Kelly, which Dee took down in writing. The curious reader
may see this farrago of nonsense among the Harleian Mss. in the British
Museum. The later consultations were published in a folio volume, in 1659,
by Dr. Meric Casaubon, under the title of _A true and faithful Relation of
what passed between Dr. John Dee and some Spirits; tending, had it
succeeded, to a general Alteration of most States and Kingdoms in the

    [42] Lilly the astrologer, in his _Life_, written by himself,
         frequently tells of prophecies delivered by the angels in a
         manner similar to the angels of Dr. Dee. He says, "The
         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 creatures,
         what is demanded. It is very rare, yea even in our days,"
         quoth that wiseacre, "for any operator or master to hear the
         angels speak articulately: when they do speak, _it is like,
         the Irish, much in the throat_!"

The fame of these wondrous colloquies soon spread over the country, and
even reached the Continent. Dee at the same time pretended to be in
possession of the _elixir vitæ_, which he stated he had found among the
ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, in Somersetshire. People flocked from far and
near to his house at Mortlake to have their nativities cast, in preference
to visiting astrologers of less renown. They also longed to see a man who,
according to his own account, would never die. Altogether, he carried on a
very profitable trade, but spent so much in drugs and metals to work out
some peculiar process of transmutation, that he never became rich.

About this time there came into England a wealthy polish nobleman, named
Albert Laski, Count Palatine of Siradz. His object was principally, he
said, to visit the court of Queen Elizabeth, the fame of whose glory and
magnificence had reached him in distant Poland. Elizabeth received this
flattering stranger with the most splendid hospitality, and appointed her
favourite Leicester to shew him all that was worth seeing in England. He
visited all the curiosities of London and Westminster, and from thence
proceeded to Oxford and Cambridge, that he might converse with some of the
great scholars whose writings shed lustre upon the land of their birth. He
was very much disappointed at not finding Dr. Dee among them, and told the
Earl of Leicester that he would not have gone to Oxford if he had known
that Dee was not there. The earl promised to introduce him to the great
alchymist on their return to London, and the Pole was satisfied. A few
days afterwards, the earl and Laski being in the antechamber of the Queen,
awaiting an audience of her majesty, Dr. Dee arrived on the same errand,
and was introduced to the Pole.[43] An interesting conversation ensued,
which ended by the stranger inviting himself to dine with the astrologer
at his house at Mortlake. Dee returned home in some tribulation, for he
found he had not money enough, without pawning his plate, to entertain
Count Laski and his retinue in a manner becoming their dignity. In this
emergency he sent off an express to the Earl of Leicester, stating frankly
the embarrassment he laboured under, and praying his good offices in
representing the matter to her majesty. Elizabeth immediately sent him a
present of twenty pounds.

    [43] Albert Laski, son of Jaroslav, was Palatine of Siradz, and
         afterwards of Sendomir, and chiefly contributed to the
         election of Henry of Valois, the Third of France, to the
         throne of Poland, and was one of the delegates who went to
         France in order to announce to the new monarch his elevation
         to the sovereignty of Poland. After the deposition of Henry,
         Albert Laski voted for Maximilian of Austria. In 1583 he
         visited England, when Queen Elizabeth received him with great
         distinction. The honours which were shewn him during his
         visit to Oxford, by the especial command of the Queen, were
         equal to those rendered to sovereign princes. His
         extraordinary prodigality rendered his enormous wealth
         insufficient to defray his expenses, and he therefore became
         a zealous adept in alchymy, and took from England to Poland
         with him two known alchymists.--Count Valerian Krasinski's
         _Historical Sketch of the Reformation in Poland_.

On the appointed day Count Laski came, attended by a numerous retinue, and
expressed such open and warm admiration of the wonderful attainments of
his host, that Dee turned over in his own mind how he could bind
irretrievably to his interests a man who seemed so well inclined to become
his friend. Long acquaintance with Kelly had imbued him with all the
roguery of that personage, and he resolved to make the Pole pay dearly for
his dinner. He found out before many days that he possessed great estates
in his own country, as well as great influence, but that an extravagant
disposition had reduced him to temporary embarrassment. He also discovered
that he was a firm believer in the philosopher's stone and the water of
life. He was therefore just the man upon whom an adventurer might fasten
himself. Kelly thought so too; and both of them set to work to weave a
web, in the meshes of which they might firmly entangle the rich and
credulous stranger. They went very cautiously about it; first throwing out
obscure hints of the stone and the elixir, and finally of the spirits, by
means of whom they could turn over the pages of the book of futurity, and
read the awful secrets inscribed therein. Laski eagerly implored that he
might be admitted to one of their mysterious interviews with Uriel and the
angels; but they knew human nature too well to accede at once to the
request. To the count's entreaties they only replied by hints of the
difficulty or impropriety of summoning the spirits in the presence of a
stranger, or of one who might perchance have no other motive than the
gratification of a vain curiosity; but they only meant to whet the edge of
his appetite by this delay, and would have been sorry indeed if the count
had been discouraged. To shew how exclusively the thoughts both of Dee and
Kelly were fixed upon their dupe at this time, it is only necessary to
read the introduction to their first interview with the spirits, related
in the volume of Dr. Casaubon. The entry made by Dee, under the date of
the 25th of May, 1583, says, that when the spirit appeared to them, "I
[John Dee] and E. K. [Edward Kelly] sat together, conversing of that noble
Polonian Albertus Laski, his great honour here with us obtained, and of
his great liking among all sorts of the people." No doubt they were
discussing how they might make the most of the "noble Polonian," and
concocting the fine story with which they afterwards excited his
curiosity, and drew him firmly within their toils. "Suddenly," says Dee,
as they were thus employed, "there seemed to come out of the oratory a
spiritual creature, like a pretty girl of seven or nine years of age,
attired on her head, with her hair rolled up before and hanging down
behind, with a gown of silk, of changeable red and green, and with a
train. She seemed to play up and down, and seemed to go in and out behind
the books; and as she seemed to go between them, the books displaced
themselves, and made way for her."

With such tales as these they lured on the Pole from day to day, and at
last persuaded him to be a witness of their mysteries. Whether they played
off any optical delusions upon him, or whether, by the force of a strong
imagination, he deluded himself, does not appear, but certain it is that
he became a complete tool in their hands, and consented to do whatever
they wished him. Kelly, at these interviews, placed himself at a certain
distance from the wondrous crystal, and gazed intently upon it, while Dee
took his place in a corner, ready to set down the prophecies as they were
uttered by the spirits. In this manner they prophesied to the Pole that he
should become the fortunate possessor of the philosopher's stone; that he
should live for centuries, and be chosen King of Poland, in which capacity
he should gain many great victories over the Saracens, and make his name
illustrious over all the earth. For this purpose it was necessary,
however, that Laski should leave England, and take them with him, together
with their wives and families; that he should treat them all sumptuously,
and allow them to want for nothing. Laski at once consented; and very
shortly afterwards they were all on the road to Poland.

It took them upwards of four months to reach the count's estates in the
neighbourhood of Cracow. In the mean time, they led a pleasant life, and
spent money with an unsparing hand. When once established in the count's
palace, they commenced the great hermetic operation of transmuting iron
into gold. Laski provided them with all necessary materials, and aided
them himself with his knowledge of alchymy; but, somehow or other, the
experiment always failed at the very moment it ought to have succeeded,
and they were obliged to recommence operations on a grander scale. But the
hopes of Laski were not easily extinguished. Already, in idea, the
possessor of countless millions, he was not to be cast down for fear of
present expenses. He thus continued from day to day, and from month to
month, till he was at last obliged to sell a portion of his
deeply-mortgaged estates to find aliment for the hungry crucibles of Dee
and Kelly, and the no less hungry stomachs of their wives and families. It
was not till ruin stared him in the face that he awoke from his dream of
infatuation, too happy, even then, to find that he had escaped utter
beggary. Thus restored to his senses, his first thought was how to rid
himself of his expensive visitors. Not wishing to quarrel with them, he
proposed that they should proceed to Prague, well furnished with letters
of recommendation to the Emperor Rudolph. Our alchymists too plainly saw
that nothing more was to be made of the almost destitute Count Laski.
Without hesitation, therefore, they accepted the proposal, and set out
forthwith to the imperial residence. They had no difficulty, on their
arrival at Prague, in obtaining an audience of the emperor. They found him
willing enough to believe that such a thing as the philosopher's stone
existed, and flattered themselves that they had made a favourable
impression upon him; but, from some cause or other--perhaps the look of
low cunning and quackery upon the face of Kelly--the emperor conceived no
very high opinion of their abilities. He allowed them, however, to remain
for some months at Prague, feeding themselves upon the hope that he would
employ them; but the more he saw of them, the less he liked them; and,
when the pope's nuncio represented to him that he ought not to countenance
such heretic magicians, he gave orders that they should quit his dominions
within four-and-twenty hours. It was fortunate for them that so little
time was given them; for, had they remained six hours longer, the nuncio
had received orders to procure a perpetual dungeon or the stake for them.

Not knowing well whither to direct their steps, they resolved to return to
Cracow, where they had still a few friends; but, by this time, the funds
they had drawn from Laski were almost exhausted, and they were many days
obliged to go dinnerless and supperless. They had great difficulty to keep
their poverty a secret from the world; but they managed to bear privation
without murmuring, from a conviction that if the fact were known, it would
militate very much against their pretensions. Nobody would believe that
they were possessors of the philosopher's stone, if it were once suspected
that they did not know how to procure bread for their subsistence. They
still gained a little by casting nativities, and kept starvation at arm's
length, till a new dupe, rich enough for their purposes, dropped into
their toils, in the shape of a royal personage. Having procured an
introduction to Stephen king of Poland, they predicted to him that the
Emperor Rudolph would shortly be assassinated, and that the Germans would
look to Poland for his successor. As this prediction was not precise
enough to satisfy the king, they tried their crystal again, and a spirit
appeared who told them that the new sovereign of Germany would be Stephen
of Poland. Stephen was credulous enough to believe them, and was once
present when Kelly held his mystic conversations with the shadows of his
crystal. He also appears to have furnished them with money to carry on
their experiments in alchymy; but he grew tired, at last, of their broken
promises and their constant drains upon his pocket, and was on the point
of discarding them with disgrace, when they met with another dupe, to whom
they eagerly transferred their services. This was Count Rosenberg, a
nobleman of large estates at Trebona in Bohemia. So comfortable did they
find themselves in the palace of this munificent patron, that they
remained nearly four years with him, faring sumptuously, and having an
almost unlimited command of his money. The count was more ambitious than
avaricious: he had wealth enough, and did not care for the philosopher's
stone on account of the gold, but of the length of days it would bring
him. They had their predictions, accordingly, all ready framed to suit his
character. They prophesied that he should be chosen king of Poland; and
promised, moreover, that he should live for five hundred years to enjoy
his dignity, provided always that he found them sufficient money to carry
on their experiments.

But now, while fortune smiled upon them, while they revelled in the
rewards of successful villany, retributive justice came upon them in a
shape they had not anticipated. Jealousy and mistrust sprang up between
the two confederates, and led to such violent and frequent quarrels, that
Dee was in constant fear of exposure. Kelly imagined himself a much
greater personage than Dee; measuring, most likely, by the standard of
impudent roguery; and was displeased that on all occasions, and from all
persons, Dee received the greater share of honour and consideration. He
often threatened to leave Dee to shift for himself; and the latter, who
had degenerated into the mere tool of his more daring associate, was
distressed beyond measure at the prospect of his desertion. His mind was
so deeply imbued with superstition, that he believed the rhapsodies of
Kelly to be, in a great measure, derived from his intercourse with angels;
and he knew not where, in the whole world, to look for a man of depth and
wisdom enough to succeed him. As their quarrels every day became more and
more frequent, Dee wrote letters to Queen Elizabeth to secure a favourable
reception on his return to England, whither he intended to proceed if
Kelly forsook him. He also sent her a round piece of silver, which he
pretended he had made of a portion of brass cut out of a warming-pan. He
afterwards sent her the warming-pan also, that she might convince herself
that the piece of silver corresponded exactly with the hole which was cut
into the brass. While thus preparing for the worst, his chief desire was
to remain in Bohemia with Count Rosenberg, who treated him well, and
reposed much confidence in him. Neither had Kelly any great objection to
remain; but a new passion had taken possession of his breast, and he was
laying deep schemes to gratify it. His own wife was ill-favoured and
ill-natured; Dee's was comely and agreeable; and he longed to make an
exchange of partners without exciting the jealousy or shocking the
morality of Dee. This was a difficult matter; but to a man like Kelly, who
was as deficient in rectitude and right feeling as he was full of
impudence and ingenuity, the difficulty was not insurmountable. He had
also deeply studied the character and the foibles of Dee; and he took his
measures accordingly. The next time they consulted the spirits, Kelly
pretended to be shocked at their language, and refused to tell Dee what
they had said. Dee insisted, and was informed that they were henceforth to
have their wives in common. Dee, a little startled, inquired whether the
spirits might not mean that they were to live in common harmony and
good-will? Kelly tried again, with apparent reluctance, and said the
spirits insisted upon the literal interpretation. The poor fanatic Dee
resigned himself to their will; but it suited Kelly's purpose to appear
coy a little longer. He declared that the spirits must be spirits not of
good, but of evil; and refused to consult them any more. He thereupon took
his departure, saying that he would never return.

Dee, thus left to himself, was in sore trouble and distress of mind. He
knew not on whom to fix as the successor to Kelly for consulting the
spirits; but at last chose his son Arthur, a boy of eight years of age. He
consecrated him to this service with great ceremony, and impressed upon
the child's mind the dignified and awful nature of the duties he was
called upon to perform; but the poor boy had neither the imagination, the
faith, nor the artifice of Kelly. He looked intently upon the crystal as
he was told; but could see nothing and hear nothing. At last, when his
eyes ached, he said he could see a vague indistinct shadow, but nothing
more. Dee was in despair. The deception had been carried on so long, that
he was never so happy as when he fancied he was holding converse with
superior beings; and he cursed the day that had put estrangement between
him and his dear friend Kelly. This was exactly what Kelly had foreseen;
and, when he thought the doctor had grieved sufficiently for his absence,
he returned unexpectedly, and entered the room where the little Arthur was
in vain endeavouring to distinguish something in the crystal. Dee, in
entering this circumstance in his journal, ascribes this sudden return to
a "miraculous fortune" and a "divine fate;" and goes on to record that
Kelly immediately saw the spirits which had remained invisible to little
Arthur. One of these spirits reiterated the previous command, that they
should have their wives in common. Kelly bowed his head and submitted; and
Dee, in all humility, consented to the arrangement.

This was the extreme depth of the wretched man's degradation. In this
manner they continued to live for three or four months, when, new quarrels
breaking out, they separated once more. This time their separation was
final. Kelly, taking the _elixir_ which he had found in Glastonbury Abbey,
proceeded to Prague, forgetful of the abrupt mode in which he had
previously been expelled from that city. Almost immediately after his
arrival, he was seized by order of the Emperor Rudolph, and thrown into
prison. He was released after some months' confinement, and continued for
five years to lead a vagabond life in Germany, telling fortunes at one
place, and pretending to make gold at another. He was a second time thrown
into prison, on a charge of heresy and sorcery; and he then resolved, if
ever he obtained his liberty, to return to England. He soon discovered
that there was no prospect of this, and that his imprisonment was likely
to be for life. He twisted his bed-clothes into a rope, one stormy night
in February 1595, and let himself down from the window of his dungeon,
situated at the top of a very high tower. Being a corpulent man, the rope
gave way, and he was precipitated to the ground. He broke two of his ribs
and both his legs; and was otherwise so much injured, that he expired a
few days afterwards.

Dee, for a while, had more prosperous fortune. The warming-pan he had sent
to Queen Elizabeth was not without effect. He was rewarded soon after
Kelly had left him with an invitation to return to England. His pride,
which had been sorely humbled, sprang up again to its pristine dimensions,
and he set out from Bohemia with a train of attendants becoming an
ambassador. How he procured the money does not appear, unless from the
liberality of the rich Bohemian Rosenberg, or perhaps from his plunder. He
travelled with three coaches for himself and family, and three wagons to
carry his baggage. Each coach had four horses, and the whole train was
protected by a guard of four and twenty soldiers. This statement may be
doubted; but it is on the authority of Dee himself, who made it on oath
before the commissioners appointed by Elizabeth to inquire into his
circumstances. On his arrival in England he had an audience of the queen,
who received him kindly as far as words went, and gave orders that he
should not be molested in his pursuits of chemistry and philosophy. A man
who boasted of the power to turn baser metals into gold, could not,
thought Elizabeth, be in want of money; and she therefore gave him no more
substantial marks of her approbation than her countenance and protection.

Thrown thus unexpectedly upon his own resources, Dee began in earnest the
search for the philosopher's stone. He worked incessantly among his
furnaces, retorts, and crucibles, and almost poisoned himself with
deleterious fumes. He also consulted his miraculous crystal; but the
spirits appeared not to him. He tried one Bartholomew to supply the place
of the invaluable Kelly; but he being a man of some little probity, and of
no imagination at all, the spirits would not hold any communication with
him. Dee then tried another pretender to philosophy, of the name of
Hickman, but had no better fortune. The crystal had lost its power since
the departure of its great high priest. From this quarter, then, Dee could
get no information on the stone or elixir of the alchymists, and all his
efforts to discover them by other means were not only fruitless but
expensive. He was soon reduced to great distress, and wrote piteous
letters to the queen praying relief. He represented that, after he left
England with Count Laski, the mob had pillaged his house at Mortlake,
accusing him of being a necromancer and a wizard; and had broken all his
furniture, burned his library, consisting of four thousand rare volumes,
and destroyed all the philosophical instruments and curiosities in his
museum. For this damage he claimed compensation; and furthermore stated,
that, as he had come to England by the queen's command, she ought to pay
the expenses of his journey. Elizabeth sent him small sums of money at
various times; but Dee still continuing his complaints, a commission was
appointed to inquire into his circumstances. He finally obtained a small
appointment as Chancellor of St. Paul's cathedral, which he exchanged, in
1595, for the wardenship of the college at Manchester. He remained in this
capacity till 1602 or 1603, when, his strength and intellect beginning to
fail him, he was compelled to resign. He retired to his old dwelling at
Mortlake, in a state not far removed from actual want, supporting himself
as a common fortune-teller, and being often obliged to sell or pawn his
books to procure a dinner. James I. was often applied to on his behalf,
but he refused to do any thing for him. It may be said to the discredit of
this king, that the only reward he would grant the indefatigable Stowe, in
his days of old age and want, was the royal permission to beg; but no one
will blame him for neglecting such a quack as John Dee. He died in 1608,
in the eighty-first year of his age, and was buried at Mortlake.


Many disputes have arisen as to the real name of the alchymist who wrote
several works under the above designation. The general opinion is that he
was a Scotsman named Seton, and that by a fate very common to alchymists
who boasted too loudly of their powers of transmutation, he ended his days
miserably in a dungeon, into which he was thrown by a German potentate
until he made a million of gold to pay his ransom. By some he has been
confounded with Michael Sendivog, or Sendivogius, a Pole, a professor of
the same art, who made a great noise in Europe at the commencement of the
seventeenth century. Lenglet du Fresnoy, who is in general well informed
with respect to the alchymists, inclines to the belief that these
personages were distinct; and gives the following particulars of the
Cosmopolite, extracted from George Morhoff, in his _Epistola ad
Langelottum_, and other writers.

About the year 1600, one Jacob Haussen, a Dutch pilot, was shipwrecked on
the coast of Scotland. A gentleman, named Alexander Seton, put off in a
boat, and saved him from drowning, and afterwards entertained him
hospitably for many weeks at his house on the shore. Haussen saw that he
was addicted to the pursuits of chemistry, but no conversation on the
subject passed between them at the time. About a year and a half
afterwards, Haussen being then at home at Enkhuysen, in Holland, received
a visit from his former host. He endeavoured to repay the kindness that
had been shewn him; and so great a friendship arose between them that
Seton, on his departure, offered to make him acquainted with the great
secret of the philosopher's stone. In his presence the Scotsman transmuted
a great quantity of base metal into pure gold, and gave it him as a mark
of his esteem. Seton then took leave of his friend, and travelled into
Germany. At Dresden he made no secret of his wonderful powers, having, it
is said, performed transmutation successfully before a great assemblage of
the learned men of that city. The circumstance coming to the ears of the
Duke or Elector of Saxony, he gave orders for the arrest of the alchymist.
He caused him to be imprisoned in a high tower, and set a guard of forty
men to watch that he did not escape, and that no strangers were admitted
to his presence. The unfortunate Seton received several visits from the
elector, who used every art of persuasion to make him divulge his secret.
Seton obstinately refused either to communicate his secret, or to make any
gold for the tyrant; on which he was stretched upon the rack, to see if
the argument of torture would render him more tractable. The result was
still the same; neither hope of reward nor fear of anguish could shake
him. For several months he remained in prison, subjected alternately to a
sedative and a violent regimen, till his health broke, and he wasted away
almost to a skeleton.

There happened at that time to be in Dresden a learned Pole, named Michael
Sendivogius, who had wasted a good deal of his time and substance in the
unprofitable pursuits of alchymy. He was touched with pity for the hard
fate, and admiration for the intrepidity of Seton; and determined, if
possible, to aid him in escaping from the clutch of his oppressor. He
requested the elector's permission to see the alchymist, and obtained it
with some difficulty. He found him in a state of great wretchedness, shut
up from the light of day in a noisome dungeon, and with no better couch or
fare than those allotted to the worst of criminals. Seton listened eagerly
to the proposal of escape, and promised the generous Pole that he would
make him richer than an eastern monarch if by his means he were liberated.
Sendivogius immediately commenced operations; he sold some property which
he possessed near Cracow, and with the proceeds led a merry life at
Dresden. He gave the most elegant suppers, to which he regularly invited
the officers of the guard, and especially those who did duty at the prison
of the alchymist. He insinuated himself at last into their confidence, and
obtained free ingress to his friend as often as he pleased; pretending
that he was using his utmost endeavours to conquer his obstinacy and worm
his secret out of him. When their project was ripe, a day was fixed upon
for the grand attempt; and Sendivogius was ready with a post-chariot to
convey him with all speed into Poland. By drugging some wine which he
presented to the guards of the prison, he rendered them so drowsy that he
easily found means to scale a wall unobserved, with Seton, and effect his
escape. Seton's wife was in the chariot awaiting him, having safely in her
possession a small packet of a black powder, which was, in fact, the
philosopher's stone, or ingredient for the transmutation of iron and
copper into gold. They all arrived in safety at Cracow; but the frame of
Seton was so wasted by torture of body and starvation, to say nothing of
the anguish of mind he had endured, that he did not long survive. He died
in Cracow, in 1603 or 1604, and was buried under the cathedral church of
that city. Such is the story related of the author of the various works
which bear the name of the Cosmopolite. A list of them may be found in the
third volume of the _History of the Hermetic Philosophy_.


On the death of Seton, Sendivogius married his widow, hoping to learn from
her some of the secrets of her deceased lord in the art of transmutation.
The ounce of black powder stood him, however, in better service; for the
alchymists say, that by its means he converted great quantities of
quicksilver into the purest gold. It is also said that he performed this
experiment successfully before the Emperor Rudolph II., at Prague; and
that the emperor, to commemorate the circumstance, caused a marble tablet
to be affixed to the wall of the room in which it was performed, bearing
this inscription, "Faciat hoc quispiam alius, quod fecit Sendivogius
Polonus." M. Desnoyers, secretary to the Princess Mary of Gonzaga, Queen
of Poland, writing from Warsaw in 1651, says that he saw this tablet,
which existed at that time, and was often visited by the curious.

The after-life of Sendivogius is related in a Latin memoir of him by one
Brodowski, his steward; and is inserted by Pierre Borel in his _Treasure
of Gaulish Antiquities_. The Emperor Rudolph, according to this authority,
was so well pleased with his success, that he made him one of his
councillors of state, and invited him to fill a station in the royal
household and inhabit the palace. But Sendivogius loved his liberty, and
refused to become a courtier. He preferred to reside on his own
patrimonial estate of Gravarna, where, for many years, he exercised a
princely hospitality. His philosophic powder, which, his steward says, was
red, and not black, he kept in a little box of gold; and with one grain of
it he could make five hundred ducats, or a thousand rix-dollars. He
generally made his projection upon quicksilver. When he travelled, he gave
this box to his steward, who hung it round his neck by a gold chain next
his skin. But the greatest part of the powder he used to hide in a secret
place cut into the step of his chariot. He thought that, if attacked at
any time by robbers, they would not search such a place as that. When he
anticipated any danger, he would dress himself in his valet's clothes,
and, mounting the coach-box, put the valet inside. He was induced to take
these precautions, because it was no secret that he possessed the
philosopher's stone; and many unprincipled adventurers were on the watch
for an opportunity to plunder him. A German prince, whose name Brodowski
has not thought fit to chronicle, served him a scurvy trick, which ever
afterwards put him on his guard. This prince went on his knees to
Sendivogius, and entreated him in the most pressing terms to satisfy his
curiosity, by converting some quicksilver into gold before him.
Sendivogius, wearied by his importunity, consented, upon a promise of
inviolable secrecy. After his departure, the prince called a German
alchymist, named Muhlenfels, who resided in his house, and told him all
that had been done. Muhlenfels entreated that he might have a dozen
mounted horsemen at his command, that he might instantly ride after the
philosopher, and either rob him of all his powder, or force from him the
secret of making it. The prince desired nothing better; Muhlenfels, being
provided with twelve men well mounted and armed, pursued Sendivogius in
hot haste. He came up with him at a lonely inn by the road-side, just as
he was sitting down to dinner. He at first endeavoured to persuade him to
divulge the secret; but finding this of no avail, he caused his
accomplices to strip the unfortunate Sendivogius and tie him naked to one
of the pillars of the house. He then took from him his golden box,
containing a small quantity of the powder; a manuscript book on the
philosopher's stone; a golden medal, with its chain, presented to him by
the Emperor Rudolph; and a rich cap, ornamented with diamonds, of the
value of one hundred thousand rix-dollars. With this booty he decamped,
leaving Sendivogius still naked and firmly bound to the pillar. His
servants had been treated in a similar manner; but the people of the inn
released them all as soon as the robbers were out of sight.

Sendivogius proceeded to Prague, and made his complaint to the emperor. An
express was instantly sent off to the prince, with orders that he should
deliver up Muhlenfels and all his plunder. The prince, fearful of the
emperor's wrath, caused three large gallows to be erected in his
court-yard; on the highest of which he hanged Muhlenfels, with another
thief on each side of him. He thus propitiated the emperor, and got rid of
an ugly witness against himself. He sent back, at the same time, the
bejewelled hat, the medal and chain, and the treatise upon the
philosopher's stone, which had been stolen from Sendivogius. As regarded
the powder, he said he had not seen it, and knew nothing about it.

This adventure made Sendivogius more prudent; he would no longer perform
the process of transmutation before any strangers, however highly
recommended. He pretended also to be very poor; and sometimes lay in bed
for weeks together, that people might believe he was suffering from some
dangerous malady, and could not therefore, by any possibility, be the
owner of the philosopher's stone. He would occasionally coin false money,
and pass it off as gold; preferring to be esteemed a cheat rather than a
successful alchymist.

Many other extraordinary tales are told of this personage by his steward
Brodowski, but they are not worth repeating. He died in 1636, aged upwards
of eighty, and was buried in his own chapel at Gravarna. Several works
upon alchymy have been published under his name.


It was during the time of the last-mentioned author that the sect of the
Rosicrucians first began to create a sensation in Europe. The influence
which they exercised upon opinion during their brief career, and the
permanent impression which they have left upon European literature, claim
for them especial notice. Before their time, alchymy was but a grovelling
delusion; and theirs is the merit of having spiritualised and refined it.
They also enlarged its sphere, and supposed the possession of the
philosopher's stone to be, not only the means of wealth, but of health and
happiness, and the instrument by which man could command the services of
superior beings, control the elements to his will, defy the obstructions
of time and space, and acquire the most intimate knowledge of all the
secrets of the universe. Wild and visionary as they were, they were not
without their uses; if it were only for having purged the superstitions of
Europe of the dark and disgusting forms with which the monks had peopled
it, and substituted, in their stead, a race of mild, graceful, and
beneficent beings.

They are said to have derived their name from Christian Rosencreutz, or
"Rose-cross," a German philosopher, who travelled in the Holy Land towards
the close of the fourteenth century. While dangerously ill at a place
called Damcar, he was visited by some learned Arabs, who claimed him as
their brother in science, and unfolded to him, by inspiration, all the
secrets of his past life, both of thought and of action. They restored him
to health by means of the philosopher's stone, and afterwards instructed
him in all their mysteries. He returned to Europe in 1401, being then only
twenty-three years of age; and drew a chosen number of his friends around
him, whom he initiated into the new science, and bound by solemn oaths to
keep it secret for a century. He is said to have lived eighty-three years
after this period, and to have died in 1484.

Many have denied the existence of such a personage as Rosencreutz, and
have fixed the origin of this sect at a much later epoch. The first
dawning of it, they say, is to be found in the theories of Paracelsus and
the dreams of Dr. Dee, who, without intending it, became the actual,
though never the recognised founders of the Rosicrucian philosophy. It is
now difficult, and indeed impossible, to determine whether Dee and
Paracelsus obtained their ideas from the then obscure and unknown
Rosicrucians, or whether the Rosicrucians did but follow and improve upon
them. Certain it is, that their existence was never suspected till the
year 1605, when they began to excite attention in Germany. No sooner were
their doctrines promulgated, than all the visionaries, Paracelsists, and
alchymists, flocked around their standard, and vaunted Rosencreutz as the
new regenerator of the human race. Michael Mayer, a celebrated physician
of that day, and who had impaired his health and wasted his fortune in
searching for the philosopher's stone, drew up a report of the tenets and
ordinances of the new fraternity, which was published at Cologne, in the
year 1615. They asserted, in the first place, "that the meditations of
their founders surpassed every thing that had ever been imagined since the
creation of the world, without even excepting the revelations of the
Deity; that they were destined to accomplish the general peace and
regeneration of man before the end of the world arrived; that they
possessed all wisdom and piety in a supreme degree; that they possessed
all the graces of nature, and could distribute them among the rest of
mankind according to their pleasure; that they were subject to neither
hunger, nor thirst, nor disease, nor old age, nor to any other
inconvenience of nature; that they knew by inspiration, and at the first
glance, every one who was worthy to be admitted into their society; that
they had the same knowledge then which they would have possessed if they
had lived from the beginning of the world, and had been always acquiring
it; that they had a volume in which they could read all that ever was or
ever would be written in other books till the end of time; that they could
force to, and retain in their service the most powerful spirits and
demons; that, by the virtue of their songs, they could attract pearls and
precious stones from the depths of the sea or the bowels of the earth;
that God had covered them with a thick cloud, by means of which they could
shelter themselves from the malignity of their enemies, and that they
could thus render themselves invisible from all eyes; that the first eight
brethren of the 'Rose-cross' had power to cure all maladies; that, by
means of the fraternity, the triple diadem of the pope would be reduced
into dust; that they only admitted two sacraments, with the ceremonies of
the primitive Church, renewed by them; that they recognised the Fourth
Monarchy and the Emperor of the Romans as their chief and the chief of all
Christians; that they would provide him with more gold, their treasures
being inexhaustible, than the King of Spain had ever drawn from the golden
regions of Eastern and Western Ind." This was their confession of faith.
Their rules of conduct were six in number, and as follow:

First. That, in their travels, they should gratuitously cure all diseases.

Secondly. That they should always dress in conformity to the fashion of
the country in which they resided.

Thirdly. That they should, once every year, meet together in the place
appointed by the fraternity, or send in writing an available excuse.

Fourthly. That every brother, whenever he felt inclined to die, should
choose a person worthy to succeed him.

Fifthly. That the words "Rose-cross" should be the marks by which they
should recognise each other.

Sixthly. That their fraternity should be kept secret for six times twenty

They asserted that these laws had been found inscribed in a golden book in
the tomb of Rosencreutz, and that the six times twenty years from his
death expired in 1604. They were consequently called upon from that time
forth to promulgate their doctrine for the welfare of mankind[44].

    [44] The following legend of the tomb of Rosencreutz, written by
         Eustace Budgell, appears in No. 379 of the _Spectator_:--"A
         certain person, having occasion to dig somewhat deep in the
         ground where this philosopher lay interred, met with a small
         door, having a wall on each side of it. His curiosity, and
         the hope of finding some hidden treasure, soon prompted him
         to force open the door. He was immediately surprised by a
         sudden blaze of light, and discovered a very fair vault. At
         the upper end of it was a statue of a man in armour, sitting
         by a table, and leaning on his left arm. He held a truncheon
         in his right hand, and had a lamp burning before him. The man
         had no sooner set one foot within the vault, than the statue,
         erecting itself from its leaning posture, stood bolt upright;
         and, upon the fellow's advancing another step, lifted up the
         truncheon in his right hand. The man still ventured a third
         step; when the statue, with a furious blow, broke the lamp
         into a thousand pieces, and left his guest in sudden
         darkness. Upon the report of this adventure, the country
         people came with lights to the sepulchre, and discovered that
         the statue, which was made of brass, was nothing more than a
         piece of clock-work; that the floor of the vault was all
         loose, and underlaid with several springs, which, upon any
         man's entering, naturally produced that which had happened.

         "Rosicreucius, say his disciples, made use of this method to
         shew the world that he had re-invented the ever-burning lamps
         of the ancients, though he was resolved no one should reap
         any advantage from the discovery."

For eight years these enthusiasts made converts in Germany, but they
excited little or no attention in other parts of Europe. At last they made
their appearance in Paris, and threw all the learned, all the credulous,
and all the lovers of the marvellous into commotion. In the beginning of
March 1623, the good folks of that city, when they arose one morning, were
surprised to find all their walls placarded with the following singular

"_We, the deputies of the principal College of the Brethren of the
Rose-cross, have taken up our abode, visible and invisible, in this city,
by the grace of the Most High, towards whom are turned the hearts of the
just. We shew and teach without books or signs, and speak all sorts of
languages in the countries where we dwell, to draw mankind, our fellows,
from error and from death_."

For a long time this strange placard was the sole topic of conversation in
all public places. Some few wondered, but the greater number only laughed
at it. In the course of a few weeks two books were published, which raised
the first alarm respecting this mysterious society, whose dwelling-place
no one knew, and no members of which had ever been seen. The first was
called a history of _The frightful Compacts entered into between the Devil
and the pretended 'Invisibles;' with their damnable Instructions, the
deplorable Ruin of their Disciples, and their miserable end_. The other
was called an _Examination of the new and unknown Cabala of the Brethren
of the Rose-cross, who have lately inhabited the City of Paris; with the
History of their Manners, the Wonders worked by them, and many other

These books sold rapidly. Every one was anxious to know something of this
dreadful and secret brotherhood. The _badauds_ of Paris were so alarmed
that they daily expected to see the arch-enemy walking _in propria
persona_ among them. It was said in these volumes that the Rosicrucian
society consisted of six-and-thirty persons in all, who had renounced
their baptism and hope of resurrection. That it was not by means of good
angels, as they pretended, that they worked their prodigies; but that it
was the devil who gave them power to transport themselves from one end of
the world to the other with the rapidity of thought; to speak all
languages; to have their purses always full of money, however much they
might spend; to be invisible, and penetrate into the most secret places,
in spite of fastenings of bolts and bars; and to be able to tell the past
and future. These thirty-six brethren were divided into bands or
companies: six of them only had been sent on the mission to Paris, six to
Italy, six to Spain, six to Germany, four to Sweden, and two into
Switzerland, two into Flanders, two into Lorraine, and two into Franche
Comté. It was generally believed that the missionaries to France resided
somewhere in the Marais du Temple. That quarter of Paris soon acquired a
bad name, and people were afraid to take houses in it, lest they should be
turned out by the six invisibles of the Rose-cross. It was believed by the
populace, and by many others whose education should have taught them
better, that persons of a mysterious aspect used to visit the inns and
hotels of Paris, and eat of the best meats and drink of the best wines,
and then suddenly melt away into thin air when the landlord came with the
reckoning. That gentle maidens, who went to bed alone, often awoke in the
night and found men in bed with them, of shape more beautiful than the
Grecian Apollo, who immediately became invisible when an alarm was raised.
It was also said that many persons found large heaps of gold in their
houses without knowing from whence they came. All Paris was in alarm. No
man thought himself secure of his goods, no maiden of her virginity, or
wife of her chastity, while these Rosicrucians were abroad. In the midst
of the commotion, a second placard was issued to the following effect:

"_If any one desires to see the brethren of the Rose-cross from curiosity
only, he will never communicate with us. But if his_ will _really induces
him to inscribe his name in the register of our brotherhood, we, who can
judge of the thoughts of all men, will convince him of the truth of our
promises. For this reason we do not publish to the world the place of our
abode. Thought alone, in unison with the sincere_ will _of those who
desire to know us, is sufficient to make us known to them, and them to

Though the existence of such a society as that of the Rose-cross was
problematical, it was quite evident that somebody or other was concerned
in the promulgation of these placards, which were stuck up on every wall
in Paris. The police endeavoured in vain to find out the offenders, and
their want of success only served to increase the perplexity of the
public. The Church very soon took up the question; and the Abbé Gaultier,
a Jesuit, wrote a book to prove that, by their enmity to the pope, they
could be no other than disciples of Luther, sent to promulgate his heresy.
Their very name, he added, proved that they were heretics; a _cross_
surmounted by a _rose_ being the heraldic device of the arch-heretic
Luther. One Garasse said they were a confraternity of drunken impostors;
and that their name was derived from the garland of roses, in the form of
a cross, hung over the tables of taverns in Germany as the emblem of
secrecy, and from whence was derived the common saying, when one man
communicated a secret to another, that it was said "under the rose."
Others interpreted the letters F.R.C. to mean, not Brethren of the
Rose-cross, but _Fratres Roris Cocti_, or Brothers of Boiled Dew; and
explained this appellation by alleging that they collected large
quantities of morning dew, and boiled it, in order to extract a very
valuable ingredient in the composition of the philosopher's stone and the
water of life.

The fraternity thus attacked defended themselves as well as they were
able. They denied that they used magic of any kind, or that they consulted
the devil. They said they were all happy; that they had lived more than a
century, and expected to live many centuries more; and that the intimate
knowledge which they possessed of all nature was communicated to them by
God himself as a reward for their piety and utter devotion to his service.
Those were in error who derived their name from a cross of roses, or
called them drunkards. To set the world right on the first point, they
reiterated that they derived their name from Christian Rosencreutz, their
founder; and to answer the latter charge, they repeated that they knew not
what thirst was, and had higher pleasures than those of the palate. They
did not desire to meddle with the politics or religion of any man or set
of men, although they could not help denying the supremacy of the pope,
and looking upon him as a tyrant. Many slanders, they said, had been
repeated respecting them, the most unjust of which was, that they indulged
in carnal appetites, and, under the cloak of their invisibility, crept
into the chambers of beautiful maidens. They asserted, on the contrary,
that the first vow they took on entering the society was a vow of
chastity, and that any one among them who transgressed in that particular
would immediately lose all the advantages he enjoyed, and be exposed once
more to hunger, woe, disease, and death, like other men. So strongly did
they feel on the subject of chastity, that they attributed the fall of
Adam solely to his want of this virtue. Besides defending themselves in
this manner, they entered into a further confession of their faith. They
discarded for ever all the old tales of sorcery and witchcraft, and
communion with the devil. They said there were no such horrid, unnatural,
and disgusting beings as the incubi and succubi, and the innumerable
grotesque imps that men had believed in for so many ages. Man was not
surrounded with enemies like these, but with myriads of beautiful and
beneficent beings, all anxious to do him service. The air was peopled with
sylphs, the water with undines or naiads, the bowels of the earth with
gnomes, and the fire with salamanders. All these beings were the friends
of man, and desired nothing so much as that men should purge themselves of
all uncleanness, and thus be enabled to see and converse with them. They
possessed great power, and were unrestrained by the barriers of space or
the obstructions of matter. But man was in one particular their superior.
He had an immortal soul, and they had not. They might, however, become
sharers in man's immortality if they could inspire one of that race with
the passion of love towards them. Hence it was the constant endeavour of
the female spirits to captivate the admiration of men, and of the male
gnomes, sylphs, salamanders, and undines to be beloved by a woman. The
object of this passion, in returning their love, imparted a portion of
that celestial fire, the soul; and from that time forth the beloved became
equal to the lover, and both, when their allotted course was run, entered
together into the mansions of felicity. These spirits, they said, watched
constantly over mankind by night and day. Dreams, omens, and presentiments
were all their works, and the means by which they gave warning of the
approach of danger. But though so well inclined to befriend man for their
own sakes, the want of a soul rendered them at times capricious and
revengeful; they took offence on slight causes, and heaped injuries
instead of benefits on the heads of those who extinguished the light of
reason that was in them by gluttony, debauchery, and other appetites of
the body.

The excitement produced in Paris by the placards of the brotherhood and
the attacks of the clergy wore itself away after a few months. The stories
circulated about them became at last too absurd even for that age of
absurdity, and men began to laugh once more at those invisible gentlemen
and their fantastic doctrines. Gabriel Naudé at that conjuncture brought
out his _Avis à la France sur les Frères de la Rose-croix_, in which he
very successfully exposed the folly of the new sect. This work, though not
well written, was well timed. It quite extinguished the Rosicrucians of
France; and after that year little more was heard of them. Swindlers in
different parts of the country assumed the name at times to cloak their
depredations; and now and then one of them was caught and hanged for his
too great ingenuity in enticing pearls and precious stones from the
pockets of other people into his own, or for passing off lumps of gilded
brass for pure gold, made by the agency of the philosopher's stone. With
these exceptions, oblivion shrouded them.

The doctrine was not confined to a sphere so narrow as France alone; it
still nourished in Germany, and drew many converts in England. The latter
countries produced two great masters in the persons of Jacob Böhmen and
Robert Fludd--pretended philosophers, of whom it is difficult to say which
was the more absurd and extravagant. It would appear that the sect was
divided into two classes--the brothers _Roseæ Crucis_, who devoted
themselves to the wonders of this sublunary sphere, and the brothers
_Aureæ Crucis_, who were wholly occupied in the contemplation of things
divine. Fludd belonged to the first class, and Böhmen to the second. Fludd
may be called the father of the English Rosicrucians, and as such merits a
conspicuous niche in the temple of Folly.

He was born in the year 1574 at Milgate, in Kent, and was the son of Sir
Thomas Fludd, Treasurer of War to Queen Elizabeth. He was originally
intended for the army; but he was too fond of study, and of a disposition
too quiet and retiring, to shine in that sphere. His father would not
therefore press him to adopt a course of life for which he was unsuited,
and encouraged him in the study of medicine, for which he early manifested
a partiality. At the age of twenty-five he proceeded to the continent; and
being fond of the abstruse, the marvellous, and the incomprehensible, he
became an ardent disciple of the school of Paracelsus, whom he looked upon
as the regenerator not only of medicine, but of philosophy. He remained
six years in Italy, France, and Germany, storing his mind with fantastic
notions, and seeking the society of enthusiasts and visionaries. On his
return to England in 1605, he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine
from the University of Oxford, and began to practise as a physician in

He soon made himself conspicuous. He latinised his name from Robert Fludd
into Robertus à Fluctibus, and began the promulgation of many strange
doctrines. He avowed his belief in the philosopher's stone, the water of
life, and the universal alkahest; and maintained that there were but two
principles of all things,--which were, condensation, the boreal or
northern virtue; and rarefaction, the southern or austral virtue. A number
of demons, he said, ruled over the human frame, whom he arranged in their
places in a rhomboid. Every disease had its peculiar demon who produced
it, which demon could only be combated by the aid of the demon whose place
was directly opposite to his in the rhomboidal figure. Of his medical
notions we shall have further occasion to speak in another part of this
book, when we consider him in his character as one of the first founders
of the magnetic delusion, and its offshoot, animal magnetism, which has
created so much sensation in our own day.

As if the doctrines already mentioned were not wild enough, he joined the
Rosicrucians as soon as they began to make a sensation in Europe, and
succeeded in raising himself to high consideration among them. The
fraternity having been violently attacked by several German authors, and
among others by Libavius, Fludd volunteered a reply, and published, in
1616, his defence of the Rosicrucian philosophy, under the title of the
_Apologia compendiaria Fraternitatem de Rosea-cruce suspicionis et infamiæ
maculis aspersam abluens_. This work immediately procured him great renown
upon the Continent, and he was henceforth looked upon as one of the
high-priests of the sect. Of so much importance was he considered, that
Keppler and Gassendi thought it necessary to refute him; and the latter
wrote a complete examination of his doctrine. Mersenne also, the friend of
Descartes, and who had defended that philosopher when accused of having
joined the Rosicrucians, attacked Dr. à Fluctibus, as he preferred to be
called, and shewed the absurdity of the brothers of the Rose-cross in
general, and of Dr. à Fluctibus in particular. Fluctibus wrote a long
reply, in which he called Mersenne an ignorant calumniator, and reiterated
that alchymy was a profitable science, and the Rosicrucians worthy to be
the regenerators of the world. This book was published at Frankfort, and
was entitled _Summum Bonum, quod est Magiæ, Cabalæ, Alchimiæ, Fratrum,
Roseæ-Crucis verorum, et adversus Mersenium Calumniatorem_. Besides this,
he wrote several other works upon alchymy, a second answer to Libavius
upon the Rosicrucians, and many medical works. He died in London in 1637.

After his time there was some diminution of the sect in England. They
excited but little attention, and made no effort to bring themselves into
notice. Occasionally some obscure and almost incomprehensible work made
its appearance, to shew the world that the folly was not extinguished.
Eugenius Philalethes, a noted alchymist, who has veiled his real name
under this assumed one, translated _The Fame and Confession of the
Brethren of the Rosie Cross_, which was published in London in 1652. A few
years afterwards, another enthusiast, named John Heydon, wrote two works
on the subject: the one entitled _The Wise Man's Crown, or the Glory of
the Rosie Cross_; and the other, _The Holy Guide, leading the way to unite
Art and Nature with the Rosie Crosse uncovered_. Neither of these
attracted much notice. A third book was somewhat more successful; it was
called _A new Method of Rosicrucian Physic; by John Heydon, the servant of
God and the Secretary of Nature_. A few extracts will shew the ideas of
the English Rosicrucians about this period. Its author was an attorney,
"practising (to use his own words) at Westminster Hall all term times as
long as he lived, and in the vacations devoting himself to alchymical and
Rosicrucian meditation." In his preface, called by him an Apologue for an
Epilogue, he enlightens the public upon the true history and tenets of his
sect. Moses, Elias, and Ezekiel were, he says, the most ancient masters of
the Rosicrucian philosophy. Those few then existing in England and the
rest of Europe, were as the eyes and ears of the great king of the
universe, seeing and hearing all things; seraphically illuminated;
companions of the holy company of unbodied souls and immortal angels;
turning themselves, Proteus-like, into any shape, and having the power of
working miracles. The most pious and abstracted brethren could slack the
plague in cities, silence the violent winds and tempests, calm the rage of
the sea and rivers, walk in the air, frustrate the malicious aspect of
witches, cure all diseases, and turn all metals into gold. He had known in
his time two famous brethren of the Rosie Cross, named Walfourd and
Williams, who had worked miracles in his sight, and taught him many
excellent predictions of astrology and earthquakes. "I desired one of
these to tell me," says he, "whether my complexion were 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 held devoutly true that dogma of the Rosicrucians which said that
neither eating nor drinking was necessary to men. He maintained that any
one might exist in the same manner as that singular people dwelling near
the source of the Ganges, of whom mention was made in the travels of his
namesake, Sir Christopher Heydon, who had no mouths, and therefore could
not eat, but lived by the breath of their nostrils; except when they took
a far journey, and then they mended their diet with the smell of flowers.
He said that in really pure air "there was a fine foreign fatness," with
which it was sprinkled by the sunbeams, and which was quite sufficient for
the nourishment of the generality of mankind. Those who had enormous
appetites, he had no objection to see take animal food, since they could
not do without it; but he obstinately insisted that there was no necessity
why they should _eat_ it. If they put a plaster of nicely-cooked meat upon
their epigastrium, it would be sufficient for the wants of the most robust
and voracious! They would by that means let in no diseases, as they did at
the broad and common gate, the mouth, as any one might see by example of
drink; for all the while a man sat in water, he was never athirst. He had
known, he said, many Rosicrucians, who by applying wine in this manner,
had fasted for years together. In fact, quoth Heydon, we may easily fast
all our life, though it be three hundred years, without any kind of meat,
and so cut off all danger of disease.

This "sage philosopher" further informed his wondering contemporaries that
the chiefs of the doctrine always carried about with them to their place
of meeting their symbol, called the R.C. which was an ebony cross,
flourished and decked with roses of gold; the cross typifying Christ's
sufferings upon the cross for our sins, and the roses of gold the glory
and beauty of his Resurrection. This symbol was carried alternately to
Mecca, Mount Calvary, Mount Sinai, Haran, and to three other places, which
must have been in mid-air, called _Cascle_, _Apamia_ and _Chaulateau
Virissa Caunuch_, where the Rosicrucian brethren met when they pleased,
and made resolution of all their actions. They always took their pleasures
in one of these places, where they resolved all questions of whatsoever
had been done, was done, or should be done in the world, from the
beginning to the end thereof. "And these," he concludes, "are the men
called Rosicrucians!"

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, more rational ideas took
possession of the sect, which still continued to boast of a few members.
They appear to have considered that contentment was the true philosopher's
stone, and to have abandoned the insane search for a mere phantom of the
imagination. Addison, in _The Spectator_,[45] gives an account of his
conversation with a Rosicrucian; from which it may be inferred that the
sect had grown wiser in their deeds, though in their talk they were as
foolish as ever. "I was once," says he, "engaged in discourse with a
Rosicrucian about the great secret. He talked of the secret as of a spirit
which lived within an emerald, and converted every thing that was near it
to the highest perfection that it was capable of. 'It gives a lustre,'
says he, 'to the sun, and water to the diamond. It irradiates every metal,
and enriches lead with all the properties of gold. It heightens smoke into
flame, flame into light, and light into glory.' He further added, 'that a
single ray of it dissipates pain and care and melancholy from the person
on whom it falls. In short,' says he, 'its presence naturally changes
every place into a kind of heaven.' After he had gone on for some time in
this unintelligible cant, I found that he jumbled natural and moral ideas
together into the same discourse, and that his great secret was nothing
else but content."

    [45] No. 574. Friday, July 30th, 1714.


It is now time to speak of Jacob Böhmen, who thought he could discover the
secret of the transmutation of metals in the Bible, and who invented a
strange heterogeneous doctrine of mingled alchymy and religion, and
founded upon it the sect of the Aurea-crucians. He was born at Görlitz, in
Upper Lusatia, in 1575, and followed till his thirtieth year the
occupation of a shoemaker. In this obscurity he remained, with the
character of a visionary and a man of unsettled mind, until the
promulgation of the Rosicrucian philosophy in his part of Germany, toward
the year 1607 or 1608. From that time he began to neglect his leather, and
buried his brain under the rubbish of metaphysics. The works of Paracelsus
fell into his hands; and these, with the reveries of the Rosicrucians, so
completely engrossed his attention, that he abandoned his trade
altogether, sinking, at the same time, from a state of comparative
independence into poverty and destitution. But he was nothing daunted by
the miseries and privations of the flesh; his mind was fixed upon the
beings of another sphere, and in thought he was already the new apostle of
the human race. In the year 1612, after a meditation of four years, he
published his first work, entitled _Aurora, or the Rising of the Sun_;
embodying the ridiculous notions of Paracelsus, and worse confounding the
confusion of that writer. The philosopher's stone might, he contended, be
discovered by a diligent search of the Old and New Testaments, and more
especially of the Apocalypse, which alone contained all the secrets of
alchymy. He contended that the divine grace operated by the same rules,
and followed the same methods, that the divine providence observed in the
natural world; and that the minds of men were purged from their vices and
corruptions in the very same manner that metals were purified from their
dross, namely, by fire.

Besides the sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders, he acknowledged
various ranks and orders of demons. He pretended to invisibility and
absolute chastity. He also said that, if it pleased him, he could abstain
for years from meat and drink, and all the necessities of the body. It is
needless, however, to pursue his follies any further. He was reprimanded
for writing this work by the magistrates of Görlitz, and commanded to
leave the pen alone and stick to his wax, that his family might not become
chargeable to the parish. He neglected this good advice, and continued his
studies; burning minerals and purifying metals one day, and mystifying the
Word of God on the next. He afterwards wrote three other works, as
sublimely ridiculous as the first. The one was entitled _Metallurgia_, and
has the slight merit of being the least obscure of his compositions.
Another was called _The Temporal Mirror of Eternity_; and the last his
_Theosophy revealed_, full of allegories and metaphors,

                "All strange and geason,
    Devoid of sense and ordinary reason."

Böhmen died in 1624, leaving behind him a considerable number of admiring
disciples. Many of them became, during the seventeenth century, as
distinguished for absurdity as their master; amongst whom may be mentioned
Gifftheil, Wendenhagen, John Jacob Zimmermann, and Abraham Frankenberg.
Their heresy rendered them obnoxious to the Church of Rome; and many of
them suffered long imprisonment and torture for their faith. One, named
Kuhlmann, was burned alive at Moscow, in 1684, on a charge of sorcery.
Böhmen's works were translated into English, and published, many years
afterwards, by an enthusiast named William Law.


Peter Mormius, a notorious alchymist and contemporary of Böhmen,
endeavoured, in 1630, to introduce the Rosicrucian philosophy into
Holland. He applied to the States-General to grant him a public audience,
that he might explain the tenets of the sect, and disclose a plan for
rendering Holland the happiest and richest country on the earth, by means
of the philosopher's stone and the service of the elementary spirits. The
States-General wisely resolved to have nothing to do with him. He
thereupon determined to shame them by printing his book, which he did at
Leyden the same year. It was entitled _The Book of the most Hidden Secrets
of Nature_, and was divided into three parts; the first treating of
"perpetual motion;" the second of the "transmutation of metals;" and the
third of the "universal medicine." He also published some German works
upon the Rosicrucian philosophy, at Frankfort, in 1617.

Poetry and romance are deeply indebted to the Rosicrucians for many a
graceful creation. The literature of England, France, and Germany contains
hundreds of sweet fictions, whose machinery has been borrowed from their
day-dreams. The "delicate Ariel" of Shakspeare stands pre-eminent among
the number. From the same source Pope drew the airy tenants of Belinda's
dressing-room, in his charming _Rape of the Lock_; and La Motte Fouqué,
the beautiful and capricious water-nymph Undine, around whom he has thrown
more grace and loveliness, and for whose imaginary woes he has excited
more sympathy, than ever were bestowed on a supernatural being. Sir Walter
Scott also endowed the White Lady of Avenel with many of the attributes of
the undines or water-sprites. German romance and lyrical poetry teem with
allusions to sylphs, gnomes, undines, and salamanders; and the French have
not been behind in substituting them, in works of fiction, for the more
cumbrous mythology of Greece and Rome. The sylphs, more especially, have
been the favourites of the bards, and have become so familiar to the
popular mind as to be, in a manner, confounded with that other race of
ideal beings, the fairies, who can boast of an antiquity much more
venerable in the annals of superstition. Having these obligations to the
Rosicrucians, no lover of poetry can wish, however absurd they were, that
such a sect of philosophers had never existed.


Just at the time that Michael Mayer was making known to the world the
existence of such a body as the Rosicrucians, there was born in Italy a
man who was afterwards destined to become the most conspicuous member of
the fraternity. The alchymic mania never called forth the ingenuity of a
more consummate or more successful impostor than Joseph Francis Borri. He
was born in 1616, according to some authorities, and in 1627 according to
others, at Milan; where his father, the Signor Branda Borri, practised as
a physician. At the age of sixteen Joseph was sent to finish his education
at the Jesuits' college in Rome, where he distinguished himself by his
extraordinary memory. He learned every thing to which he applied himself
with the utmost ease. In the most voluminous works no fact was too minute
for his retention, and no study was so abstruse but that he could master
it; but any advantages he might have derived from this facility were
neutralised by his ungovernable passions and his love of turmoil and
debauchery. He was involved in continual difficulty, as well with the
heads of the college as with the police of Rome, and acquired so bad a
character that years could not remove it. By the aid of his friends he
established himself as a physician in Rome, and also obtained some
situation in the pope's household. In one of his fits of studiousness he
grew enamoured of alchymy, and determined to devote his energies to the
discovery of the philosopher's stone. Of unfortunate propensities he had
quite sufficient, besides this, to bring him to poverty. His pleasures
were as expensive as his studies, and both were of a nature to destroy his
health and ruin his fair fame. At the age of thirty-seven he found that he
could not live by the practice of medicine, and began to look about for
some other employment. He became, in 1653, private secretary to the
Marquis di Mirogli, the minister of the Archduke of Innsprück at the court
of Rome. He continued in this capacity for two years; leading, however,
the same abandoned life as heretofore, frequenting the society of
gamesters, debauchees, and loose women, involving himself in disgraceful
street quarrels, and alienating the patrons who were desirous to befriend

All at once a sudden change was observed in his conduct. The abandoned
rake put on the outward sedateness of a philosopher; the scoffing sinner
proclaimed that he had forsaken his evil ways, and would live thenceforth
a model of virtue. To his friends this reformation was as pleasing as it
was unexpected; and Borri gave obscure hints that it had been brought
about by some miraculous manifestation of a superior power. He pretended
that he held converse with beneficent spirits; that the secrets of God and
nature were revealed to him; and that he had obtained possession of the
philosopher's stone. Like his predecessor, Jacob Böhmen, he mixed up
religious questions with his philosophical jargon, and took measures for
declaring himself the founder of a new sect. This, at Rome itself, and in
the very palace of the pope, was a hazardous proceeding; and Borri just
awoke to a sense of it in time to save himself from the dungeons of the
Castle of St. Angelo. He fled to Innsprück, where he remained about a
year, and then returned to his native city of Milan.

[Illustration: INNSPRUCK.]

The reputation of his great sanctity had gone before him; and he found
many persons ready to attach themselves to his fortunes. All who were
desirous of entering into the new communion took an oath of poverty, and
relinquished their possessions for the general good of the fraternity.
Borri told them that he had received from the archangel Michael a heavenly
sword, upon the hilt of which were engraven the names of the seven
celestial intelligences. "Whoever shall refuse," said he, "to enter into
my new sheepfold shall be destroyed by the papal armies, of whom God has
predestined me to be the chief. To those who follow me all joy shall be
granted. I shall soon bring my chemical studies to a happy conclusion, by
the discovery of the philosopher's stone, and by this means we shall all
have as much gold as we desire. I am assured of the aid of the angelic
hosts, and more especially of the archangel Michael's. When I began to
walk in the way of the spirit, I had a vision of the night, and was
assured by an angelic voice that I should become a prophet. In sign of it
I saw a palm-tree, surrounded with all the glory of paradise. The angels
come to me whenever I call, and reveal to me all the secrets of the
universe. The sylphs and elementary spirits obey me, and fly to the
uttermost ends of the world to serve me, and those whom I delight to
honour." By force of continually repeating such stories as these, Borri
soon found himself at the head of a very considerable number of adherents.
As he figures in these pages as an alchymist, and not as a religious
sectarian, it will be unnecessary to repeat the doctrines which he taught
with regard to some of the dogmas of the Church of Rome, and which exposed
him to the fierce resentment of the papal authority. They were to the full
as ridiculous as his philosophical pretensions. As the number of his
followers increased, he appears to have cherished the idea of becoming one
day a new Mahomet, and of founding, in his native city of Milan, a
monarchy and religion of which he should be the king and the prophet. He
had taken measures, in the year 1658, for seizing the guards at all the
gates of that city, and formally declaring himself the monarch of the
Milanese. Just as he thought the plan ripe for execution, it was
discovered. Twenty of his followers were arrested, and he himself managed,
with the utmost difficulty, to escape to the neutral territory of
Switzerland, where the papal displeasure could not reach him.

The trial of his followers commenced forthwith, and the whole of them were
sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. Borri's trial proceeded in his
absence, and lasted for upwards of two years. He was condemned to death as
a heretic and sorcerer in 1661, and was burned in effigy in Rome by the
common hangman.

Borri, in the mean time, lived quietly in Switzerland, indulging himself
in railing at the Inquisition and its proceedings. He afterwards went to
Strasbourg, intending to fix his residence in that town. He was received
with great cordiality, as a man persecuted for his religious opinions, and
withal a great alchymist. He found that sphere too narrow for his aspiring
genius, and retired in the same year to the more wealthy city of
Amsterdam. He there hired a magnificent house, established an equipage
which eclipsed in brilliancy those of the richest merchants, and assumed
the title of Excellency. Where he got the money to live in this expensive
style was long a secret: the adepts in alchymy easily explained it, after
their fashion. Sensible people were of opinion that he had come by it in a
less wonderful manner; for it was remembered that among his unfortunate
disciples in Milan, there were many rich men, who, in conformity with one
of the fundamental rules of the sect, had given up all their earthly
wealth into the hands of their founder. In whatever manner the money was
obtained, Borri spent it in Holland with an unsparing hand, and was looked
up to by the people with no little respect and veneration. He performed
several able cures, and increased his reputation so much that he was
vaunted as a prodigy. He continued diligently the operations of alchymy,
and was in daily expectation that he should succeed in turning the
inferior metals into gold. This hope never abandoned him, even in the
worst extremity of his fortunes; and in his prosperity it led him into the
most foolish expenses: but he could not long continue to live so
magnificently upon the funds he had brought from Italy; and the
philosopher's stone, though it promised all for the wants of the morrow,
never brought any thing for the necessities of to-day. He was obliged in a
few months to retrench, by giving up his large house, his gilded coach and
valuable blood-horses, his liveried domestics, and his luxurious
entertainments. With this diminution of splendour came a diminution of
renown. His cures did not appear so miraculous, when he went out on foot
to perform them, as they had seemed when "his Excellency" had driven to a
poor man's door in his carriage with six horses. He sank from a prodigy
into an ordinary man. His great friends shewed him the cold shoulder, and
his humble flatterers carried their incense to some other shrine. Borri
now thought it high time to change his quarters. With this view he
borrowed money wherever he could get it, and succeeded in obtaining two
hundred thousand florins from a merchant named De Meer, to aid, as he
said, in discovering the water of life. He also obtained six diamonds of
great value, on pretence that he could remove the flaws from them without
diminishing their weight. With this booty he stole away secretly by night,
and proceeded to Hamburgh.

On his arrival in that city, he found the celebrated Christina, the
ex-queen of Sweden. He procured an introduction to her, and requested her
patronage in his endeavour to discover the philosopher's stone. She gave
him some encouragement; but Borri, fearing that the merchants of
Amsterdam, who had connexions in Hamburgh, might expose his delinquencies
if he remained in the latter city, passed over to Copenhagen, and sought
the protection of Frederick III., the king of Denmark.

This prince was a firm believer in the transmutation of metals. Being in
want of money, he readily listened to the plans of an adventurer who had
both eloquence and ability to recommend him. He provided Borri with the
means to make experiments, and took a great interest in the progress of
his operations. He expected every month to possess riches that would buy
Peru; and, when he was disappointed, accepted patiently the excuses of
Borri, who, upon every failure, was always ready with some plausible
explanation. He became in time much attached to him; and defended him from
the jealous attacks of his courtiers, and the indignation of those who
were grieved to see their monarch the easy dupe of a charlatan. Borri
endeavoured, by every means in his power, to find aliment for this good
opinion. His knowledge of medicine was useful to him in this respect, and
often stood between him and disgrace. He lived six years in this manner at
the court of Frederick; but that monarch dying in 1670 he was left without
a protector.

As he had made more enemies than friends in Copenhagen, and had nothing to
hope from the succeeding sovereign, he sought an asylum in another
country. He went first to Saxony; but met so little encouragement, and
encountered so much danger from the emissaries of the Inquisition, that he
did not remain there many months. Anticipating nothing but persecution in
every country that acknowledged the spiritual authority of the pope, he
appears to have taken the resolution to dwell in Turkey, and turn
Mussulman. On his arrival at the Hungarian frontier, on his way to
Constantinople, he was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the
conspiracy of the Counts Nadasdi and Frangipani, which had just been
discovered. In vain he protested his innocence, and divulged his real name
and profession. He was detained in prison, and a letter despatched to the
Emperor Leopold, to know what should be done with him. The star of his
fortunes was on the decline. The letter reached Leopold at an unlucky
moment. The pope's nuncio was closeted with his majesty; and he no sooner
heard the name of Joseph Francis Borri, than he demanded him as a prisoner
of the Holy See. The request was complied with; and Borri, closely
manacled, was sent under an escort of soldiers to the prison of the
Inquisition at Rome. He was too much of an impostor to be deeply tinged
with fanaticism, and was not unwilling to make a public recantation of his
heresies, if he could thereby save his life. When the proposition was made
to him, he accepted it with eagerness. His punishment was to be commuted
into the hardly less severe one of perpetual imprisonment; but he was too
happy to escape the clutch of the executioner at any price, and he made
the _amende honorable_ in face of the assembled multitudes of Rome on the
27th of October 1672. He was then transferred to the prisons of the Castle
of St. Angelo, where he remained till his death, twenty-three years
afterwards. It is said that, towards the close of his life, considerable
indulgence was granted him; that he was allowed to have a laboratory, and
to cheer the solitude of his dungeon by searching for the philosopher's
stone. Queen Christina, during her residence at Rome, frequently visited
the old man, to converse with him upon chemistry and the doctrines of the
Rosicrucians. She even obtained permission that he should leave his prison
occasionally for a day or two, and reside in her palace, she being
responsible for his return to captivity. She encouraged him to search for
the great secret of the alchymists, and provided him with money for the
purpose. It may well be supposed that Borri benefited most by this
acquaintance, and that Christina got nothing but experience. It is not
sure that she gained even that; for until her dying day she was convinced
of the possibility of finding the philosopher's stone, and ready to assist
any adventurer either zealous or impudent enough to pretend to it.

After Borri had been about eleven years in confinement, a small volume was
published at Cologne, entitled _The Key of the Cabinet of the Chevalier
Joseph Francis Borri, in which are contained many curious Letters upon
Chemistry and other Sciences, written by him, together with a Memoir of
his Life_. This book contained a complete exposition of the Rosicrucian
philosophy, and afforded materials to the Abbé de Villars for his
interesting _Count de Gabalis_, which excited so much attention at the
close of the seventeenth century.

Borri lingered in the prison of St. Angelo till 1695, when he died, in his
eightieth year. Besides _The Key of the Cabinet_, written originally in
Copenhagen, in 1666, for the edification of King Frederick III., he
published a work upon alchymy and the secret sciences, under the title of
_The Mission of Romulus to the Romans_.


Besides the pretenders to the philosopher's stone whose lives have been
already narrated, this and the preceding century produced a great number
of writers, who inundated literature with their books upon the subject. In
fact, most of the learned men of that age had some faith in it. Van
Helmont, Borrichius, Kircher, Boerhaave, and a score of others, though not
professed alchymists, were fond of the science, and countenanced its
professors. Helvetius, the grandfather of the celebrated philosopher of
the same name, asserts that he saw an inferior metal turned into gold by a
stranger, at the Hague, in 1666. He says, that, sitting one day in his
study, a man, who was dressed as a respectable burgher of North Holland,
and very modest and simple in his appearance, called upon him, with the
intention of dispelling his doubts relative to the philosopher's stone. He
asked Helvetius if he thought he should know that rare gem if he saw it.
To which Helvetius replied, that he certainly should not. The burgher
immediately drew from his pocket a small ivory box, containing three
pieces of metal, of the colour of brimstone, and extremely heavy; and
assured Helvetius, that of them he could make as much as twenty tons of
gold. Helvetius informs us, that he examined them very attentively; and
seeing that they were very brittle, he took the opportunity to scrape off
a small portion with his thumb-nail. He then returned them to the
stranger, with an entreaty that he would perform the process of
transmutation before him. The stranger replied, that he was not allowed to
do so, and went away. After his departure, Helvetius procured a crucible
and a portion of lead, into which, when in a state of fusion, he threw the
stolen grain from the philosopher's stone. He was disappointed to find
that the grain evaporated altogether, leaving the lead in its original

Some weeks afterwards, when he had almost forgotten the subject, he
received another visit from the stranger. He again entreated him to
explain the processes by which he pretended to transmute lead. The
stranger at last consented, and informed him, that one grain was
sufficient; but that it was necessary to envelope it in a ball of wax
before throwing it on the molten metal; otherwise its extreme volatility
would cause it to go off in vapour. They tried the experiment, and
succeeded to their heart's content. Helvetius repeated the experiment
alone, and converted six ounces of lead into very pure gold.

The fame of this event spread all over the Hague, and all the notable
persons of the town flocked to the study of Helvetius to convince
themselves of the fact. Helvetius performed the experiment again, in the
presence of the Prince of Orange, and several times afterwards, until he
exhausted the whole of the powder he had received from the stranger, from
whom it is necessary to state, he never received another visit; nor did he
ever discover his name or condition. In the following year, Helvetius
published his _Golden Calf_,[46] in which he detailed the above

    [46] "Vitulus Aureus quem Mundus adorat et orat, in quo tractatur
         de naturæ miraculo transmutandi metalla." _Hagæ_, 1667.

About the same time, the celebrated Father Kircher published his
_Subterranean World_, in which he called the alchymists a congregation of
knaves and impostors, and their science a delusion. He admitted that he
had himself been a diligent labourer in the field, and had only come to
this conclusion after mature consideration and repeated fruitless
experiments. All the alchymists were in arms immediately, to refute this
formidable antagonist. One Solomon de Blauenstein was the first to grapple
with him, and attempted to convict him of wilful misrepresentation, by
recalling to his memory the transmutations by Sendivogius, before the
Emperor Frederick III. and the Elector of Mayence, all performed within a
recent period. Zwelfer and Glauber also entered into the dispute, and
attributed the enmity of Father Kircher to spite and jealousy against
adepts who had been more successful than himself.

It was also pretended that Gustavus Adolphus transmuted a quantity of
quicksilver into pure gold. The learned Borrichius relates, that he saw
coins which had been struck of this gold; and Lenglet du Fresnoy deposes
to the same circumstance. In the _Travels of Monconis_ the story is told
in the following manner: "A merchant of Lubeck, who carried on but little
trade, but who knew how to change lead into very good gold, gave the King
of Sweden a lingot which he had made, weighing at least one hundred
pounds. The king immediately caused it to be coined into ducats; and
because he knew positively that its origin was such as had been stated to
him, he had his own arms graven upon the one side, and emblematical
figures of Mercury and Venus on the other. I (continued Monconis) have one
of these ducats in my possession; and was credibly informed that, after
the death of the Lubeck merchant, who had never appeared very rich, a sum
of no less than one million seven hundred thousand crowns was found in his

    [47] _Voyages de Monconis_, tome ii. p. 379.

Such stories as these, confidently related by men high in station, tended
to keep up the infatuation of the alchymists in every country of Europe.
It is astonishing to see the number of works which were written upon the
subject during the seventeenth century alone, and the number of clever men
who sacrificed themselves to the delusion. Gabriel de Castaigne, a monk of
the order of St. Francis, attracted so much notice in the reign of Louis
XIII., that that monarch secured him in his household, and made him his
Grand Almoner. He pretended to find the elixir of life, and Louis expected
by his means to have enjoyed the crown for a century. Van Helmont also
pretended to have once performed with success the process of transmuting
quicksilver, and was in consequence invited by the Emperor Rudolph II. to
fix his residence at the court of Vienna. Glauber, the inventor of the
salts which still bear his name, and who practised as a physician at
Amsterdam about the middle of the seventeenth century, established a
public school in that city for the study of alchymy, and gave lectures
himself upon the science. John Joachim Becher of Spire acquired great
reputation at the same period, and was convinced that much gold might be
made out of flint-stones by a peculiar process, and the aid of that grand
and incomprehensible substance the philosopher's stone. He made a
proposition to the Emperor Leopold of Austria to aid him in these
experiments; but the hope of success was too remote, and the present
expense too great, to tempt that monarch, and he therefore gave Becher
much of his praise, but none of his money. Becher afterwards tried the
States-General of Holland with no better success.

With regard to the innumerable tricks by which impostors persuaded the
world that they had succeeded in making gold, and of which so many stories
were current about this period, a very satisfactory report was read by M.
Geoffroy the elder, at the sitting of the Royal Academy of Sciences at
Paris, on the 15th of April, 1722. As it relates principally to the
alchymic cheats of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the following
abridgment of it may not be out of place in this portion of our history.
The instances of successful transmutation were so numerous, and apparently
so well authenticated, that nothing short of so able an exposure as that
of M. Geoffroy could disabuse the public mind. The trick to which they
oftenest had recourse was to use a double-bottomed crucible, the under
surface being of iron or copper, and the upper one of wax, painted to
resemble the same metal. Between the two they placed as much gold or
silver dust as was necessary for their purpose. They then put in their
lead, quicksilver, or other ingredients, and placed their pot upon the
fire. Of course, when the experiment was concluded, they never failed to
find a lump of gold at the bottom. The same result was produced in many
other ways. Some of them used a hollow wand, filled with gold or silver
dust, and stopped at the ends with wax or butter. With this they stirred
the boiling metal in their crucibles, taking care to accompany the
operation with many ceremonies, to divert attention from the real purpose
of the manoeuvre. They also drilled holes in lumps of lead, into which
they poured molten gold, and carefully closed the aperture with the
original metal. Sometimes they washed a piece of gold with quicksilver.
When in this state, they found no difficulty in palming it off upon the
uninitiated as an inferior metal, and very easily transmuted it into fine
sonorous gold again with the aid of a little aquafortis.

Others imposed by means of nails, half iron and half gold or silver. They
pretended that they really transmuted the precious half from iron, by
dipping it in a strong alcohol. M. Geoffroy produced several of these
nails to the Academy of Sciences, and shewed how nicely the two parts were
soldered together. The golden or silver half was painted black to resemble
iron, and the colour immediately disappeared when the nail was dipped into
aquafortis. A nail of this description was, for a long time, in the
cabinet of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Such also, said M. Geoffroy, was the
knife presented by a monk to Queen Elizabeth of England; the blade of
which was half gold and half steel. Nothing at one time was more common
than to see coins, half gold and half silver, which had been operated upon
by alchymists, for the same purposes of trickery. In fact, says M.
Geoffroy, in concluding his long report, there is every reason to believe
that all the famous histories which have been handed down to us about the
transmutation of metals into gold or silver, by means of the powder of
projection or philosophical elixirs, are founded upon some successful
deception of the kind above narrated. These pretended philosophers
invariably disappeared after the first or second experiment, or their
powders or elixirs have failed to produce their effect, either because
attention being excited they have found no opportunity to renew the trick
without being discovered, or because they have not had sufficient gold
dust for more than one trial.

The disinterestedness of these would-be philosophers looked, at first
sight, extremely imposing. Instances were not rare in which they
generously abandoned all the profits of their transmutations--even the
honour of the discovery. But this apparent disinterestedness was one of
the most cunning of their manoeuvres. It served to keep up the popular
expectation; it seemed to shew the possibility of discovering the
philosopher's stone, and provided the means of future advantages, which
they were never slow to lay hold of--such as entrances into royal
households, maintenance at the public expense, and gifts from ambitious
potentates, too greedy after the gold they so easily promised.

It now only remains to trace the progress of the delusion from the
commencement of the eighteenth century until the present day. It will be
seen that, until a very recent period, there were but slight signs of a
return to reason.


In the year 1705, there was much talk in France of a blacksmith, named
Delisle, who had discovered the philosopher's stone, and who went about
the country turning lead into gold. He was a native of Provence, from
which place his fame soon spread to the capital. His early life is
involved in obscurity; but Lenglet du Fresnoy has industriously collected
some particulars of his later career, which possess considerable interest.
He was a man without any education, and had been servant in his youth to
an alchymist, from whom he learned many of the tricks of the fraternity.
The name of his master has never been discovered; but it is pretended that
he rendered himself in some manner obnoxious to the government of Louis
XIV., and was obliged, in consequence, to take refuge in Switzerland.
Delisle accompanied him as far as Savoy, and there, it is said, set upon
him in a solitary mountain-pass, and murdered and robbed him. He then
disguised himself as a pilgrim, and returned to France. At a lonely inn,
by the road-side, where he stopped for the night, he became acquainted
with a woman, named Aluys; and so sudden a passion was enkindled betwixt
them, that she consented to leave all, follow him, and share his good or
evil fortune wherever he went. They lived together for five or six years
in Provence, without exciting any attention, apparently possessed of a
decent independence. At last, in 1706, it was given out that he was the
possessor of the philosopher's stone; and people from far and near came
flocking to his residence, at the Château de la Palu, at Sylanez, near
Barjaumont, to witness the wealth he could make out of pumps and
fire-shovels. The following account of his operations is given in a letter
addressed by M. de Cerisy, the Prior of Châteauneuf, in the Diocese of
Riez, in Provence, to the Vicar of St. Jacques du Hautpas, at Paris, and
dated the 18th of November, 1706:

"I have something to relate to you, my dear cousin, which will be
interesting to you and your friends. The philosopher's stone, which so
many persons have looked upon as a chimera, is at last found. It is a man
named Delisle, of the parish of Sylanez, and residing within a quarter of
a league of me, that has discovered this great secret. He turns lead into
gold, and iron into silver, by merely heating these metals red hot, and
pouring upon them in that state some oil and powder he is possessed of; so
that it would not be impossible for any man to make a million a day, if he
had sufficient of this wondrous mixture. Some of the pale gold which he
had made in this manner, he sent to the jewellers of Lyons, to have their
opinion on its quality. He also sold twenty pounds weight of it to a
merchant of Digne, named Taxis. All the jewellers say they never saw such
fine gold in their lives. He makes nails, part gold, part iron, and part
silver. He promised to give me one of them, in a long conversation which I
had with him the other day, by order of the Bishop of Senés, who saw his
operations with his own eyes, and detailed all the circumstances to me.

"The Baron and Baroness de Rheinwald shewed me a lingot of gold made out
of pewter before their eyes by M. Delisle. My brother-in-law Sauveur, who
has wasted fifty years of his life in this great study, brought me the
other day a nail which he had seen changed into gold by Delisle, and fully
convinced me that all his previous experiments were founded on an
erroneous principle. This excellent workman received, a short time ago, a
very kind letter from the superintendent of the royal household, which I
read. He offered to use all his influence with the ministers to prevent
any attempts upon his liberty, which has twice been attacked by the agents
of government. It is believed that the oil he makes use of, is gold or
silver reduced to that state. He leaves it for a long time exposed to the
rays of the sun. He told me that it generally took him six months to make
all his preparations. I told him that, apparently, the king wanted to see
him. He replied that he could not exercise his art in every place, as a
certain climate and temperature were absolutely necessary to his success.
The truth is, that this man appears to have no ambition. He only keeps two
horses and two men-servants. Besides, he loves his liberty, has no
politeness, and speaks very bad French; but his judgment seems to be
solid. He was formerly no more than a blacksmith, but excelled in that
trade without having been taught it. All the great lords and seigneurs
from far and near come to visit him, and pay such court to him, that it
seems more like idolatry than any thing else. Happy would France be if
this man would discover his secret to the king, to whom the superintendent
has already sent some lingots! But the happiness is too great to be hoped
for; for I fear that the workman and his secret will expire together.
There is no doubt that this discovery will make a great noise in the
kingdom, unless the character of the man, which I have just depicted to
you, prevent it. At all events, posterity will hear of him."

In another letter to the same person, dated the 27th of January 1707, M.
de Cerisy says, "My dear cousin, I spoke to you in my last letter of the
famous alchymist of Provence, M. Delisle. A good deal of that was only
hearsay, but now I am enabled to speak from my own experience. I have in
my possession a nail, half iron and half silver, which I made myself. That
great and admirable workman also bestowed a still greater privilege upon
me--he allowed me turn a piece of lead which I had brought with me into
pure gold, by means of his wonderful oil and powder. All the country have
their eyes upon this gentleman; some deny loudly, others are incredulous;
but those who have seen acknowledge the truth. I have read the passport
that has been sent to him from court, with orders that he should present
himself at Paris early in the spring. He told me that he would go
willingly, and that it was himself who fixed the spring for his departure;
as he wanted to collect his materials, in order that, immediately on his
introduction to the king, he might make an experiment worthy of his
majesty, by converting a large quantity of lead into the finest gold. I
sincerely hope that he will not allow his secret to die with him, but that
he will communicate it to the king. As I had the honour to dine with him
on Thursday last, the 20th of this month, being seated at his side, I told
him in a whisper that he could, if he liked, humble all the enemies of
France. He did not deny it, but began to smile. In fact, this man is the
miracle of art. Sometimes he employs the oil and powder mixed, sometimes
the powder only; but in so small a quantity that, when the lingot which I
made was rubbed all over with it, it did not shew at all."

This soft-headed priest was by no means the only person in the
neighbourhood who lost his wits in hopes of the boundless wealth held out
by this clever impostor. Another priest, named De Lions, a chanter in the
cathedral of Grenoble, writing on the 30th January 1707, says: "M.
Mesnard, the curate of Montier, has written to me, stating that there is a
man, about thirty-five years of age, named Delisle, who turns lead and
iron into gold and silver; and that this transmutation is so veritable and
so true, that the goldsmiths affirm that his gold and silver are the
purest and finest they ever saw. For five years this man was looked upon
as a madman or a cheat; but the public mind is now disabused with respect
to him. He now resides with M. de la Palu, at the château of the same
name. M. de la Palu is not very easy in his circumstances, and wants money
to portion his daughters, who have remained single till middle age, no man
being willing to take them without a dowry. M. Delisle has promised to
make them the richest girls in the province before he goes to court,
having been sent for by the king. He has asked for a little time before
his departure, in order that he may collect powder enough to make several
quintals of gold before the eyes of his majesty, to whom he intends to
present them. The principal matter of his wonderful powder is composed of
simples, principally the herbs _Lunaria major_ and _minor_. There is a
good deal of the first planted by him in the gardens of La Palu; and he
gets the other from the mountains that stretch about two leagues from
Montier. What I tell you now is not a mere story invented for your
diversion: M. Mesnard can bring forward many witnesses to its truth; among
others, the Bishop of Senés, who saw these surprising operations
performed; and M. de Cerisy, whom you know well. Delisle transmutes his
metals in public. He rubs the lead or iron with his powder, and puts it
over burning charcoal. In a short time it changes colour; the lead becomes
yellow, and is found to be converted into excellent gold; the iron becomes
white, and is found to be pure silver. Delisle is altogether an illiterate
person. M. de St. Auban endeavoured to teach him to read and write, but he
profited very little by his lessons. He is unpolite, fantastic, and a
dreamer, and acts by fits and starts."

Delisle, it would appear, was afraid of venturing to Paris. He knew that
his sleight of hand would be too narrowly watched in the royal presence;
and upon some pretence or other he delayed the journey for more than two
years. Desmarets, the Minister of Finance to Louis XIV., thinking the
"philosopher" dreaded foul play, twice sent him a safe conduct under the
king's seal; but Delisle still refused. Upon this, Desmarets wrote to the
Bishop of Senés for his real opinion as to these famous transmutations.
The following was the answer of that prelate:

    "Copy of a report addressed to M. Desmarets, Comptroller-General
     of the Finances to His Majesty Louis XIV., by the Bishop of Senés,
     dated March 1709.

"SIR,--A twelvemonth ago, or a little more, I expressed to you my joy at
hearing of your elevation to the ministry; I have now the honour to write
you my opinion of the Sieur Delisle, who has been working at the
transmutation of metals in my diocese. I have, during the last two years,
spoken of him several times to the Count de Pontchartrain, because he
asked me; but I have not written to you, sir, or to M. de Chamillart,
because you neither of you requested my opinion upon the subject. Now,
however, that you have given me to understand that you wish to know my
sentiments on the matter, I will unfold myself to you in all sincerity,
for the interests of the king and the glory of your ministry.

"There are two things about the Sieur Delisle which, in my opinion, should
be examined without prejudice: the one relates to his secret; the other,
to his person; that is to say, whether his transmutations are real, and
whether his conduct has been regular. As regards the secret of the
philosopher's stone, I deemed it impossible, for a long time; and for more
than three years I was more mistrustful of the pretensions of this Sieur
Delisle than of any other person. During this period I afforded him no
countenance; I even aided a person, who was highly recommended to me by an
influential family of this province, to prosecute Delisle for some offence
or other which it was alleged he had committed. But this person, in his
anger against him, having told me that he had himself been several times
the bearer of gold and silver to the goldsmiths of Nice, Aix, and Avignon,
which had been transmuted by Delisle from lead and iron, I began to waver
a little in my opinions respecting him. I afterwards met Delisle at the
house of one of my friends. To please me, the family asked Delisle to
operate before me, to which he immediately consented. I offered him some
iron nails, which he changed into silver in the chimney-place before six
or seven credible witnesses. I took the nails thus transmuted, and sent
them by my almoner to Imbert, the jeweller of Aix, who, having subjected
them to the necessary trial, returned them to me, saying they were very
good silver. Still, however, I was not quite satisfied. M. de
Pontchartrain having hinted to me, two years previously, that I should do
a thing agreeable to his majesty if I examined into this business of
Delisle, I resolved to do so now. I therefore summoned the alchymist to
come to me at Castellane. He came; and I had him escorted by eight or ten
vigilant men, to whom I had given notice to watch his hands strictly.
Before all of us he changed two pieces of lead into gold and silver. I
sent them both to M. de Pontchartrain; and he afterwards informed me by a
letter, now lying before me, that he had shewn them to the most
experienced goldsmiths of Paris, who unanimously pronounced them to be
gold and silver of the very purest quality, and without alloy. My former
bad opinion of Delisle was now indeed shaken. It was much more so when he
performed transmutation five or six times before me at Senés, and made me
perform it myself before him without his putting his hand to any thing.
You have seen, sir, the letter of my nephew, the Père Berard, of the
Oratoire at Paris, on the experiment that he performed at Castellane, and
the truth of which I hereby attest. Another nephew of mine, the Sieur
Bourget, who was here three weeks ago, performed the same experiment in my
presence, and will detail all the circumstances to you personally at
Paris. A hundred persons in my diocese have been witnesses of these
things. I confess to you, sir, that, after the testimony of so many
spectators and so many goldsmiths, and after the repeatedly successful
experiments that I saw performed, all my prejudices vanished. My reason
was convinced by my eyes; and the phantoms of impossibility which I had
conjured up were dissipated by the work of my own hands.

"It now only remains for me to speak to you on the subject of his person
and conduct. Three suspicions have been excited against him: the first,
that he was implicated in some criminal proceeding at Cisteron, and that
he falsified the coin of the realm; the second, that the king sent him two
safe-conducts without effect; and the third, that he still delays going to
court to operate before the king. You may see, sir, that I do not hide or
avoid any thing. As regards the business at Cisteron, the Sieur Delisle
has repeatedly assured me that there was nothing against him which could
reasonably draw him within the pale of justice, and that he had never
carried on any calling injurious to the king's service. It was true that,
six or seven years ago, he had been to Cisteron to gather herbs necessary
for his powder, and that he had lodged at the house of one Pelouse, whom
he thought an honest man. Pelouse was accused of clipping Louis-d'ors; and
as he had lodged with him, he was suspected of being his accomplice. This
mere suspicion, without any proof whatever, had caused him to be condemned
for contumacy; a common case enough with judges, who always proceed with
much rigour against those who are absent. During my own sojourn at Aix, it
was well known that a man, named André Aluys, had spread about reports
injurious to the character of Delisle, because he hoped thereby to avoid
paying him a sum of forty _Louis_ that he owed him. But permit me, sir, to
go further, and to add that, even if there were well-founded suspicions
against Delisle, we should look with some little indulgence on the faults
of a man who possesses a secret so useful to the state. As regards the two
safe-conducts sent him by the king, I think I can answer certainly that it
was through no fault of his that he paid so little attention to them. His
year, strictly speaking, consists only of the four summer months; and when
by any means he is prevented from making the proper use of them, he loses
a whole year. Thus the first safe-conduct became useless by the irruption
of the Duke of Savoy in 1707 and the second had hardly been obtained, at
the end of June 1708, when the said Delisle was insulted by a party of
armed men, pretending to act under the authority of the Count de Grignan,
to whom he wrote several letters of complaint, without receiving any
answer, or promise that his safety would be attended to. What I have now
told you, sir, removes the third objection, and is the reason why, at the
present time, he cannot go to Paris to the king, in fulfilment of his
promises made two years ago. Two, or even three, summers have been lost to
him, owing to the continual inquietude he has laboured under. He has, in
consequence, been unable to work, and has not collected a sufficient
quantity of his oil and powder, or brought what he has got to the
necessary degree of perfection. For this reason also he could not give the
Sieur de Bourget the portion he promised him for your inspection. If the
other day he changed some lead into gold with a few grains of his powder,
they were assuredly all he had; for he told me that such was the fact long
before he knew my nephew was coming. Even if he had preserved this small
quantity to operate before the king, I am sure that, on second thoughts,
he would never have adventured with so little; because the slightest
obstacles in the metals (their being too hard or too soft, which is only
discovered in operating,) would have caused him to be looked upon as an
impostor, if, in case his first powder had proved ineffectual, he had not
been possessed of more to renew the experiment and surmount the

"Permit me, sir, in conclusion, to repeat, that such an artist as this
should not be driven to the last extremity, nor forced to seek an asylum
offered to him in other countries, but which he has despised, as much from
his own inclinations as from the advice I have given him. You risk nothing
in giving him a little time, and in hurrying him you may lose a great
deal. The genuineness of his gold can no longer be doubted, after the
testimony of so many jewellers of Aix, Lyons, and Paris in its favour. As
it is not his fault that the previous safe-conducts sent to him have been
of no service, it will be necessary to send him another; for the success
of which I will be answerable, if you will confide the matter to me, and
trust to my zeal for the service of his majesty, to whom I pray you to
communicate this letter, that I may be spared the just reproaches he might
one day heap upon me if he remained ignorant of the facts I have now
written to you. Assure him, if you please, that, if you send me such a
safe-conduct, I will oblige the Sieur Delisle to depose with me such
precious pledges of his fidelity as shall enable me to be responsible
myself to the king. These are my sentiments, and I submit them to your
superior knowledge; and have the honour to remain, with much respect, &c.

                                        "+ JOHN BISHOP OF SENES.

"To M. Desmarets, Minister of State, and Comptroller-General of the
Finances, at Paris."

That Delisle was no ordinary impostor, but a man of consummate cunning and
address, is very evident from this letter. The bishop was fairly taken in
by his clever legerdemain, and when once his first distrust was conquered,
appeared as anxious to deceive himself as even Delisle could have wished.
His faith was so abundant that he made the case of his _protégé_ his own,
and would not suffer the breath of suspicion to be directed against him.
Both Louis and his minister appear to have been dazzled by the brilliant
hopes he had excited, and a third pass, or safe-conduct, was immediately
sent to the alchymist, with a command from the king that he should
forthwith present himself at Versailles, and make public trial of his oil
and powder. But this did not suit the plans of Delisle. In the provinces
he was regarded as a man of no small importance; the servile flattery that
awaited him wherever he went was so grateful to his mind that he could not
willingly relinquish it, and run upon certain detection at the court of
the monarch. Upon one pretext or another he delayed his journey,
notwithstanding the earnest solicitations of his good friend the bishop.
The latter had given his word to the minister, and pledged his honour that
he would induce Delisle to go, and he began to be alarmed when he found he
could not subdue the obstinacy of that individual. For more than two years
he continued to remonstrate with him, and was always met by some excuse,
that there was not sufficient powder, or that it had not been long enough
exposed to the rays of the sun. At last his patience was exhausted; and
fearful that he might suffer in the royal estimation by longer delay, he
wrote to the king for a _lettre de cachet_, in virtue of which the
alchymist was seized at the castle of La Palu, in the month of June 1711,
and carried off to be imprisoned in the Bastille.

The gendarmes were aware that their prisoner was supposed to be the lucky
possessor of the philosopher's stone, and on the road they conspired to
rob and murder him. One of them pretended to be touched with pity for the
misfortunes of the philosopher, and offered to give him an opportunity of
escape whenever he could divert the attention of his companions. Delisle
was profuse in his thanks, little dreaming of the snare that was laid for
him. His treacherous friend gave notice of the success of the stratagem so
far; and it was agreed that Delisle should be allowed to struggle with and
overthrow one of them while the rest were at some distance. They were then
to pursue him and shoot him through the heart; and after robbing the
corpse of the philosopher's stone, convey it to Paris on a cart, and tell
M. Desmarets that the prisoner had attempted to escape, and would have
succeeded if they had not fired after him and shot him through the body.
At a convenient place the scheme was executed. On a given signal from the
friendly gendarme, Delisle fled, while another gendarme took aim and shot
him through the thigh. Some peasants arriving at the instant, they were
prevented from killing him as they intended, and he was transported to
Paris, maimed and bleeding. He was thrown into a dungeon in the Bastille,
and obstinately tore away the bandages which the surgeons applied to his
wound. He never afterwards rose from his bed.

The Bishop of Senés visited him in prison, and promised him his liberty if
he would transmute a certain quantity of lead into gold before the king.
The unhappy man had no longer the means of carrying on the deception; he
had no gold, and no double-bottomed crucible or hollow wand to conceal it
in, even if he had. He would not, however, confess that he was an
impostor; but merely said he did not know how to make the powder of
projection, but had received a quantity from an Italian philosopher, and
had used it all in his various transmutations in Provence. He lingered for
seven or eight months in the Bastille, and died from the effects of his
wound, in the forty-first year of his age.


This pretender to the philosopher's stone was the son, by a former
husband, of the woman Aluys, with whom Delisle became acquainted at the
commencement of his career, in the cabaret by the road-side, and whom he
afterwards married. Delisle performed the part of a father towards him,
and thought he could shew no stronger proof of his regard, than by giving
him the necessary instructions to carry on the deception which had raised
himself to such a pitch of greatness. The young Aluys was an apt scholar,
and soon mastered all the jargon of the alchymists. He discoursed
learnedly upon projections, cimentations, sublimations, the elixir of
life, and the universal alkahest; and on the death of Delisle gave out
that the secret of that great adept had been communicated to him, and to
him only. His mother aided in the fraud, with the hope they might both
fasten themselves, in the true alchymical fashion, upon some rich dupe,
who would entertain them magnificently while the operation was in
progress. The fate of Delisle was no inducement for them to stop in
France. The Provençals, it is true, entertained as high an opinion as ever
of his skill, and were well inclined to believe the tales of the young
adept on whom his mantle had fallen; but the dungeons of the Bastille were
yawning for their prey, and Aluys and his mother decamped with all
convenient expedition. They travelled about the Continent for several
years, sponging upon credulous rich men, and now and then performing
successful transmutations by the aid of double-bottomed crucibles and the
like. In the year 1726, Aluys, without his mother, who appears to have
died in the interval, was at Vienna, where he introduced himself to the
Duke de Richelieu, at that time ambassador from the court of France. He
completely deceived this nobleman; he turned lead into gold (apparently)
on several occasions, and even made the ambassador himself turn an iron
nail into a silver one. The duke afterwards boasted to Lenglet du Fresnoy
of his achievements as an alchymist, and regretted that he had not been
able to discover the secret of the precious powder by which he performed

Aluys soon found that, although he might make a dupe of the Duke de
Richelieu, he could not get any money from him. On the contrary, the duke
expected all his pokers and fire-shovels to be made silver, and all his
pewter utensils gold; and thought the honour of his acquaintance was
reward sufficient for a _roturier_, who could not want wealth since he
possessed so invaluable a secret. Aluys, seeing that so much was expected
of him, bade adieu to his excellency, and proceeded to Bohemia accompanied
by a pupil, and by a young girl who had fallen in love with him in Vienna.
Some noblemen in Bohemia received him kindly, and entertained him at their
houses for months at a time. It was his usual practice to pretend that he
possessed only a few grains of his powder, with which he would operate in
any house where he intended to fix his quarters for the season. He would
make the proprietor the present of a piece of gold thus transmuted, and
promise him millions, if he could only be provided with leisure to gather
his _lunaria major_ and _minor_ on their mountain-tops, and board,
lodging, and loose cash for himself, his wife, and his pupil, in the

He exhausted in this manner the patience of some dozen of people, when,
thinking that there was less danger for him in France under the young king
Louis XV. than under his old and morose predecessor, he returned to
Provence. On his arrival at Aix, he presented himself before M. le Bret,
the president of the province, a gentleman who was much attached to the
pursuits of alchymy, and had great hopes of being himself able to find the
philosopher's stone. M. le Bret, contrary to his expectation, received him
very coolly, in consequence of some rumours that were spread abroad
respecting him; and told him to call upon him on the morrow. Aluys did not
like the tone of the voice, or the expression of the eye of the learned
president, as that functionary looked down upon him. Suspecting that all
was not right, he left Aix secretly the same evening, and proceeded to
Marseilles. But the police were on the watch for him; and he had not been
there four-and-twenty hours, before he was arrested on a charge of
coining, and thrown into prison.

As the proofs against him were too convincing to leave him much hope of an
acquittal, he planned an escape from durance. It so happened that the
gaoler had a pretty daughter, and Aluys soon discovered that she was
tender-hearted. He endeavoured to gain her in his favour, and succeeded.
The damsel, unaware that he was a married man, conceived and encouraged a
passion for him, and generously provided him with the means of escape.
After he had been nearly a year in prison he succeeded in getting free,
leaving the poor girl behind to learn that he was already married, and to
lament in solitude that she had given her heart to an ungrateful vagabond.

When he left Marseilles, he had not a shoe to his foot or a decent garment
to his back, but was provided with some money and clothes by his wife in a
neighbouring town. They then found their way to Brussels, and by dint of
excessive impudence, brought themselves into notice. He took a house,
fitted up a splendid laboratory, and gave out that he knew the secret of
transmutation. In vain did M. Percel, the brother-in-law of Lenglet du
Fresnoy, who resided in that city, expose his pretensions, and hold him up
to contempt as an ignorant impostor: the world believed him not. They took
the alchymist at his word, and besieged his doors to see and wonder at the
clever legerdemain by which he turned iron nails into gold and silver. A
rich _greffier_ paid him a large sum of money that he might be instructed
in the art, and Aluys gave him several lessons on the most common
principles of chemistry. The greffier studied hard for a twelvemonth, and
then discovered that his master was a quack. He demanded his money back
again; but Aluys was not inclined to give it him, and the affair was
brought before the civil tribunal of the province. In the mean time,
however, the greffier died suddenly; poisoned, according to the popular
rumour, by his debtor, to avoid repayment. So great an outcry arose in the
city, that Aluys, who may have been innocent of the crime, was
nevertheless afraid to remain and brave it. He withdrew secretly in the
night, and retired to Paris. Here all trace of him is lost. He was never
heard of again; but Lenglet du Fresnoy conjectures that he ended his days
in some obscure dungeon, into which he was cast for coining or other


This adventurer was of a higher grade than the last, and played a
distinguished part at the court of Louis XV. He pretended to have
discovered the elixir of life, by means of which he could make any one
live for centuries; and allowed it to believed that his own age was
upwards of two thousand years. He entertained many of the opinions of the
Rosicrucians; boasted of his intercourse with sylphs and salamanders; and
of his power of drawing diamonds from the earth, and pearls from the sea,
by the force of his incantations. He did not lay claim to the merit of
having discovered the philosopher's stone; but devoted so much of his time
to the operations of alchymy, that it was very generally believed, that if
such a thing as the philosopher's stone had ever existed, or could be
called into existence, he was the man to succeed in finding it.

It has never yet been discovered what was his real name, or in what
country he was born. Some believed, from the Jewish cast of his handsome
countenance, that he was the "wandering Jew;" others asserted that he was
the issue of an Arabian princess, and that his father was a salamander;
while others, more reasonable, affirmed him to be the son of a Portuguese
Jew established at Bourdeaux. He first carried on his imposture in
Germany, where he made considerable sums by selling an elixir to arrest
the progress of old age. The Maréchal de Belle-Isle purchased a dose of
it; and was so captivated with the wit, learning, and good manners of the
charlatan, and so convinced of the justice of his most preposterous
pretensions, that he induced him to fix his residence in Paris. Under the
marshal's patronage, he first appeared in the gay circles of that capital.
Every one was delighted with the mysterious stranger; who, at this period
of his life, appears to have been about seventy years of age, but did not
look more than forty-five. His easy assurance imposed upon most people.
His reading was extensive, and his memory extraordinarily tenacious of the
slightest circumstances. His pretension to have lived for so many
centuries naturally exposed him to some puzzling questions, as to the
appearance, life, and conversation of the great men of former days; but he
was never at a loss for an answer. Many who questioned him for the purpose
of scoffing at him, refrained in perplexity, quite bewildered by his
presence of mind, his ready replies, and his astonishing accuracy on every
point mentioned in history. To increase the mystery by which he was
surrounded, he permitted no person to know how he lived. He dressed in a
style of the greatest magnificence; sported valuable diamonds in his hat,
on his fingers, and in his shoe-buckles; and sometimes made the most
costly presents to the ladies of the court. It was suspected by many that
he was a spy, in the pay of the English ministry; but there never was a
tittle of evidence to support the charge. The king looked upon him with
marked favour, was often closeted with him for hours together, and would
not suffer any body to speak disparagingly of him. Voltaire constantly
turned him into ridicule; and, in one of his letters to the King of
Prussia, mentions him as "un comte pour rire;" and states that he
pretended to have dined with the holy fathers at the Council of Trent!

In the _Memoirs of Madame du Hausset_, chamber-woman to Madame du
Pompadour, there are some amusing anecdotes of this personage. Very soon
after his arrival in Paris, he had the _entrée_ of her dressing-room; a
favour only granted to the most powerful lords at the court of her royal
lover. Madame was fond of conversing with him; and, in her presence, he
thought fit to lower his pretensions very considerably; but he often
allowed her to believe that he had lived two or three hundred years at
least. "One day," says Madame du Hausset, "madame said to him, in my
presence, 'What was the personal appearance of Francis I.? He was a king I
should have liked.' 'He was, indeed, very captivating,' replied St.
Germain; and he proceeded to describe his face and person, as that of a
man whom he had accurately observed. 'It is a pity he was too ardent. I
could have given him some good advice, which would have saved him from all
his misfortunes: but he would not have followed it; for it seems as if a
fatality attended princes, forcing them to shut their ears to the wisest
counsel.' 'Was his court very brilliant?' inquired Madame du Pompadour.
'Very,' replied the count; 'but those of his grandsons surpassed it. In
the time of Mary Stuart and Margaret of Valois, it was a land of
enchantment--a temple sacred to pleasures of every kind.' Madame said,
laughing, 'You seem to have seen all this.' 'I have an excellent memory,'
said he, 'and have read the history of France with great care. I sometimes
amuse myself, not by making, but by letting, it be believed that I lived
in old times.'

"'But you do not tell us your age,' said Madame du Pompadour to him on
another occasion; 'and yet you pretend you are very old. The Countess de
Gergy, who was, I believe, ambassadress at Vienna some fifty years ago,
says she saw you there, exactly the same as you now appear.'

"'It is true, madame,' replied St. Germain; 'I knew Madame de Gergy many
years ago.'

"'But, according to her account, you must be more than a hundred years

"'That is not impossible,' said he, laughing; 'but it is much more
possible that the good lady is in her dotage.'

"'You gave her an elixir, surprising for the effects it produced; for she
says, that during a length of time, she only appeared to be eighty-four;
the age at which she took it. Why don't you give it to the king?'

"'Oh, madam,' he exclaimed, 'the physicians would have me broken on the
wheel, were I to think of drugging his majesty.'"

When the world begins to believe extraordinary things of an individual,
there is no telling where its extravagance will stop. People, when once
they have taken the start, vie with each other who shall believe most. At
this period all Paris resounded with the wonderful adventures of the Count
de St. Germain; and a company of waggish young men tried the following
experiment upon its credulity: A clever mimic, who, on account of the
amusement he afforded, was admitted into good society, was taken by them,
dressed as the Count de St. Germain, into several houses in the Rue du
Marais. He imitated the count's peculiarities admirably, and found his
auditors open-mouthed to believe any absurdity he chose to utter. No
fiction was too monstrous for their all-devouring credulity. He spoke of
the Saviour of the world in terms of the greatest familiarity; said he had
supped with him at the marriage in Canaan of Galilee, where the water was
miraculously turned into wine. In fact, he said he was an intimate friend
of his, and had often warned him to be less romantic and imprudent, or he
would finish his career miserably. This infamous blasphemy, strange to
say, found believers; and ere three days had elapsed, it was currently
reported that St. Germain was born soon after the deluge, and that he
would never die!

St. Germain himself was too much a man of the world to assert any thing so
monstrous; but he took no pains to contradict the story. In all his
conversations with persons of rank and education, he advanced his claims
modestly, and as if by mere inadvertency, and seldom pretended to a
longevity beyond three hundred years, except when he found he was in
company with persons who would believe any thing. He often spoke of Henry
VIII. as if he had known him intimately, and of the Emperor Charles V. as
if that monarch had delighted in his society. He would describe
conversations which took place with such an apparent truthfulness, and be
so exceedingly minute and particular as to the dress and appearance of the
individuals, and even the weather at the time and the furniture of the
room, that three persons out of four were generally inclined to credit
him. He had constant applications from rich old women for an elixir to
make them young again, and it would appear gained large sums in this
manner. To those whom he was pleased to call his friends he said his mode
of living and plan of diet were far superior to any elixir, and that any
body might attain a patriarchal age by refraining from drinking at meals,
and very sparingly at any other time. The Baron de Gleichen followed this
system, and took great quantities of senna leaves, expecting to live for
two hundred years. He died, however, at seventy-three. The Duchess de
Choiseul was desirous of following the same system, but the duke her
husband in much wrath forbade her to follow any system prescribed by a man
who had so equivocal a reputation as M. de St. Germain.

Madame du Hausset says she saw St. Germain and conversed with him several
times. He appeared to her to be about fifty years of age, was of the
middle size, and had fine expressive features. His dress was always
simple, but displayed much taste. He usually wore diamond rings of great
value, and his watch and snuff-box were ornamented with a profusion of
precious stones. One day, at Madame du Pompadour's apartments, where the
principal courtiers were assembled, St. Germain made his appearance in
diamond knee and shoe buckles of so fine a water, that madame said she did
not think the king had any equal to them. He was entreated to pass into
the antechamber and undo them, which he did, and brought them to madame
for closer inspection. M. de Gontant, who was present, said their value
could not be less than two hundred thousand livres, or upwards of eight
thousand pounds sterling. The Baron de Gleichen, in his _Memoirs_, relates
that the count one day shewed him so many diamonds, that he thought he saw
before him all the treasures of Aladdin's lamp; and adds, that he had had
great experience in precious stones, and was convinced that all those
possessed by the count were genuine. On another occasion St. Germain
shewed Madame du Pompadour a small box, containing topazes, emeralds, and
diamonds worth half a million of livres. He affected to despise all this
wealth, to make the world more easily believe that he could, like the
Rosicrucians, draw precious stones out of the earth by the magic of his
song. He gave away a great number of these jewels to the ladies of the
court; and Madame du Pompadour was so charmed with his generosity, that
she gave him a richly enamelled snuff-box as a token of her regard, on the
lid of which was beautifully painted a portrait of Socrates, or some other
Greek sage, to whom she compared him. He was not only lavish to the
mistresses, but to the maids. Madame du Hausset says: "The count came to
see Madame du Pompadour, who was very ill, and lay on the sofa. He shewed
her diamonds enough to furnish a king's treasury. Madame sent for me to
see all those beautiful things. I looked at them with an air of the utmost
astonishment; but I made signs to her that I thought them all false. The
count felt for something in a pocket-book about twice as large as a
spectacle-case, and at length drew out two or three little paper packets,
which he unfolded, and exhibited a superb ruby. He threw on the table,
with a contemptuous air, a little cross of green and white stones. I
looked at it, and said it was not to be despised. I then put it on, and
admired it greatly. The count begged me to accept it; I refused. He urged
me to take it. At length he pressed so warmly, that madame, seeing it
could not be worth more than a thousand livres, made me a sign to accept
it. I took the cross, much pleased with the count's politeness."

How the adventurer obtained his wealth remains a secret. He could not have
made it all by the sale of his _elixir vitæ_ in Germany, though no doubt
some portion of it was derived from that source. Voltaire positively says
he was in the pay of foreign governments; and in his letter to the King of
Prussia, dated the 5th of April 1758, says that he was initiated in all
the secrets of Choiseul, Kaunitz, and Pitt. Of what use he could be to any
of those ministers, and to Choiseul especially, is a mystery of mysteries.

There appears no doubt that he possessed the secret of removing spots from
diamonds; and in all probability he gained considerable sums by buying at
inferior prices such as had flaws in them, and afterwards disposing of
them at a profit of cent per cent. Madame du Hausset relates the following
anecdote on this particular: "The king," says she, "ordered a
middling-sized diamond, which had a flaw in it, to be brought to him.
After having it weighed, his majesty said to the count, 'The value of this
diamond as it is, and with the flaw in it, is six thousand livres; without
the flaw, it would be worth at least ten thousand. Will you undertake to
make me a gainer of four thousand livres?' St. Germain examined it very
attentively, and said, 'It is possible; it may be done. I will bring it
you again in a month.' At the time appointed the count brought back the
diamond without a spot, and gave it to the king. It was wrapped in a cloth
of amianthos, which he took off. The king had it weighed immediately, and
found it very little diminished. His majesty then sent it to his jeweller
by M. de Gontant, without telling him of any thing that had passed. The
jeweller gave nine thousand six hundred livres for it. The king, however,
sent for the diamond back again, and said he would keep it as a curiosity.
He could not overcome his surprise, and said M. de St. Germain must be
worth millions, especially if he possessed the secret of making large
diamonds out of small ones. The count neither said that he could or could
not, but positively asserted that he knew how to make pearls grow, and
give them the finest water. The king paid him great attention, and so did
Madame du Pompadour. M. du Quesnoy once said that St. Germain was a quack,
but the king reprimanded him. In fact, his majesty appears infatuated by
him, and sometimes talks of him as if his descent were illustrious."

St. Germain had a most amusing vagabond for a servant, to whom he would
often appeal for corroboration, when relating some wonderful event that
happened centuries before. The fellow, who was not without ability,
generally corroborated him in a most satisfactory manner. Upon one
occasion, his master was telling a party of ladies and gentlemen, at
dinner, some conversation he had had in Palestine with King Richard I. of
England, whom he described as a very particular friend of his. Signs of
astonishment and incredulity were visible on the faces of the company;
upon which St. Germain very coolly turned to his servant, who stood behind
his chair, and asked him if he had not spoken truth? "I really cannot
say," replied the man, without moving a muscle; "you forget, sir, I have
only been five hundred years in your service!" "Ah! true," said his
master; "I remember now; it was a little before your time!"

Occasionally, when with men whom he could not so easily dupe, he gave
utterance to the contempt with which he could scarcely avoid regarding
such gaping credulity. "These fools of Parisians," said he to the Baron de
Gleichen, "believe me to be more than five hundred years old; and, since
they will have it so, I confirm them in their idea. Not but that I really
am much older than I appear."

Many other stories are related of this strange impostor; but enough have
been quoted to shew his character and pretensions. It appears that he
endeavoured to find the philosopher's stone; but never boasted of
possessing it. The Prince of Hesse Cassel, whom he had known years before,
in Germany, wrote urgent letters to him, entreating him to quit Paris, and
reside with him. St. Germain at last consented. Nothing further is known
of his career. There were no gossipping memoir-writers at the court of
Hesse Cassel to chronicle his sayings and doings. He died at Sleswig,
under the roof of his friend the prince, in the year 1784.


This famous charlatan, the friend and successor of St. Germain, ran a
career still more extraordinary. He was the arch-quack of his age, the
last of the great pretenders to the philosopher's stone and the water of
life, and during his brief season of prosperity, one of the most
conspicuous characters of Europe.

His real name was Joseph Balsamo. He was born at Palermo, about the year
1743, of humble parentage. He had the misfortune to lose his father during
his infancy, and his education was left in consequence to some relatives
of his mother, the latter being too poor to afford him any instruction
beyond mere reading and writing. He was sent in his fifteenth year to a
monastery, to be taught the elements of chemistry and physic; but his
temper was so impetuous, his indolence so invincible, and his vicious
habits so deeply rooted, that he made no progress. After remaining some
years, he left it with the character of an uninformed and dissipated young
man, with good natural talents but a bad disposition. When he became of
age, he abandoned himself to a life of riot and debauchery, and entered
himself, in fact, into that celebrated fraternity, known in France and
Italy as the "Knights of Industry," and in England as the "Swell Mob." He
was far from being an idle or unwilling member of the corps. The first way
in which he distinguished himself was by forging orders of admission to
the theatres. He afterwards robbed his uncle, and counterfeited a will.
For acts like these, he paid frequent compulsory visits to the prisons of
Palermo. Somehow or other he acquired the character of a sorcerer--of a
man who had failed in discovering the secrets of alchymy, and had sold his
soul to the devil for the gold which he was not able to make by means of
transmutation. He took no pains to disabuse the popular mind on this
particular, but rather encouraged the belief than otherwise. He at last
made use of it to cheat a silversmith named Marano, of about sixty ounces
of gold, and was in consequence obliged to leave Palermo. He persuaded
this man that he could shew him a treasure hidden in a cave, for which
service he was to receive the sixty ounces of gold, while the silversmith
was to have all the treasure for the mere trouble of digging it up. They
went together at midnight to an excavation in the vicinity of Palermo,
where Balsamo drew a magic circle, and invoked the devil to shew his
treasures. Suddenly there appeared half a dozen fellows, the accomplices
of the swindler, dressed to represent devils, with horns on their heads,
claws to their fingers, and vomiting apparently red and blue flame. They
were armed with pitchforks, with which they belaboured poor Marano till he
was almost dead, and robbed him of his sixty ounces of gold and all the
valuables he carried about his person. They then made off, accompanied by
Balsamo, leaving the unlucky silversmith to recover or die at his leisure.
Nature chose the former course; and soon after daylight he was restored to
his senses, smarting in body from his blows and in spirit for the
deception of which he had been the victim. His first impulse was to
denounce Balsamo to the magistrates of the town; but on further reflection
he was afraid of the ridicule that a full exposure of all the
circumstances would draw upon him; he therefore took the truly Italian
resolution of being revenged on Balsamo, by murdering him at the first
convenient opportunity. Having given utterance to this threat in the
hearing of a friend of Balsamo, it was reported to the latter, who
immediately packed up his valuables and quitted Europe.

He chose Medina, in Arabia, for his future dwelling-place, and there
became acquainted with a Greek named Altotas, a man exceedingly well
versed in all the languages of the East, and an indefatigable student of
alchymy. He possessed an invaluable collection of Arabian manuscripts on
his favourite science, and studied them with such unremitting industry
that he found he had not sufficient time to attend to his crucibles and
furnaces without neglecting his books. He was looking about for an
assistant when Balsamo opportunely presented himself, and made so
favourable an impression that he was at once engaged in that capacity. But
the relation of master and servant did not long subsist between them;
Balsamo was too ambitious and too clever to play a secondary part, and
within fifteen days of their first acquaintance they were bound together
as friends and partners. Altotas, in the course of a long life devoted to
alchymy, had stumbled upon some valuable discoveries in chemistry, one of
which was an ingredient for improving the manufacture of flax, and
imparting to goods of that material a gloss and softness almost equal to
silk. Balsamo gave him the good advice to leave the philosopher's stone
for the present undiscovered, and make gold out of their flax. The advice
was taken, and they proceeded together to Alexandria to trade, with a
large stock of that article. They stayed forty days in Alexandria, and
gained a considerable sum by their venture. They afterwards visited other
cities in Egypt, and were equally successful. They also visited Turkey,
where they sold drugs and amulets. On their return to Europe, they were
driven by stress of weather into Malta, and were hospitably received by
Pinto, the Grand Master of the Knights, and a famous alchymist. They
worked in his laboratory for some months, and tried hard to change a
pewter platter into a silver one. Balsamo, having less faith than his
companions, was sooner wearied; and obtaining from his host many letters
of introduction to Rome and Naples, he left him and Altotas to find the
philosopher's stone and transmute the pewter platter without him.

He had long since dropped the name of Balsamo on account of the many ugly
associations that clung to it; and during his travels had assumed at least
half a score others, with titles annexed to them. He called himself
sometimes the Chevalier de Fischio, the Marquis de Melissa, the Baron de
Belmonte, de Pelligrini, d'Anna, de Fenix, de Harat, but most commonly the
Count de Cagliostro. Under the latter title he entered Rome, and never
afterwards changed it. In this city he gave himself out as the restorer of
the Rosicrucian philosophy; said he could transmute all metals into gold;
that he could render himself invisible, cure all diseases, and administer
an elixir against old age and decay. His letters from the Grand Master
Pinto procured him an introduction into the best families. He made money
rapidly by the sale of his _elixir vitæ_; and, like other quacks,
performed many remarkable cures by inspiring his patients with the most
complete faith and reliance upon his powers; an advantage which the most
impudent charlatans often possess over the regular practitioner.

While thus in a fair way of making his fortune he became acquainted with
the beautiful Lorenza Feliciana, a young lady of noble birth, but without
fortune. Cagliostro soon discovered that she possessed accomplishments
that were invaluable. Besides her ravishing beauty, she had the readiest
wit, the most engaging manners, the most fertile imagination, and the
least principle of any of the maidens of Rome. She was just the wife for
Cagliostro, who proposed himself to her, and was accepted. After their
marriage, he instructed his fair Lorenza in all the secrets of his
calling--taught her pretty lips to invoke angels, and genii, sylphs,
salamanders, and undines, and, when need required, devils and evil
spirits. Lorenza was an apt scholar; she soon learned all the jargon of
the alchymists and all the spells of the enchanters; and thus accomplished
the hopeful pair set out on their travels, to levy contributions on the
superstitious and the credulous.

They first went to Sleswig on a visit to the Count de St. Germain, their
great predecessor in the art of making dupes, and were received by him in
the most magnificent manner. They no doubt fortified their minds for the
career they had chosen by the sage discourse of that worshipful gentleman;
for immediately after they left him, they began their operations. They
travelled for three or four years in Russia, Poland, and Germany,
transmuting metals, telling fortunes, raising spirits, and selling the
_elixir vitæ_ wherever they went; but there is no record of their doings
from whence to draw a more particular detail. It was not until they made
their appearance in England in 1776, that the names of the Count and
Countess di Cagliostro began to acquire a European reputation. They
arrived in London in the July of that year, possessed of property, in
plate, jewels, and specie, to the amount of about three thousand pounds.
They hired apartments in Whitcombe Street, and lived for some months
quietly. In the same house there lodged a Portuguese woman, named Blavary,
who, being in necessitous circumstances, was engaged by the count as
interpreter. She was constantly admitted into his laboratory, where he
spent much of his time in search of the philosopher's stone. She spread
abroad the fame of her entertainer in return for his hospitality, and
laboured hard to impress every body with as full a belief in his
extraordinary powers as she felt herself; but as a female interpreter of
the rank and appearance of Madame Blavary did not exactly correspond with
the count's notions either of dignity or decorum, he hired a person named
Vitellini, a teacher of languages, to act in that capacity. Vitellini was
a desperate gambler, a man who had tried almost every resource to repair
his ruined fortunes, including among the rest the search for the
philosopher's stone. Immediately that he saw the count's operations, he
was convinced that the great secret was his, and that the golden gates of
the palace of fortune were open to let him in. With still more enthusiasm
than Madame Blavary, he held forth to his acquaintance, and in all public
places, that the count was an extraordinary man, a true adept, whose
fortune was immense, and who could transmute into pure and solid gold as
much lead, iron, and copper as he pleased. The consequence was, that the
house of Cagliostro was besieged by crowds of the idle, the credulous, and
the avaricious, all eager to obtain a sight of the "philosopher," or to
share in the boundless wealth which he could call into existence.

Unfortunately for Cagliostro, he had fallen into evil hands. Instead of
duping the people of England, as he might have done, he became himself the
victim of a gang of swindlers, who, with the fullest reliance on his
occult powers, only sought to make money of him. Vitellini introduced to
him a ruined gambler like himself, named Scot, whom he represented as a
Scottish nobleman, attracted to London solely by his desire to see and
converse with the extraordinary man whose fame had spread to the distant
mountains of the north. Cagliostro received him with great kindness and
cordiality; and "Lord" Scot thereupon introduced a woman named Fry as Lady
Scot, who was to act as chaperone to the Countess di Cagliostro, and make
her acquainted with all the noble families of Britain. Thus things went
swimmingly. "His lordship," whose effects had not arrived from Scotland,
and who had no banker in London, borrowed two hundred pounds of the count.
They were lent without scruple, so flattered was Cagliostro by the
attentions they paid him, the respect, nay veneration they pretended to
feel for him, and the complete deference with which they listened to every
word that fell from his lips.

Superstitious like all desperate gamesters, Scot had often tried magical
and cabalistic numbers, in the hope of discovering lucky numbers in the
lottery or at the roulette-tables. He had in his possession a cabalistic
manuscript, containing various arithmetical combinations of the kind,
which he submitted to Cagliostro, with an urgent request that he would
select a number. Cagliostro took the manuscript and studied it, but, as he
himself informs us, with no confidence in its truth. He, however,
predicted twenty as the successful number for the 6th of November
following. Scot ventured a small sum upon this number out of the two
hundred pounds he had borrowed, and won. Cagliostro, incited by this
success, prognosticated number twenty-five for the next drawing. Scot
tried again, and won a hundred guineas. The numbers fifty-five and
fifty-seven were announced with equal success for the 18th of the same
month, to the no small astonishment and delight of Cagliostro, who
thereupon resolved to try fortune for himself, and not for others. To all
the entreaties of Scot and his lady that he would predict more numbers for
them, he turned a deaf ear, even while he still thought him a lord and a
man of honour; but when he discovered that he was a mere swindler, and the
pretended Lady Scot an artful woman of the town, he closed his door upon
them and on all their gang.

Having complete faith in the supernatural powers of the count, they were
in the deepest distress at having lost his countenance. They tried by
every means their ingenuity could suggest to propitiate him again. They
implored, they threatened, and endeavoured to bribe him; but all was vain.
Cagliostro would neither see nor correspond with them. In the mean time
they lived extravagantly, and in the hope of future, exhausted all their
present gains. They were reduced to the last extremity, when Miss Fry
obtained access to the countess, and received a guinea from her on the
representation that she was starving. Miss Fry, not contented with this,
begged her to intercede with her husband, that for the last time he would
point out a lucky number in the lottery. The countess promised to exert
her influence; and Cagliostro, thus entreated, named the number eight, at
the same time reiterating his determination to have no more to do with any
of them. By an extraordinary hazard, which filled Cagliostro with surprise
and pleasure, number eight was the greatest prize in the lottery. Miss Fry
and her associates cleared fifteen hundred guineas by the adventure, and
became more than ever convinced of the occult powers of Cagliostro, and
strengthened in their determination never to quit him until they had made
their fortunes. Out of the proceeds Miss Fry bought a handsome necklace at
a pawnbroker's for ninety guineas. She then ordered a richly-chased gold
box, having two compartments, to be made at a jeweller's, and putting the
necklace in the one, filled the other with a fine aromatic snuff. She then
sought another interview with Madame di Cagliostro, and urged her to
accept the box as a small token of her esteem and gratitude, without
mentioning the valuable necklace that was concealed in it. Madame di
Cagliostro accepted the present, and was from that hour exposed to the
most incessant persecution from all the confederates--Blavary, Vitellini,
and the pretended Lord and Lady Scot. They flattered themselves they had
regained their lost footing in the house, and came day after day to know
lucky numbers in the lottery, sometimes forcing themselves up the stairs,
and into the count's laboratory, in spite of the efforts of the servants
to prevent them. Cagliostro, exasperated at their pertinacity, threatened
to call in the assistance of the magistrates, and taking Miss Fry by the
shoulders, pushed her into the street.

From that time may be dated the misfortunes of Cagliostro. Miss Fry, at
the instigation of her paramour, determined on vengeance. Her first act
was to swear a debt of two hundred pounds against Cagliostro, and to cause
him to be arrested for that sum. While he was in custody in a
sponging-house, Scot, accompanied by a low attorney, broke into his
laboratory, and carried off a small box, containing, as they believed, the
powder of transmutation, and a number of cabalistic manuscripts and
treatises upon alchymy. They also brought an action against him for the
recovery of the necklace; and Miss Fry accused both him and his countess
of sorcery and witchcraft, and of foretelling numbers in the lottery by
the aid of the Devil. This latter charge was actually heard before Mr.
Justice Miller. The action of trover for the necklace was tried before the
Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, who recommended the parties to
submit to arbitration. In the mean time Cagliostro remained in prison for
several weeks, till having procured bail, he was liberated. He was soon
after waited upon by an attorney named Reynolds, also deep in the plot,
who offered to compromise all the actions upon certain conditions. Scot,
who had accompanied him, concealed himself behind the door, and suddenly
rushing out, presented a pistol at the heart of Cagliostro, swearing he
would shoot him instantly, if he would not tell him truly the art of
predicting lucky numbers and of transmuting metals. Reynolds pretending to
be very angry, disarmed his accomplice, and entreated the count to satisfy
them by fair means, and disclose his secrets, promising that if he would
do so, they would discharge all the actions, and offer him no further
molestation. Cagliostro replied, that threats and entreaties were alike
useless; that he knew no secrets; and that the powder of transmutation of
which they had robbed him, was of no value to any body but himself. He
offered, however, if they would discharge the actions, and return the
powder and the manuscripts, to forgive them all the money they had
swindled him out of. These conditions were refused; and Scot and Reynolds
departed, swearing vengeance against him.

Cagliostro appears to have been quite ignorant of the forms of law in
England, and to have been without a friend to advise him as to the best
course he should pursue. While he was conversing with his countess on the
difficulties that beset them, one of his bail called, and invited him to
ride in a hackney coach to the house of a person who would see him
righted. Cagliostro consented, and was driven to the King's Bench prison,
where his friend left him. He did not discover for several hours that he
was a prisoner, or, in fact, understand the process of being surrendered
by one's bail.

He regained his liberty in a few weeks; and the arbitrators between him
and Miss Fry made their award against him. He was ordered to pay the two
hundred pounds she had sworn against him, and to restore the necklace and
gold box which had been presented to the countess. Cagliostro was so
disgusted, that he determined to quit England. His pretensions, besides,
had been unmercifully exposed by a Frenchman, named Morande, the editor of
the _Courrier de l'Europe_, published in London. To add to his distress,
he was recognised in Westminster Hall as Joseph Balsamo, the swindler of
Palermo. Such a complication of disgrace was not to be borne. He and his
countess packed up their small effects, and left England with no more than
fifty pounds, out of the three thousand they had brought with them.

They first proceeded to Brussels, where fortune was more auspicious. They
sold considerable quantities of the elixir of life, performed many cures,
and recruited their finances. They then took their course through Germany
to Russia, and always with the same success. Gold flowed into their
coffers faster than they could count it. They quite forgot all the woes
they had endured in England, and learned to be more circumspect in the
choice of their acquaintance.

In the year 1780, they made their appearance in Strasbourg. Their fame had
reached that city before them. They took a magnificent hotel, and invited
all the principal persons of the place to their table. Their wealth
appeared to be boundless, and their hospitality equal to it. Both the
count and countess acted as physicians, and gave money, advice, and
medicine to all the necessitous and suffering of the town. Many of the
cures they performed astonished those regular practitioners who did not
make sufficient allowance for the wonderful influence of imagination in
certain cases. The countess, who at this time was not more than
five-and-twenty, and all radiant with grace, beauty, and cheerfulness,
spoke openly of her eldest son as a fine young man of eight-and-twenty,
who had been for some years a captain in the Dutch service. The trick
succeeded to admiration. All the ugly old women in Strasbourg, and for
miles around, thronged the saloon of the countess to purchase the liquid
which was to make them as blooming as their daughters; the young women
came in equal abundance, that they might preserve their charms, and when
twice as old as Ninon de l'Enclos, be more captivating than she; while men
were not wanting who were fools enough to imagine that they might keep off
the inevitable stroke of the grim foe by a few drops of the same
incomparable elixir. The countess, sooth to say, looked like an
incarnation of immortal loveliness, a very goddess of youth and beauty;
and it is possible that the crowds of young men and old, who at all
convenient seasons haunted the perfumed chambers of this enchantress, were
attracted less by their belief in her occult powers than from admiration
of her languishing bright eyes and sparkling conversation. But amid all
the incense that was offered at her shrine, Madame di Cagliostro was ever
faithful to her spouse. She encouraged hopes, it is true, but she never
realised them; she excited admiration, yet kept it within bounds; and made
men her slaves, without ever granting a favour of which the vainest might

In this city they made the acquaintance of many eminent persons, and,
among others, of the Cardinal Prince de Rohan, who was destined afterwards
to exercise so untoward an influence over their fate. The cardinal, who
seems to have had great faith in him as a philosopher, persuaded him to
visit Paris in his company, which he did, but remained only thirteen days.
He preferred the society of Strasbourg, and returned thither with the
intention of fixing his residence far from the capital. But he soon found
that the first excitement of his arrival had passed away. People began to
reason with themselves, and to be ashamed of their own admiration. The
populace, among whom he had lavished his charity with a bountiful hand,
accused him of being the Antichrist, the Wandering Jew, the man of
fourteen hundred years of age, a demon in human shape, sent to lure the
ignorant to their destruction; while the more opulent and better informed
called him a spy in the pay of foreign governments, an agent of the
police, a swindler, and a man of evil life. The outcry grew at last so
strong, that he deemed it prudent to try his fortune elsewhere.

He went first to Naples, but that city was too near Palermo; he dreaded
recognition from some of his early friends, and, after a short stay,
returned to France. He chose Bourdeaux as his next dwelling-place, and
created as great a sensation there as he had done in Strasbourg. He
announced himself as the founder of a new school of medicine and
philosophy, boasted of his ability to cure all diseases, and invited the
poor and suffering to visit him, and he would relieve the distress of the
one class, and cure the ailings of the other. All day long the street
opposite his magnificent hotel was crowded by the populace; the halt and
the blind, women with sick babes in their arms, and persons suffering
under every species of human infirmity, flocked to this wonderful doctor.
The relief he afforded in money more than counterbalanced the failure of
his nostrums; and the affluence of people from all the surrounding country
became so great, that the _jurats_ of the city granted him a military
guard, to be stationed day and night before his door, to keep order. The
anticipations of Cagliostro were realised. The rich were struck with
admiration of his charity and benevolence, and impressed with a full
conviction of his marvellous powers. The sale of the elixir went on
admirably. His saloons were thronged with wealthy dupes who came to
purchase immortality. Beauty, that would endure for centuries, was the
attraction for the fair sex; health and strength for the same period were
the baits held out to the other. His charming countess, in the meantime,
brought grist to the mill by telling fortunes and casting nativities, or
granting attendant sylphs to any ladies who would pay sufficiently for
their services. What was still better, as tending to keep up the credit of
her husband, she gave the most magnificent parties in Bourdeaux.

But as at Strasbourg, the popular delusion lasted for a few months only,
and burned itself out; Cagliostro forgot, in the intoxication of success,
that there was a limit to quackery which once passed inspired distrust.
When he pretended to call spirits from the tomb, people became
incredulous. He was accused of being an enemy to religion, of denying
Christ, and of being the Wandering Jew. He despised these rumours as long
as they were confined to a few; but when they spread over the town, when
he received no more fees, when his parties were abandoned, and his
acquaintance turned away when they met him in the street, he thought it
high time to shift his quarters.


He was by this time wearied of the provinces, and turned his thoughts to
the capital. On his arrival he announced himself as the restorer of
Egyptian Freemasonry, and the founder of a new philosophy. He immediately
made his way into the best society by means of his friend the Cardinal de
Rohan. His success as a magician was quite extraordinary: the most
considerable persons of the time visited him. He boasted of being able,
like the Rosicrucians, to converse with the elementary spirits; to invoke
the mighty dead from the grave, to transmute metals, and to discover
occult things by means of the special protection of God towards him. Like
Dr. Dee, he summoned the angels to reveal the future; and they appeared
and conversed with him in crystals and under glass bells.[48] "There was
hardly," says the _Biographie des Contemporains_, "a fine lady in Paris
who would not sup with the shade of Lucretius in the apartments of
Cagliostro; a military officer who would not discuss the art of war with
Cæsar, Hannibal, or Alexander; or an advocate or counsellor who would not
argue legal points with the ghost of Cicero." These interviews with the
departed were very expensive; for, as Cagliostro said, the dead would not
rise for nothing. The countess, as usual, exercised all her ingenuity to
support her husband's credit. She was a great favourite with her own sex,
to many a delighted and wondering auditory of whom she detailed the
marvellous powers of Cagliostro. She said he could render himself
invisible, traverse the world with the rapidity of thought, and be in
several places at the same time.[49]

    [48] See the Abbé Fiard, and _Anecdotes of the Reign of Louis
         XVI_. p. 400.

    [49] _Biographie des Contemporains_, article "Cagliostro." See
         also _Histoire de la Magie en France_, par M. Jules Garinet,
         p. 284.

He had not been long at Paris before he became involved in the celebrated
affair of the queen's necklace. His friend the Cardinal de Rohan,
enamoured of the charms of Marie Antoinette, was in sore distress at her
coldness, and the displeasure she had so often manifested against him.
There was at that time a lady named La Motte in the service of the queen,
of whom the cardinal was foolish enough to make a confidant. Madame de la
Motte, in return, endeavoured to make a tool of the cardinal, and
succeeded but too well in her projects. In her capacity of chamber-woman,
or lady of honour to the queen, she was present at an interview between
her majesty and M. Boehmer, a wealthy jeweller of Paris, when the latter
offered for sale a magnificent diamond necklace, valued at 1,600,000
francs, or about 64,000l. sterling. The queen admired it greatly, but
dismissed the jeweller, with the expression of her regret that she was too
poor to purchase it. Madame de la Motte formed a plan to get this costly
ornament into her own possession, and determined to make the Cardinal de
Rohan the instrument by which to effect it. She therefore sought an
interview with him, and pretending to sympathise in his grief for the
queen's displeasure, told him she knew a way by which he might be restored
to favour. She then mentioned the necklace, and the sorrow of the queen
that she could not afford to buy it. The cardinal, who was as wealthy as
he was foolish, immediately offered to purchase the necklace, and make a
present of it to the queen. Madame de la Motte told him by no means to do
so, as he would thereby offend her majesty. His plan would be to induce
the jeweller to give her majesty credit, and accept her promissory note
for the amount at a certain date, to be hereafter agreed upon. The
cardinal readily agreed to the proposal, and instructed the jeweller to
draw up an agreement, and he would procure the queen's signature. He
placed this in the hands of Madame de la Motte, who returned it shortly
afterwards, with the words, "Bon, bon--approuvé--Marie Antoinette,"
written in the margin. She told him at the same time that the queen was
highly pleased with his conduct in the matter, and would appoint a meeting
with him in the gardens of Versailles, when she would present him with a
flower, as a token of her regard. The cardinal shewed the forged document
to the jeweller, obtained the necklace, and delivered it into the hands of
Madame de la Motte. So far all was well. Her next object was to satisfy
the cardinal, who awaited impatiently the promised interview with his
royal mistress. There was at that time in Paris a young woman named
D'Oliva, noted for her resemblance to the queen; and Madame de la Motte,
on the promise of a handsome reward, found no difficulty in persuading her
to personate Marie Antoinette, and meet the Cardinal de Rohan at the
evening twilight in the gardens of Versailles. The meeting took place
accordingly. The cardinal was deceived by the uncertain light, the great
resemblance of the counterfeit, and his own hopes; and having received the
flower from Mademoiselle D'Oliva, went home with a lighter heart than had
beat in his bosom for many a day.[50]

    [50] The enemies of the unfortunate Queen of France, when the
         progress of the Revolution embittered their animosity against
         her, maintained that she was really a party in this
         transaction; that she, and not Mademoiselle D'Oliva, met the
         cardinal and rewarded him with the flower; and that the story
         above related was merely concocted between her La Motte, and
         others to cheat the jeweller of his 1,600,000 francs.

In the course of time the forgery of the queen's signature was discovered.
Boehmer the jeweller immediately named the Cardinal de Rohan and Madame de
la Motte as the persons with whom he had negotiated, and they were both
arrested and thrown into the Bastille. La Motte was subjected to a
rigorous examination, and the disclosures she made implicating Cagliostro,
he was seized, along with his wife, and also sent to the Bastille. A story
involving so much scandal necessarily excited great curiosity. Nothing was
to be heard of in Paris but the queen's necklace, with surmises of the
guilt or innocence of the several parties implicated. The husband of
Madame de la Motte escaped to England, and in the opinion of many took the
necklace with him, and there disposed of it to different jewellers in
small quantities at a time. But Madame de la Motte insisted that she had
entrusted it to Cagliostro, who had seized and taken it to pieces, to
"swell the treasures of his immense unequalled fortune." She spoke of him
as "an empiric, a mean alchymist, a dreamer on the philosopher's stone, a
false prophet, a profaner of the true worship, the self-dubbed Count
Cagliostro!" She further said that he originally conceived the project of
ruining the Cardinal de Rohan; that he persuaded her, by the exercise of
some magic influence over her mind, to aid and abet the scheme; and that
he was a robber, a swindler, and a sorcerer!

After all the accused parties had remained for upwards of six months in
the Bastille, the trial commenced. The depositions of the witnesses having
been heard, Cagliostro, as the principal culprit, was first called upon
for his defence. He was listened to with the most breathless attention. He
put himself into a theatrical attitude, and thus began:--"I am
oppressed!--I am accused!--I am calumniated! Have I deserved this fate? I
descend into my conscience, and I there find the peace that men refuse me!
I have travelled a great deal--I am known over all Europe, and a great
part of Asia and Africa. I have every where shewn myself the friend of my
fellow-creatures. My knowledge, my time, my fortune have ever been
employed in the relief of distress. I have studied and practised medicine;
but I have never degraded that most noble and most consoling of arts by
mercenary speculations of any kind. Though always giving, and never
receiving, I have preserved my independence. I have even carried my
delicacy so far as to refuse the favours of kings. I have given
gratuitously my remedies and my advice to the rich; the poor have received
from me both remedies and money. I have never contracted any debts, and my
manners are pure and uncorrupted." After much more self-laudation of the
same kind, he went on to complain of the great hardships he had endured in
being separated for so many months from his innocent and loving wife, who,
as he was given to understand, had been detained in the Bastille, and
perhaps chained in an unwholesome dungeon. He denied unequivocally that he
had the necklace, or that he had ever seen it; and to silence the rumours
and accusations against him, which his own secrecy with regard to the
events of his life had perhaps originated, he expressed himself ready to
satisfy the curiosity of the public, and to give a plain and full account
of his career. He then told a romantic and incredible tale, which imposed
upon no one. He said he neither knew the place of his birth nor the name
of his parents, but that he spent his infancy in Medina, in Arabia, and
was brought up under the name of Acharat. He lived in the palace of the
Great Muphti in that city, and always had three servants to wait upon him,
besides his preceptor, named Althotas. This Althotas was very fond of him,
and told him that his father and mother, who were Christians and nobles,
died when he was three months old, and left him in the care of the Muphti.
He could never, he said, ascertain their names, for whenever he asked
Althotas the question, he was told that it would be dangerous for him to
know. Some incautious expressions dropped by his preceptor gave him reason
to think they were from Malta. At the age of twelve he began his travels,
and learned the various languages of the East. He remained three years in
Mecca, where the cherif, or governor, shewed him so much kindness, and
spoke to him so tenderly and affectionately, that he sometimes thought
that personage was his father. He quitted this good man with tears in his
eyes, and never saw him afterwards; but he was convinced that he was, even
at that moment, indebted to his care for all the advantages he enjoyed.
Whenever he arrived in any city, either of Europe or Asia, he found an
account opened for him at the principal bankers' or merchants'. He could
draw upon them to the amount of thousands and hundreds of thousands; and
no questions were ever asked beyond his name. He had only to mention the
word 'Acharat,' and all his wants were supplied. He firmly believed that
the Cherif of Mecca was the friend to whom all was owing. This was the
secret of his wealth, and he had no occasion to resort to swindling for a
livelihood. It was not worth his while to steal a diamond necklace when he
had wealth enough to purchase as many as he pleased, and more magnificent
ones than had ever been worn by a queen of France. As to the other charges
brought against him by Madame de la Motte, he had but a short answer to
give. She had called him an empiric. He was not unfamiliar with the word.
If it meant a man who, without being a physician, had some knowledge of
medicine, and took no fees--who cured both rich and poor, and took no
money from either, he confessed that he was such a man, that he was an
empiric. She had also called him a mean alchymist. Whether he were an
alchymist or not, the epithet _mean_ could only be applied to those who
begged and cringed, and he had never done either. As regarded his being a
dreamer about the philosopher's stone, whatever his opinions upon that
subject might be, he had been silent, and had never troubled the public
with his dreams. Then, as to his being a false prophet, he had not always
been so; for he had prophesied to the Cardinal de Rohan, that Madame de la
Motte would prove a dangerous woman, and the result had verified the
prediction. He denied that he was a profaner of the true worship, or that
he had ever striven to bring religion into contempt; on the contrary, he
respected every man's religion, and never meddled with it. He also denied
that he was a Rosicrucian, or that he had ever pretended to be three
hundred years of age, or to have had one man in his service for a hundred
and fifty years. In conclusion, he said every statement that Madame de la
Motte had made regarding him was false, and that she was _mentiris
impudentissime_, which two words he begged her counsel to translate for
her, as it was not polite to tell her so in French.

Such was the substance of his extraordinary answer to the charges against
him; an answer which convinced those who were before doubtful that he was
one of the most impudent impostors that had ever run the career of
deception. Counsel were then heard on behalf of the Cardinal de Rohan and
Madame de la Motte. It appearing clearly that the cardinal was himself the
dupe of a vile conspiracy, and there being no evidence against Cagliostro,
they were both acquitted. Madame de la Motte was found guilty, and
sentenced to be publicly whipped, and branded with a hot iron on the back.

Cagliostro and his wife were then discharged from custody. On applying to
the officers of the Bastille for the papers and effects which had been
seized at his lodgings, he found that many of them had been abstracted. He
thereupon brought an action against them for the recovery of his Mss. and
a small portion of the powder of transmutation. Before the affair could be
decided, he received orders to quit Paris within four-and-twenty hours.
Fearing that if he were once more enclosed in the dungeons of the Bastille
he should never see daylight again, he took his departure immediately and
proceeded to England. On his arrival in London he made the acquaintance of
the notorious Lord George Gordon, who espoused his cause warmly, and
inserted a letter in the public papers, animadverting upon the conduct of
the Queen of France in the affair of the necklace, and asserting that she
was really the guilty party. For this letter Lord George was exposed to a
prosecution at the instance of the French ambassador, found guilty of
libel, and sentenced to fine and a long imprisonment.

Cagliostro and the countess afterwards travelled in Italy, where they were
arrested by the Papal government in 1789, and condemned to death. The
charges against him were, that he was a freemason, a heretic, and a
sorcerer. This unjustifiable sentence was afterwards commuted into one of
perpetual imprisonment in the Castle of St. Angelo. His wife was allowed
to escape severer punishment by immuring herself in a nunnery. Cagliostro
did not long survive. The loss of liberty preyed upon his
mind--accumulated misfortunes had injured his health and broken his
spirit, and he died early in 1790. His fate may have been no better than
he deserved, but it is impossible not to feel that his sentence for the
crimes assigned was utterly disgraceful to the government that pronounced


We have now finished the list of the persons who have most distinguished
themselves in this unprofitable pursuit. Among them are men of all ranks,
characters, and conditions: the truth-seeking but erring philosopher; the
ambitious prince and the needy noble, who have believed in it; as well as
the designing charlatan, who has not believed in it, but has merely made
the pretension to it the means of cheating his fellows, and living upon
their credulity. One or more of all these classes will be found in the
foregoing pages. It will be seen, from the record of their lives, that the
delusion was not altogether without its uses. Men, in striving to gain too
much, do not always overreach themselves; if they cannot arrive at the
inaccessible mountain-top, they may perhaps get half way towards it, and
pick up some scraps of wisdom and knowledge on the road. The useful
science of chemistry is not a little indebted to its spurious brother of
alchymy. Many valuable discoveries have been made in that search for the
impossible, which might otherwise have been hidden for centuries yet to
come. Roger Bacon, in searching for the philosopher's stone, discovered
gunpowder, a still more extraordinary substance. Van Helmont, in the same
pursuit, discovered the properties of gas; Geber made discoveries in
chemistry which were equally important; and Paracelsus, amidst his
perpetual visions of the transmutation of metals, found that mercury was a
remedy for one of the most odious and excruciating of all the diseases
that afflict humanity.

In our day little mention is made in Europe of any new devotees of the
science, though it is affirmed that one or two of our most illustrious men
of science do not admit the pursuit to be so absurd and vain as it has
been commonly considered in recent times. The belief in witchcraft, which
is scarcely more absurd, still lingers in the popular mind; but few are so
credulous as to believe that any elixir could make man live for centuries,
or turn all our iron and pewter into gold. Alchymy, in Europe, may be said
to be almost wholly exploded; but in the East it still flourishes in as
great repute as ever. Recent travellers make constant mention of it,
especially in China, Hindostan, Persia, Tartary, Egypt, and Arabia.


[Illustration: A]

An epidemic terror of the end of the world has several times spread over
the nations. The most remarkable was that which seized Christendom about
the middle of the tenth century. Numbers of fanatics appeared in France,
Germany, and Italy at that time, preaching that the thousand years
prophesied in the Apocalypse as the term of the world's duration were
about to expire, and that the Son of Man would appear in the clouds to
judge the godly and the ungodly. The delusion appears to have been
discouraged by the Church, but it nevertheless spread rapidly among the

    [51] See Gibbon and Voltaire for further notice of this subject.

The scene of the last judgment was expected to be at Jerusalem. In the
year 999, the number of pilgrims proceeding eastward, to await the coming
of the Lord in that city, was so great that they were compared to a
desolating army. Most of them sold their goods and possessions before they
quitted Europe, and lived upon the proceeds in the Holy Land. Buildings of
every sort were suffered to fall into ruins. It was thought useless to
repair them, when the end of the world was so near. Many noble edifices
were deliberately pulled down. Even churches, usually so well maintained,
shared the general neglect. Knights, citizens, and serfs, travelled
eastwards in company, taking with them their wives and children, singing
psalms as they went, and looking with fearful eyes upon the sky, which
they expected each minute to open, to let the Son of God descend in his

During the thousandth year the number of pilgrims increased. Most of them
were smitten with terror as with a plague. Every phenomenon of nature
filled them with alarm. A thunder-storm sent them all upon their knees in
mid-march. It was the opinion that thunder was the voice of God,
announcing the day of judgment. Numbers expected the earth to open, and
give up its dead at the sound. Every meteor in the sky seen at Jerusalem
brought the whole Christian population into the streets to weep and pray.
The pilgrims on the road were in the same alarm:

   "Lorsque, pendant la nuit, un globe de lumière
      S'échappa quelquefois de la voûte de cieux,
      Et traça dans sa chûte un long sillon de feux,
    La troupe suspendit sa marche solitaire."[52]

    [52] _Charlemagne: Poëme épique par Lucien Buonaparte._

Fanatic preachers kept up the flame of terror. Every shooting star
furnished occasion for a sermon, in which the sublimity of the approaching
judgment was the principal topic.

The appearance of comets has been often thought to foretell the speedy
dissolution of this world. Part of this belief still exists; but the comet
is no longer looked upon as the sign, but the agent of destruction. So
lately as in the year 1832 the greatest alarm spread over the continent of
Europe, especially in Germany, lest the comet, whose appearance was then
foretold by astronomers, should destroy the earth. The danger of our globe
was gravely discussed. Many persons refrained from undertaking or
concluding any business during that year, in consequence solely of their
apprehension that this terrible comet would dash us and our world to

During seasons of great pestilence, men have often believed the prophecies
of crazed fanatics, that the end of the world was come. Credulity is
always greatest in times of calamity. During the great plague, which
ravaged all Europe between the years 1345 and 1350, it was generally
considered that the end of the world was at hand. Pretended prophets were
to be found in all the principal cities of Germany, France, and Italy,
predicting that within ten years the trump of the archangel would sound,
and the Saviour appear in the clouds to call the earth to judgment.

No little consternation was created in London in 1736 by the prophecy of
the famous Whiston, that the world would be destroyed in that year, on the
13th of October. Crowds of people went out on the appointed day to
Islington, Hampstead, and the fields intervening, to see the destruction
of London, which was to be the "beginning of the end." A satirical account
of this folly is given in Swift's _Miscellanies_, vol. iii., entitled _A
true and faithful Narrative of what passed in London on a Rumour of the
Day of Judgment_. An authentic narrative of this delusion would be
interesting; but this solemn witticism of Pope and Gay is not to be
depended upon.

In the year 1761 the citizens of London were alarmed by two shocks of an
earthquake, and the prophecy of a third, which was to destroy them
altogether. The first shock was felt on the 8th of February, and threw
down several chimneys in the neighbourhood of Limehouse and Poplar; the
second happened on the 8th of March, and was chiefly felt in the north of
London, and towards Hampstead and Highgate. It soon became the subject of
general remark, that there was exactly an interval of a month between the
shocks; and a crack-brained fellow, named Bell, a soldier in the Life
Guards, was so impressed with the idea that there would be a third in
another month, that he lost his senses altogether, and ran about the
streets predicting the destruction of London on the 5th of April. Most
people thought that the _first_ would have been a more appropriate day;
but there were not wanting thousands who confidently believed the
prediction, and took measures to transport themselves and families from
the scene of the impending calamity. As the awful day approached, the
excitement became intense, and great numbers of credulous people resorted
to all the villages within a circuit of twenty miles, awaiting the doom of
London. Islington, Highgate, Hampstead, Harrow, and Blackheath, were
crowded with panic-stricken fugitives, who paid exorbitant prices for
accommodation to the housekeepers of these secure retreats. Such as could
not afford to pay for lodgings at any of those places, remained in London
until two or three days before the time, and then encamped in the
surrounding fields, awaiting the tremendous shock which was to lay their
high city all level with the dust. As happened during a similar panic in
the time of Henry VIII., the fear became contagious, and hundreds who had
laughed at the prediction a week before, packed up their goods, when they
saw others doing so, and hastened away. The river was thought to be a
place of great security, and all the merchant-vessels in the port were
filled with people, who passed the night between the 4th and 5th on board,
expecting every instant to see St. Paul's totter, and the towers of
Westminster Abbey rock in the wind and fall amid a cloud of dust. The
greater part of the fugitives returned on the following day, convinced
that the prophet was a false one; but many judged it more prudent to allow
a week to elapse before they trusted their dear limbs in London. Bell lost
all credit in a short time, and was looked upon even by the most credulous
as a mere madman. He tried some other prophecies, but nobody was deceived
by them; and, in a few months afterwards, he was confined in a lunatic

A panic terror of the end of the world seized the good people of Leeds and
its neighbourhood in the year 1806. It arose from the following
circumstances. A hen, in a village close by, laid eggs, on which were
inscribed the words, "_Christ is coming_." Great numbers visited the spot,
and examined these wondrous eggs, convinced that the day of judgment was
near at hand. Like sailors in a storm, expecting every instant to go to
the bottom, the believers suddenly became religious, prayed violently, and
flattered themselves that they repented them of their evil courses. But a
plain tale soon put them down, and quenched their religion entirely. Some
gentlemen, hearing of the matter, went one fine morning, and caught the
poor hen in the act of laying one of her miraculous eggs. They soon
ascertained beyond doubt that the egg had been inscribed with some
corrosive ink, and cruelly forced up again into the bird's body. At this
explanation, those who had prayed, now laughed, and the world wagged as
merrily as of yore.

At the time of the plague in Milan, in 1630, of which so affecting a
description has been left us by Ripamonte, in his interesting work, _De
Peste Mediolani_, the people, in their distress, listened with avidity to
the predictions of astrologers and other impostors. It is singular enough
that the plague was foretold a year before it broke out. A large comet
appearing in 1628, the opinions of astrologers were divided with regard to
it. Some insisted that it was a forerunner of a bloody war; others
maintained that it predicted a great famine; but the greater number,
founding their judgment upon its pale colour, thought it portended a
pestilence. The fulfilment of their prediction brought them into great
repute while the plague was raging.

Other prophecies were current, which were asserted to have been delivered
hundreds of years previously. They had a most pernicious effect upon the
mind of the vulgar, as they induced a belief in fatalism. By taking away
the hope of recovery--that greatest balm in every malady--they increased
threefold the ravages of the disease. One singular prediction almost drove
the unhappy people mad. An ancient couplet, preserved for ages by
tradition, foretold, that in the year 1630 the devil would poison all
Milan. Early one morning in April, and before the pestilence had reached
its height, the passengers were surprised to see that all the doors in the
principal streets of the city were marked with a curious daub, or spot, as
if a sponge, filled with the purulent matter of the plague-sores, had been
pressed against them. The whole population were speedily in movement to
remark the strange appearance, and the greatest alarm spread rapidly.
Every means was taken to discover the perpetrators, but in vain. At last
the ancient prophecy was remembered, and prayers were offered up in all
the churches, that the machinations of the Evil One might be defeated.
Many persons were of opinion that the emissaries of foreign powers were
employed to spread infectious poison over the city; but by far the greater
number were convinced that the powers of hell had conspired against them,
and that the infection was spread by supernatural agencies. In the mean
time the plague increased fearfully. Distrust and alarm took possession of
every mind.  Every thing was believed to have been poisoned by the Devil;
the waters of the wells, the standing corn in the fields, and the fruit
upon the trees. It was believed that all objects of touch were poisoned;
the walls of the houses, the pavements of the streets, and the very
handles of the doors. The populace were raised to a pitch of ungovernable
fury. A strict watch was kept for the Devil's emissaries, and any man who
wanted to be rid of an enemy, had only to say that he had seen him
besmearing a door with ointment; his fate was certain death at the hands
of the mob. An old man, upwards of eighty years of age, a daily frequenter
of the church of St. Antonio, was seen, on rising from his knees, to wipe
with the skirt of his cloak the stool on which he was about to sit down. A
cry was raised immediately that he was besmearing the seat with poison. A
mob of women, by whom the church was crowded, seized hold of the feeble
old man, and dragged him out by the hair of his head, with horrid oaths
and imprecations. He was trailed in this manner through the mire to the
house of the municipal judge, that he might be put to the rack, and forced
to discover his accomplices; but he expired on the way. Many other victims
were sacrificed to the popular fury. One Mora, who appears to have been
half a chemist and half a barber, was accused of being in league with the
Devil to poison Milan. His house was surrounded, and a number of chemical
preparations were found. The poor man asserted, that they were intended as
preservatives against infection; but some physicians, to whom they were
submitted, declared they were poison, Mora was put to the rack, where he
for a long time asserted his innocence. He confessed at last, when his
courage was worn down by torture, that he was in league with the Devil and
foreign powers to poison the whole city; that he had anointed the doors,
and infected the fountains of water. He named several persons as his
accomplices, who were apprehended and put to a similar torture. They were
all found guilty, and executed. Mora's house was rased to the ground, and
a column erected on the spot, with an inscription to commemorate his

While the public mind was filled with these marvellous occurrences, the
plague continued to increase. The crowds that were brought together to
witness the executions spread the infection among one another. But the
fury of their passions, and the extent of their credulity, kept pace with
the violence of the plague; every wonderful and preposterous story was
believed. One, in particular, occupied them to the exclusion, for a long
time, of every other. The Devil himself had been seen. He had taken a
house in Milan, in which he prepared his poisonous unguents, and furnished
them to his emissaries for distribution. One man had brooded over such
tales till he became firmly convinced that the wild nights of his own
fancy were realities. He stationed himself in the market-place of Milan,
and related the following story to the crowds that gathered round him. He
was standing, he said, at the door of the cathedral, late in the evening;
and when there was nobody nigh, he saw a dark-coloured chariot, drawn by
six milk-white horses, stop close beside him. The chariot was followed by
a numerous train of domestics in dark liveries, mounted on dark-coloured
steeds. In the chariot there sat a tall stranger of a majestic aspect; his
long black hair floated in the wind--fire flashed from his large black
eyes, and a curl of ineffable scorn dwelt upon his lips. The look of the
stranger was so sublime that he was awed, and trembled with fear when he
gazed upon him. His complexion was much darker than that of any man he had
ever seen, and the atmosphere around him was hot and suffocating. He
perceived immediately that he was a being of another world. The stranger,
seeing his trepidation, asked him blandly, yet majestically, to mount
beside him. He had no power to refuse, and before he was well aware that
he had moved, he found himself in the chariot. Onwards they went, with the
rapidity of the wind, the stranger speaking no word, until they stopped
before a door in the high-street of Milan. There was a crowd of people in
the street, but, to his great surprise, no one seemed to notice the
extraordinary equipage and its numerous train. From this he concluded that
they were invisible. The house at which they stopped appeared to be a
shop, but the interior was like a vast half-ruined palace. He went with
his mysterious guide through several large and dimly-lighted rooms. In one
of them, surrounded by huge pillars of marble, a senate of ghosts was
assembled, debating on the progress of the plague. Other parts of the
building were enveloped in the thickest darkness, illumined at intervals
by flashes of lightning, which allowed him to distinguish a number of
gibing and chattering skeletons, running about and pursuing each other, or
playing at leap-frog over one another's backs. At the rear of the mansion
was a wild, uncultivated plot of ground, in the midst of which arose a
black rock. Down its sides rushed with fearful noise a torrent of
poisonous water, which, insinuating itself through the soil, penetrated to
all the springs of the city, and rendered them unfit for use. After he had
been shewn all this, the stranger led him into another large chamber,
filled with gold and precious stones, all of which he offered him if he
would kneel down and worship him, and consent to smear the doors and
houses of Milan with a pestiferous salve which he held out to him. He now
knew him to be the Devil, and in that moment of temptation, prayed to God
to give him strength to resist. His prayer was heard--he refused the
bribe. The stranger scowled horribly upon him--a loud clap of thunder
burst over his head--the vivid lightning flashed in his eyes, and the next
moment he found himself standing alone at the porch of the cathedral. He
repeated this strange tale day after day, without any variation, and all
the populace were firm believers in its truth. Repeated search was made to
discover the mysterious house, but all in vain. The man pointed out
several as resembling it, which were searched by the police; but the Demon
of the Pestilence was not to be found, nor the hall of ghosts, nor the
poisonous fountain. But the minds of the people were so impressed with the
idea, that scores of witnesses, half crazed by disease, came forward to
swear that they also had seen the diabolical stranger, and had heard his
chariot, drawn by the milk-white steeds, rumbling over the streets at
midnight with a sound louder than thunder.

The number of persons who confessed that they were employed by the Devil
to distribute poison is almost incredible. An epidemic frenzy was abroad,
which seemed to be as contagious as the plague. Imagination was as
disordered as the body, and day after day persons came voluntarily forward
to accuse themselves. They generally had the marks of disease upon them,
and some died in the act of confession.

During the great plague of London, in 1665, the people listened with
similar avidity to the predictions of quacks and fanatics. Defoe says,
that at that time the people were more addicted to prophecies and
astronomical conjurations, dreams, and old wives' tales than ever they
were before or since. Almanacs, and their predictions, frightened them
terribly. Even the year before the plague broke out, they were greatly
alarmed by the comet which then appeared, and anticipated that famine,
pestilence, or fire would follow. Enthusiasts, while yet the disease had
made but little progress, ran about the streets, predicting that in a few
days London would be destroyed.

A still more singular instance of the faith in predictions occurred in
London in the year 1524. The city swarmed at that time with
fortune-tellers and astrologers, who were consulted daily by people of
every class in society on the secrets of futurity. As early as the month
of June 1523, several of them concurred in predicting that, on the 1st day
of February 1524, the waters of the Thames would swell to such a height as
to overflow the whole city of London, and wash away ten thousand houses.
The prophecy met implicit belief. It was reiterated with the utmost
confidence month after month, until so much alarm was excited that many
families packed up their goods, and removed into Kent and Essex. As the
time drew nigh, the number of these emigrants increased. In January,
droves of workmen might be seen, followed by their wives and children,
trudging on foot to the villages within fifteen or twenty miles, to await
the catastrophe. People of a higher class were also to be seen in wagons
and other vehicles bound on a similar errand. By the middle of January, at
least twenty thousand persons had quitted the doomed city, leaving nothing
but the bare walls of their homes to be swept away by the impending
floods. Many of the richer sort took up their abode on the heights of
Highgate, Hampstead, and Blackheath; and some erected tents as far away as
Waltham Abbey on the north, and Croydon on the south of the Thames.
Bolton, the prior of St. Bartholomew's, was so alarmed, that he erected,
at a very great expense, a sort of fortress at Harrow-on-the-Hill, which
he stocked with provisions for two months. On the 24th of January, a week
before the awful day which was to see the destruction of London, he
removed thither, with the brethren and officers of the priory and all his
household. A number of boats were conveyed in wagons to his fortress,
furnished abundantly with expert rowers, in case the flood, reaching so
high as Harrow, should force them to go farther for a resting-place. Many
wealthy citizens prayed to share his retreat; but the prior, with a
prudent forethought, admitted only his personal friends, and those who
brought stores of eatables for the blockade.

At last the morn, big with the fate of London, appeared in the east. The
wondering crowds were astir at an early hour to watch the rising of the
waters. The inundation, it was predicted, would be gradual, not sudden; so
that they expected to have plenty of time to escape as soon as they saw
the bosom of old Thames heave beyond the usual mark. But the majority were
too much alarmed to trust to this, and thought themselves safer ten or
twenty miles off. The Thames, unmindful of the foolish crowds upon its
banks, flowed on quietly as of yore. The tide ebbed at its usual hour,
flowed to its usual height, and then ebbed again, just as if twenty
astrologers had not pledged their words to the contrary. Blank were their
faces as evening approached, and as blank grew the faces of the citizens
to think that they had made such fools of themselves. At last night set
in, and the obstinate river would not lift its waters to sweep away even
one house out of the ten thousand. Still, however, the people were afraid
to go to sleep. Many hundreds remained up till dawn of the next day, lest
the deluge should come upon them like a thief in the night.

On the morrow, it was seriously discussed whether it would not be
advisable to duck the false prophets in the river. Luckily for them, they
thought of an expedient which allayed the popular fury. They asserted
that, by an error (a very slight one,) of a little figure, they had fixed
the date of this awful inundation a whole century too early. The stars
were right after all, and they, erring mortals, were wrong. The present
generation of cockneys was safe, and London would be washed away, not in
1524, but in 1624. At this announcement, Bolton the prior dismantled his
fortress, and the weary emigrants came back.

An eye-witness of the great fire of London, in an account preserved among
the Harleian Mss. in the British Museum, and published in the transactions
of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, relates another instance of the
credulity of the Londoners. The writer, who accompanied the Duke of York
day by day through the district included between the Fleet-bridge and the
Thames, states that, in their efforts to check the progress of the flames,
they were much impeded by the superstition of the people. Mother Shipton,
in one of her prophecies, had said that London would be reduced to ashes,
and they refused to make any efforts to prevent it.[53] A son of the
noted Sir Kenelm Digby, who was also a pretender to the gifts of prophecy,
persuaded them that no power on earth could prevent the fulfilment of the
prediction; for it was written in the great book of fate that London was
to be destroyed. Hundreds of persons, who might have rendered valuable
assistance, and saved whole parishes from devastation, folded their arms
and looked on. As many more gave themselves up, with the less compunction,
to plunder a city which they could not save.[54]

   [53] This prophecy seems to have been that set forth at length in
         the popular _Life of Mother Shipton_:

            "When fate to England shall restore
             A king to reign as heretofore,
             Great death in London shall be though,
             And many houses be laid low."

    [54] The _London Saturday Journal_ of March 12th, 1842, contains
         the following:--"An absurd report is gaining ground among the
         weak-minded, that London will be destroyed by an earthquake
         on the 17th of March, or St. Patrick's day. This rumour is
         founded on the following ancient prophecies: one professing
         to be pronounced in the year 1203; the other, by Dr. Dee the
         astrologer, in 1598:

            "In eighteen hundred and forty-two
             Four things the sun shall view;
             London's rich and famous town
             Hungry earth shall swallow down.
             Storm and rain in France shall be,
             Till every river runs a sea.
             Spain shall be rent in twain,
             And famine waste the land again.
             So say I, the Monk of Dree,
             In the twelve hundredth year and three."
                  _Harleian Collection (British Museum)_,
                       800 b, fol. 319.

            "The Lord have mercy on you all--
             Prepare yourselves for dreadful fall
             Of house and land and human soul--
             The measure of your sins is full.
             In the year one, eight, and forty-two,
             Of the year that is so new;
             In the third month of that sixteen,
             It may be a day or two between--
             Perhaps you'll soon be stiff and cold.
             Dear Christian, be not stout and bold--
             The mighty, kingly-proud will see
             This comes to pass as my name's Dee."
                       1598. _Ms. in the British Museum_.

         The alarm of the population of London did not on this
         occasion extend beyond the wide circle of the uneducated
         classes, but among them it equalled that recorded in the
         text. It was soon afterwards stated that no such prophecy is
         to be found in the Harleian Ms.

The prophecies of Mother Shipton are still believed in many of the rural
districts of England. In cottages and servants' halls her reputation is
great; and she rules, the most popular of British prophets, among all the
uneducated, or half-educated, portions of the community. She is generally
supposed to have been born at Knaresborough, in the reign of Henry VII.,
and to have sold her soul to the Devil for the power of foretelling future
events. Though during her lifetime she was looked upon as a witch, she yet
escaped the witch's fate, and died peaceably in her bed at an extreme old
age, near Clifton in Yorkshire. A stone is said to have been erected to
her memory in the churchyard of that place, with the following epitaph:

   "Here lies she who never lied,
    Whose skill often has been tried:
    Her prophecies shall still survive,
    And ever keep her name alive."

"Never a day passed," says her traditionary biography, "wherein, she did
not relate something remarkable, and that required the most serious
consideration. People flocked to her from far and near, her fame was so
great. They went to her of all sorts, both old and young, rich and poor,
especially young maidens, to be resolved of their doubts relating to
things to come; and all returned wonderfully satisfied in the explanations
she gave to their questions." Among the rest, went the Abbot of Beverley,
to whom she foretold the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII.,
his marriage with Anne Boleyn, the fires for heretics in Smithfield, and
the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. She also foretold the accession of
James I., adding that, with him,

   "From the cold North
    Every evil should come forth."

On a subsequent visit she uttered another prophecy, which, in the opinion
of her believers, still remains unfulfilled, but may be expected to be
realised during the present century:

   "The time shall come when seas of blood
    Shall mingle with a greater flood.
    Great noise there shall be heard--great shouts and cries,
    And seas shall thunder louder than the skies;
    Then shall three lions fight with three and bring
    Joy to a people, honour to a king.
    That fiery year as soon as o'er,
    Peace shall then be as before;
    Plenty shall every where be found,
    And men with swords shall plough the ground."

But the most famous of all her prophecies is one relating to London.
Thousands of persons still shudder to think of the woes that are to burst
over this unhappy realm, when London and Highgate are joined by one
continuous line of houses. This junction, which, if the rage for building
lasts much longer, in the same proportion as heretofore, bids fair to be
soon accomplished, was predicted by her shortly before her death.
Revolutions--the fall of mighty monarchs, and the shedding of much blood
are to signalise that event. The very angels, afflicted by our woes, are
to turn aside their heads, and weep for hapless Britain.

But great as is the fame of Mother Shipton, she ranks but second in the
list of British prophets. Merlin, the mighty Merlin, stands alone in his
high pre-eminence--the first and greatest. As old Drayton sings, in his

   "Of Merlin and his skill what region doth not hear?
    The world shall still be full of Merlin every year.
    A thousand lingering years his prophecies have run,
    And scarcely shall have end till time itself be done."

Spenser, in his divine poem, has given us a powerful description of this
renowned seer--

                     "who had in magic more insight
    Than ever him before, or after, living wight.

      For he by words could call out of the sky
        Both sun and moon, and make them him obey;
      The land to sea, and sea to mainland dry,
        And darksome night he eke could turn to day--
        Huge hosts of men he could, alone, dismay.
      And hosts of men and meanest things could frame,
        Whenso him list his enemies to fray,
      That to this day, for terror of his name,
    The fiends do quake, when any him to them does name.

      And soothe men say that he was not the sonne
        Of mortal sire or other living wighte,
      But wondrously begotten and begoune
        By false illusion of a guileful sprite
        On a faire ladye nun."

In these verses the poet has preserved the popular belief with regard to
Merlin, who is generally supposed to have been a contemporary of
Vortigern. Opinion is divided as to whether he were a real personage, or a
mere impersonation, formed by the poetic fancy of a credulous people. It
seems most probable that such a man did exist, and that, possessing
knowledge as much above the comprehension of his age, as that possessed by
Friar Bacon was beyond the reach of his, he was endowed by the wondering
crowd with the supernatural attributes that Spenser has enumerated.

Geoffrey of Monmouth translated Merlin's poetical odes, or prophecies,
into Latin prose; and he was much reverenced not only by Geoffrey, but by
most of the old annalists. In a _Life of Merlin, with his Prophecies and
Predictions interpreted and made good by our English Annals_, by Thomas
Heywood, published in the reign of Charles I., we find several of these
pretended prophecies. They seem, however, to have been all written by
Heywood himself. They are in terms too plain and positive to allow any one
to doubt for a moment of their having been composed _ex post facto_.
Speaking of Richard I., he says:

   "The Lion's heart will 'gainst the Saracen rise,
    And purchase from him many a glorious prize;
    The rose and lily shall at first unite,
    But, parting of the prey prove opposite.  *  *  *
    But while abroad these great acts shall be done,
    All things at home shall to disorder run.
    Cooped up and caged then shall the Lion be,
    But, after sufferance, ransomed and set free."

The simple-minded Thomas Heywood gravely goes on to inform us, that all
these things actually came to pass. Upon Richard III. he is equally
luminous. He says:

   "A hunch-backed monster, who with teeth is born,
    The mockery of art and nature's scorn;
    Who from the womb preposterously is hurled,
    And with feet forward thrust into the world,
    Shall, from the lower earth on which he stood,
    Wade, every step he mounts, knee-deep in blood.
    He shall to th' height of all his hopes aspire,
    And, clothed in state, his ugly shape admire;
    But, when he thinks himself most safe to stand,
    From foreign parts a native whelp shall land."

Another of these prophecies after the event tells us that Henry
VIII. should take the power from Rome, "and bring it home unto
his British bower;" that he should "root out from the land all the
razored skulls;" and that he should neither spare "man in his rage
nor woman in his lust;" and that, in the time of his next successor
but one, "there should come in the fagot and the stake." Master
Heywood closes Merlin's prophecies at his own day, and does not give
even a glimpse of what was to befall England after his decease. Many
other prophecies, besides those quoted by him, were, he says, dispersed
abroad, in his day, under the name of Merlin; but he gives
his readers a taste of one only, and that is the following:

   "When hempe is ripe and ready to pull,
    Then, Englishman, beware thy skull."

This prophecy, which, one would think, ought to have put him in mind of
the gallows, at that time the not unusual fate of false prophets, he
explains thus: "In this word HEMPE be five letters. Now, by reckoning the
five successive princes from Henry VIII., this prophecy is easily
explained: H signifieth King Henry before-named; E, Edward, his son, the
sixth of that name; M, Mary, who succeeded him; P, Philip of Spain, who,
by marrying Queen Mary, participated with her in the English diadem; and,
lastly, E signifieth Queen Elizabeth, after whose death there was a great
feare that some troubles might have arisen about the crown." As this did
not happen, Heywood, who was a sly rogue in a small way, gets out of the
scrape by saying, "Yet proved this augury true, though not according to
the former expectation; for, after the peaceful inauguration of King
James, there was great mortality, not in London only, but through the
whole kingdom, and from which the nation was not quite clean in seven
years after."

This is not unlike the subterfuge of Peter of Pontefract, who had
prophesied the death and deposition of King John, and who was hanged by
that monarch for his pains. A very graphic and amusing account of this
pretended prophet is given by Grafton, in his _Chronicles of
England_.[55] "In the meanwhile," says he, "the priestes within England
had provided them a false and counterfeated prophet, called Peter
Wakefielde, a Yorkshire man, who was an hermite, an idle gadder about, and
a pratlyng marchant. Now, to bring this Peter in credite, and the kyng out
of all credite with his people, diverse vaine persons bruted dayly among
the commons of the realme, that Christe had twice appered unto him in the
shape of a childe, betwene the prieste's handes, once at Yorke, another
tyme at Pomfret; and that he had breathed upon him thrice, saying,
'_Peace, peace, peace_,' and teachyng many things, which he anon declared
to the bishops, and bid the people amend their naughtie living. Being rapt
also in spirite, they sayde he behelde the joyes of heaven and sorrowes of
hell; for scant were there three in the realme, sayde he, that lived

    [55] _Chronicles of England_, by Richard Grafton; London, 1568,
         p. 106.

"This counterfeated soothsayer prophesied of King John, that he should
reigne no longer than the Ascension-day next followyng, which was in the
yere of our Lord 1211, and was the thirteenth yere from his coronation;
and this, he said, he had by revelation. Then it was of him demanded,
whether he should be slaine or be deposed, or should voluntarily give over
the crowne? He aunswered, that he could not tell; but of this he was sure
(he sayd), that neither he nor any of his stock or lineage should reigne
after that day.

"The king, hering of this, laughed much at it, and made but a scoff
thereat. 'Tush!' saith he, 'it is but an ideot knave, and such an one as
lacketh his right wittes.' But when this foolish prophet had so escaped
the daunger of the kinge's displeasure, and that he made no more of it, he
gate him abroad, and prated thereof at large, as he was a very idle
vagabond, and used to trattle and talke more than ynough; so that they
which loved the king caused him anon after to be apprehended as a
malefactor, and to be throwen in prison, the king not yet knowing thereof.

"Anone after the fame of this phantasticall prophet went all the realme
over, and his name was knowen every where, as foolishnesse is much
regarded of the people, where wisdome is not in place; specially because
he was then imprisoned for the matter, the rumour was the larger, their
wonderynges were the wantoner, their practises the foolisher, their busye
talkes and other idle doinges the greater. Continually from thence, as the
rude manner of people is, old gossyps tales went abroad, new tales were
invented, fables were added to fables, and lyes grew upon lyes. So that
every daye newe slanders were laide upon the king, and not one of them
true. Rumors arose, blasphemyes were sprede, the enemyes rejoyced, and
treasons by the priestes were mainteyned; and what lykewise was surmised,
or other subtiltye practised, all was then fathered upon this foolish
prophet, as 'thus saith Peter Wakefield;' 'thus hath he prophesied;' 'and
thus it shall come to pass;' yea, many times, when he thought nothing
lesse. And when the Ascension-day was come, which was prophecyed of
before, King John commanded his royal tent to be spread in the open
fielde, passing that day with his noble counseyle and men of honour in the
greatest solemnitie that ever he did before; solacing himself with
musickale instrumentes and songs, most in sight among his trustie
friendes. When that day was paste in all prosperitie and myrth, his
enemyes being confused, turned all into an allegorical understanding to
make the prophecie good, and sayde, 'He is no longer king, for the pope
reigneth, and not he.' [King John was labouring under a sentence of
excommunication at the time.]

"Then was the king by his council perswaded that this false prophet had
troubled the realme, perverted the heartes of the people, and raysed the
Commons against him; for his wordes went over the sea, by the help of his
prelates, and came to the French king's eare, and gave to him a great
encouragement to invade the lande. He had not else done it so sodeinely.
But he was most fowly deceived, as all they are and shall be that put
their trust in such dark drowsye dreames of hipocrites. The king therefore
commended that he should be hanged up, and his sonne also with him, lest
any more false prophets should arise of that race."

Heywood, who was a great stickler for the truth of all sorts of
prophecies, gives a much more favourable account of this Peter of Pomfret,
or Pontefract, whose fate he would, in all probability, have shared, if he
had had the misfortune to have flourished in the same age. He says, that
Peter, who was not only a prophet, but a bard, predicted divers of King
John's disasters, which fell out accordingly. On being taxed for a lying
prophet in having predicted that the king would be deposed before he
entered into the fifteenth year of his reign, he answered him boldly, that
all he had said was justifiable and true; for that, having given up his
crown to the pope, and paying him an annual tribute, the pope reigned, and
not he. Heywood thought this explanation to be perfectly satisfactory, and
the prophet's faith for ever established.

But to return to Merlin. Of him even to this day it may be said, in the
words which Burns has applied to another notorious personage,

   "Great was his power and great his fame;
    Far kenned and noted is his name."

His reputation is by no means confined to the land of his birth, but
extends through most of the nations of Europe. A very curious volume of
his _Life, Prophecies, and Miracles_, written, it is supposed, by Robert
de Bosron, was printed at Paris in 1498, which states, that the devil
himself was his father, and that he spoke the instant he was born, and
assured his mother, a very virtuous young woman, that she should not die
in childbed with him, as her ill-natured neighbours had predicted. The
judge of the district, hearing of so marvellous an occurrence, summoned
both mother and child to appear before him; and they went accordingly the
same day. To put the wisdom of the young prophet most effectually to the
test, the judge asked him if he knew his own father? To which the infant
Merlin replied, in a clear, sonorous voice, "Yes, my father is the Devil;
and I have his power, and know all things, past, present, and to come."
His worship clapped his hands in astonishment, and took the prudent
resolution of not molesting so awful a child or its mother either.

Early tradition attributes the building of Stonehenge to the power of
Merlin. It was believed that those mighty stones were whirled through the
air, at his command, from Ireland to Salisbury Plain; and that he arranged
them in the form in which they now stand, to commemorate for ever the
unhappy fate of three hundred British chiefs, who were massacred on that
spot by the Saxons.

At Abergwylly, near Carmarthen, is still shewn the cave of the prophet and
the scene of his incantations. How beautiful is the description of it
given by Spenser in his _Faerie Queene_! The lines need no apology for
their repetition here, and any sketch of the great prophet of Britain
would be incomplete without them:

     "There the wise Merlin, whilom wont (they say,)
        To make his wonne low underneath the ground,
      In a deep delve far from the view of day,
        That of no living wight he mote be found,
    Whenso he counselled with his sprites encompassed round.

      And if thou ever happen that same way
        To travel, go to see that dreadful place;
      It is a hideous, hollow cave, they say,
        Under a rock that lies, a little space
        From the swift Barry, tumbling down apace
      Amongst the woody hills of Dynevoure;
        But dare thou not, I charge, in any case,
      To enter into that same baleful bower,
    For fear the cruel fiendes should thee unwares devour!

    But, standing high aloft, low lay thine eare,
        And there such ghastly noise of iron chaines
      And brazen caudrons thou shalt rombling heare,
        Which thousand sprites with long-enduring paines
        Doe tosse, that it will stun thy feeble braines;
      And often times great groans and grievous stownds,
        When too huge toile and labour them constraines;
      And often times loud strokes and ringing sounds
    From under that deep rock most horribly rebounds.

    The cause, they say, is this. A little while
        Before that Merlin died, he did intend
      A brazen wall in compass, to compile
        About Cayr Merdin, and did it commend
        Unto these sprites to bring to perfect end;
      During which work the Lady of the Lake,
        Whom long he loved, for him in haste did send,
      Who thereby forced his workmen to forsake,
    Them bound till his return their labour not to slake.

    In the mean time, through that false ladie's traine,
        He was surprised, and buried under biere,
      Ne ever to his work returned again;
        Natheless these fiendes may not their work forbeare,
        So greatly his commandement they fear,
      But there doe toile and travaile day and night,
        Until that brazen wall they up doe reare."[56]

    [56] _Faerie Queene_, b. 3, c. 3, s. 6-13.

Amongst other English prophets, a belief in whose power has not been
entirely effaced by the light of advancing knowledge, is Robert Nixon, the
Cheshire idiot, a contemporary of Mother Shipton. The popular accounts of
this man say, that he was born of poor parents, not far from Vale Royal,
on the edge of the forest of Delamere. He was brought up to the plough,
but was so ignorant and stupid, that nothing could be made of him. Every
body thought him irretrievably insane, and paid no attention to the
strange, unconnected discourses which he held. Many of his prophecies are
believed to have been lost in this manner. But they were not always
destined to be wasted upon dull and inattentive ears. An incident occurred
which brought him into notice, and established his fame as a prophet of
the first calibre. He was ploughing in a field when he suddenly stopped
from his labour, and with a wild look and strange gesture, exclaimed,
"_Now, Dick! now, Harry! O, ill done, Dick! O, well done, Harry! Harry has
gained the day!_" His fellow-labourers in the field did not know what to
make of this rhapsody; but the next day cleared up the mystery. News was
brought by a messenger, in hot haste, that at the very instant when Nixon
had thus ejaculated, Richard III. had been slain at the battle of
Bosworth, and Henry VII. proclaimed king of England.

It was not long before the fame of the new prophet reached the ears of the
king, who expressed a wish to see and converse with him. A messenger was
accordingly despatched to bring him to court; but long before he reached
Cheshire, Nixon knew and dreaded the honours that awaited him. Indeed it
was said, that at the very instant the king expressed the wish, Nixon was,
by supernatural means, made acquainted with it, and that he ran about the
town of Over in great distress of mind, calling out, like a madman, that
Henry had sent for him, and that he must go to court, and be _clammed_,
that is, starved to death. These expressions excited no little wonder;
but, on the third day, the messenger arrived, and carried him to court,
leaving on the minds of the good people of Cheshire an impression that
their prophet was one of the greatest ever born. On his arrival King Henry
appeared to be troubled exceedingly at the loss of a valuable diamond, and
asked Nixon if he could inform him where it was to be found. Henry had
hidden the diamond himself, with a view to test the prophet's skill.
Great, therefore, was his surprise when Nixon answered him in the words of
the old proverb, "Those who hide can find." From that time forth the king
implicitly believed that he had the gift of prophecy, and ordered all his
words to be taken down.

During all the time of his residence at court he was in constant fear of
being starved to death, and repeatedly told the king that such would be
his fate, if he were not allowed to depart, and return into his own
country. Henry would not suffer it, but gave strict orders to all his
officers and cooks to give him as much to eat as he wanted. He lived so
well, that for some time he seemed to be thriving like a nobleman's
steward, and growing as fat as an alderman. One day the king went out
hunting, when Nixon ran to the palace gate, and entreated on his knees
that he might not be left behind to be starved. The king laughed, and
calling an officer, told him to take especial care of the prophet during
his absence, and rode away to the forest. After his departure, the
servants of the palace began to jeer at and insult Nixon, whom they
imagined to be much better treated than he deserved. Nixon complained to
the officer, who, to prevent him from being further molested, locked him
up in the king's own closet, and brought him regularly his four meals a
day. But it so happened that a messenger arrived from the king to this
officer, requiring his immediate presence at Winchester, on a matter of
life and death. So great was his haste to obey the king's command, that he
mounted on the horse behind the messenger, and rode off, without bestowing
a thought upon poor Nixon. He did not return till three days afterwards,
when, remembering the prophet for the first time, he went to the king's
closet, and found him lying upon the floor, starved to death, as he had

Among the prophecies of his which are believed to have been fulfilled are
the following, which relate to the times of the Pretender:

   "_A great man shall come into England,
    But the son of a king
    Shall take from him the victory._"

   "_Crows shall drink the blood of many nobles,
    And the North shall rise against the South._"

   "_The coek of the North shall be made to flee,
    And his feather be plucked for his pride,
    That he shall almost curse the day that he was born._"

All these, say his admirers, are as clear as the sun at noon-day. The
first denotes the defeat of Prince Charles Edward, at the battle of
Culloden, by the Duke of Cumberland; the second, the execution of Lords
Derwentwater, Balmerino, and Lovat; and the third, the retreat of the
Pretender from the shores of Britain. Among the prophecies that still
remain to be accomplished are the following:

   "_Between seven, eight, and nine,
    In England wonders shall be seen;
    Between nine and thirteen
    All sorrow shall be done._"

   "_Through our own money and our men
    Shall a dreadful war begin.
    Between the sickle and the suck
    All England shall have a pluck._"

"_Foreign nations shall invade England with snow on their helmets, and
shall bring plague, famine, and murder in the skirts of their garments._"

"_The town of Nantwich shall be swept away by a flood._"

Of the two first of these no explanation has yet been attempted; but some
event or other will doubtless be twisted into such a shape as will fit
them. The third, relative to the invasion of England by a nation with snow
on their helmets, is supposed by the old women to foretell most clearly a
coming war with Russia. As to the last, there are not a few in the town
mentioned who devoutly believe that such will be its fate. Happily for
their peace of mind, the prophet said nothing of the year that was to
witness the awful calamity; so that they think it as likely to be two
centuries hence as now.

The popular biographers of Nixon conclude their account of him by saying,
that "his prophecies are by some persons thought fables; yet by what has
come to pass, it is now thought, and very plainly appears, that most of
them have proved, or will prove, true; for which we, on all occasions,
ought not only to exert our utmost might to repel by force our enemies,
but to refrain from our abandoned and wicked course of life, and to make
our continual prayer to God for protection and safety." To this, though a
_non sequitur_, every one will cry, Amen!

Besides the prophets, there have been the almanac-makers Lilly, Poor
Robin, Partridge, and Francis Moore physician, in England and Matthew
Laensbergh, in France and Belgium. But great as were their pretensions,
they were modesty itself in comparison with Merlin, Shipton, and Nixon,
who fixed their minds upon higher things than the weather, and were not so
restrained as to prophesy for only one year at a time. After such prophets
the almanac-makers hardly deserve to be mentioned; not even the renowned
Partridge, whose prognostications set all England agog in 1708, and whose
death while still alive was so pleasantly and satisfactorily proved by
Isaac Bickerstaff. The anti-climax would be too palpable, and they and
their doings must be left uncommemorated.

[Illustration: MOTHER SHIPTON'S HOUSE.[57]]

    [57] Although other places claim the honour(!) of Mother Shipton's
         birth, her residence is asserted, by oral tradition, to have
         been for many years a cottage at Winslow-cum-Shipton, in
         Buckinghamshire, of which the above is a representation. We
         give the contents of one of the popular books containing her

         _The Strange and Wonderful History and Prophecies of Mother
         Shipton, plainly setting forth her Birth, Life, Death, and
         Burial._ 12mo. Newcastle. Chap. 1.--Of her birth and
         parentage. 2. How Mother Shipton's mother proved with child;
         how she fitted the justice, and what happened at her
         delivery. 3. By what name Mother Shipton was christened, and
         how her mother went into a monastery. 4. Several other pranks
         play'd by Mother Shipton in revenge of such as abused her. 5.
         How Ursula married a young man named Tobias Shipton, and how
         strangely she discovered a thief. 6. Her prophecy against
         Cardinal Wolsey. 7. Some other prophecies of Mother Shipton
         relating to those times. 8. Her prophecies in verse to the
         Abbot of Beverly. 9. Mother Shipton's life, death, and


    And men still grope t' anticipate
    The cabinet designs of Fate;
    Apply to wizards to foresee
    What shall and what shall never be.
                                        _Hudibras_, part iii. canto 3.

In accordance with the plan laid down, we proceed to the consideration of
the follies into which men have been led by their eager desire to pierce
the thick darkness of futurity. God himself, for his own wise purposes,
has more than once undrawn the impenetrable veil which shrouds those awful
secrets; and, for purposes just as wise, he has decreed that, except in
these instances, ignorance shall be our lot for ever. It is happy for man
that he does not know what the morrow is to bring forth; but, unaware of
this great blessing, he has, in all ages of the world, presumptuously
endeavoured to trace the events of unborn centuries, and anticipate the
march of time. He has reduced this presumption into a study. He has
divided it into sciences and systems without number, employing his whole
life in the vain pursuit. Upon no subject has it been so easy to deceive
the world as upon this. In every breast the curiosity exists in a greater
or less degree, and can only be conquered by a long course of
self-examination, and a firm reliance that the future would not be hidden
from our sight, if it were right that we should be acquainted with it.

An undue opinion of our own importance in the scale of creation is at the
bottom of all our unwarrantable notions in this respect. How flattering to
the pride of man to think that the stars in their courses watch over him,
and typify, by their movements and aspects, the joys or the sorrows that
await him! He, less in proportion to the universe than the all-but
invisible insects that feed in myriads on a summer's leaf are to this
great globe itself, fondly imagines that eternal worlds were chiefly
created to prognosticate his fate. How we should pity the arrogance of the
worm that crawls at our feet, if we knew that it also desired to know the
secrets of futurity, and imagined that meteors shot athwart the sky to
warn it that a tom-tit was hovering near to gobble it up; that storms and
earthquakes, the revolutions of empires, or the fall of mighty monarchs,
only happened to predict its birth, its progress, and its decay! Not a
whit less presuming has man shewn himself; not a whit less arrogant are
the sciences, so called, of astrology, augury, necromancy, geomancy,
palmistry, and divination of every kind.

Leaving out of view the oracles of pagan antiquity and religious
predictions in general, and confining ourselves solely to the persons who,
in modern times, have made themselves most conspicuous in foretelling the
future, we shall find that the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were
the golden age of these impostors. Many of them have been already
mentioned in their character of alchymists. The union of the two
pretensions is not at all surprising. It was to be expected that those who
assumed a power so preposterous as that of prolonging the life of man for
several centuries, should pretend, at the same time, to foretell the
events which were to mark that preternatural span of existence. The world
would as readily believe that they had discovered all secrets, as that
they had only discovered one. The most celebrated astrologers of Europe,
three centuries ago, were alchymists. Agrippa, Paracelsus, Dr. Dee, and
the Rosicrucians, all laid as much stress upon their knowledge of the days
to come, as upon their pretended possession of the philosopher's stone and
the elixir of life. In their time, ideas of the wonderful, the diabolical,
and the supernatural, were rifer than ever they were before. The devil or
the stars were universally believed to meddle constantly in the affairs of
men; and both were to be consulted with proper ceremonies. Those who were
of a melancholy and gloomy temperament betook themselves to necromancy and
sorcery; those more cheerful and aspiring devoted themselves to astrology.
The latter science was encouraged by all the monarchs and governments of
that age. In England, from the time of Elizabeth to that of William and
Mary, judicial astrology was in high repute. During that period flourished
Drs. Dee, Lamb, and Forman; with Lilly, Booker, Gadbury, Evans, and scores
of nameless impostors in every considerable town and village in the
country, who made it their business to cast nativities, aid in the
recovery of stolen goods, prognosticate happy or unhappy marriages,
predict whether journeys would be prosperous, and note lucky moments for
the commencement of any enterprise, from the setting up of a cobbler's
shop to the marching of an army. Men who, to use the words of Butler, did

   "Deal in Destiny's dark counsel,
    And sage opinion of the moon sell;
    To whom all people far and near
    On deep importance did repair,
    When brass and pewter pots did stray,
    And linen slunk out of the way."


In Lilly's _Memoirs of his Life and Times_, there are many notices of the
inferior quacks who then abounded, and upon whom he pretended to look down
with supreme contempt; not because they were astrologers, but because they
debased that noble art by taking fees for the recovery of stolen property.
From Butler's _Hudibras_, and its curious notes, we may learn what immense
numbers of these fellows lived upon the credulity of mankind in that age
of witchcraft and diablerie. Even in our day, how great is the reputation
enjoyed by the almanac-makers, who assume the name of Francis Moore! But
in the time of Charles I. and the Commonwealth the most learned, the most
noble, and the most conspicuous characters did not hesitate to consult
astrologers in the most open manner. Lilly, whom Butler has immortalised
under the name of Sydrophel, relates, that he proposed to write a work
called _An Introduction to Astrology_, in which he would satisfy the whole
kingdom of the lawfulness of that art. Many of the soldiers were for it,
he says, and many of the Independent party, and abundance of worthy men in
the House of Commons, his assured friends, and able to take his part
against the Presbyterians, who would have silenced his predictions if they
could. He afterwards carried his plan into execution, and when his book
was published, went with another astrologer named Booker to the
headquarters of the parliamentary army at Windsor, where they were
welcomed and feasted in the garden where General Fairfax lodged. They were
afterwards introduced to the general, who received them very kindly, and
made allusion to some of their predictions. He hoped their art was lawful
and agreeable to God's word; but he did not understand it himself. He did
not doubt, however, that the two astrologers feared God, and therefore he
had a good opinion of them. Lilly assured him that the art of astrology
was quite consonant to the Scriptures; and confidently predicted from his
knowledge of the stars, that the parliamentary army would overthrow all
its enemies. In Oliver's Protectorate, this quack informs us that he wrote
freely enough. He became an Independent, and all the soldiery were his
friends. When he went to Scotland, he saw a soldier standing in front of
the army with a book of prophecies in his hand, exclaiming to the several
companies as they passed by him, "Lo! hear what Lilly saith: you are in
this month promised victory! Fight it out, brave boys! and then read that
month's prediction!"

After the great fire of London, which Lilly said he had foretold, he was
sent for by the committee of the House of Commons appointed to inquire
into the causes of the calamity. In his _Monarchy or no Monarchy_,
published in 1651, he had inserted an hieroglyphical plate representing on
one side persons in winding-sheets digging graves; and on the other a
large city in flames. After the great fire, some sapient member of the
legislature bethought him of Lilly's book, and having mentioned it in the
house, it was agreed that the astrologer should be summoned. Lilly
attended accordingly, when Sir Robert Brook told him the reason of his
summons, and called upon him to declare what he knew. This was a rare
opportunity for the vainglorious Lilly to vaunt his abilities; and he
began a long speech in praise of himself and his pretended science. He
said that, after the execution of Charles I., he was extremely desirous to
know what might from that time forth happen to the parliament and to the
nation in general. He therefore consulted the stars, and satisfied
himself. The result of his judgment he put into emblems and hieroglyphics,
without any commentary, so that the true meaning might be concealed from
the vulgar, and made manifest only to the wise; imitating in this the
example of many wise philosophers who had done the like.

"Did you foresee the year of the fire?" said a member. "No," quoth Lilly,
"nor was I desirous. Of that I made no scrutiny." After some further
parley, the house found they could make nothing of the astrologer, and
dismissed him with great civility.

One specimen of the explanation of a prophecy given by Lilly, and related
by him with much complacency, will be sufficient to shew the sort of trash
by which he imposed upon the million. "In the year 1588," says he, "there
was a prophecy printed in Greek characters, exactly deciphering the long
troubles of the English nation from 1641 to 1660." And it ended thus: "And
after him shall come a dreadful dead man, and with him a royal G, of the
best blood in the world; and he shall have the crown, and shall set
England on the right way, and put out all heresies." The following is the
explanation of this oracular absurdity:

"_Monkery being extinguished above eighty or ninety years, and the Lord
General's name being Monk, is the dead man. The royal G or C [it is gamma
in the Greek, intending C in the Latin, being the third letter in the
alphabet] is Charles II., who for his extraction may be said to be of the
best blood of the world._"

In France and Germany astrologers met even more encouragement than they
received in England. In very early ages Charlemagne and his successors
fulminated their wrath against them in common with sorcerers. Louis XI.,
that most superstitious of men, entertained great numbers of them at his
court; and Catherine de Medicis, that most superstitious of women, hardly
ever undertook any affair of importance without consulting them. She
chiefly favoured her own countrymen; and during the time she governed
France, the land was overrun by Italian conjurors, necromancers, and
fortune-tellers of every kind. But the chief astrologer of that day,
beyond all doubt, was the celebrated Nostradamus, physician to her
husband, King Henry II. He was born in 1503 at the town of St. Remi, in
Provence, where his father was a notary. He did not acquire much fame till
he was past his fiftieth year, when his famous _Centuries_, a collection
of verses, written in obscure and almost unintelligible language, began to
excite attention. They were so much spoken of in 1556, that Henry II.
resolved to attach so skilful a man to his service, and appointed him his
physician. In a biographical notice of him, prefixed to the edition of his
_Vraies Centuries_, published at Amsterdam in 1668, we are informed that
he often discoursed with his royal master on the secrets of futurity, and
received many great presents as his reward, besides his usual allowance
for medical attendance. After the death of Henry he retired to his native
place, where Charles IX. paid him a visit in 1564; and was so impressed
with veneration for his wondrous knowledge of the things that were to be,
not in France only, but in the whole world for hundreds of years to come,
that he made him a counsellor of state and his own physician, besides
treating him in other matters with a royal liberality. "In fine,"
continues his biographer, "I should be too prolix were I to tell all the
honours conferred upon him, and all the great nobles and learned men that
arrived at his house from the very ends of the earth, to see and converse
with him as if he had been an oracle. Many strangers, in fact, came to
France for no other purpose than to consult him."


The prophecies of Nostradamus consist of upwards of a thousand stanzas,
each of four lines, and are to the full as obscure as the oracles of old.
They take so great a latitude, both as to time and space, that they are
almost sure to be fulfilled somewhere or other in the course of a few
centuries. A little ingenuity, like that evinced by Lilly in his
explanation about General Monk and the dreadful dead man, might easily
make events to fit some of them.[58]

    [58] Let us try. In his second century, prediction 66, he says:

            "From great dangers the captive is escaped.
             A little time, great fortune changed.
             In the palace the people are caught.
             By good augury the city is besieged."

         "What is this," a believer might exclaim, "but the escape of
         Napoleon from Elba--his changed fortune, and the occupation
         of Paris by the allied armies?"

         Let us try again. In his third century, prediction 98, he

            "Two royal brothers will make fierce war on each other;
             So mortal shall be the strife between them,
             That each one shall occupy a fort against the other;
             For their reign and life shall be the quarrel."

         Some Lillius Redivivus would find no difficulty in this
         prediction. To use a vulgar phrase, it is as clear as a
         pikestaff. Had not the astrologer in view Don Miguel and Don
         Pedro when he penned this stanza, so much less obscure and
         oracular than the rest?

He is to this day extremely popular in France and the Walloon country of
Belgium, where old farmer-wives consult him with great confidence and

Catherine di Medicis was not the only member of her illustrious house who
entertained astrologers. At the beginning of the fifteenth century there
was a man, named Basil, residing in Florence, who was noted over all Italy
for his skill in piercing the darkness of futurity. It is said that he
foretold to Cosmo di Medicis, then a private citizen, that he would attain
high dignity, inasmuch as the ascendant of his nativity was adorned with
the same propitious aspects as those of Augustus Cæsar and the Emperor
Charles V.[59] Another astrologer foretold the death of Prince Alexander
di Medicis; and so very minute and particular was he in all the
circumstances, that he was suspected of being chiefly instrumental in
fulfilling his own prophecy--a very common resource with these fellows to
keep up their credit. He foretold confidently that the prince should die
by the hand of his own familiar friend, a person of a slender habit of
body, a small face, a swarthy complexion, and of most remarkable
taciturnity. So it afterwards happened, Alexander having been murdered in
his chamber by his cousin Lorenzo, who corresponded exactly with the above
description.[60] The author of _Hermippus Redivivus_, in relating this
story, inclines to the belief that the astrologer was guiltless of any
participation in the crime, but was employed by some friend of Prince
Alexander to warn him of his danger.

    [59] _Hermippus Redivivus_, p. 142.

    [60] _Jovii Elog._ p. 320.

A much more remarkable story is told of an astrologer who lived in Romagna
in the fifteenth century, and whose name was Antiochus Tibertus.[61] At
that time nearly all the petty sovereigns of Italy retained such men in
their service; and Tibertus, having studied the mathematics with great
success at Paris, and delivered many predictions, some of which, for
guesses, were not deficient in shrewdness, was taken into the household of
Pandolfo di Malatesta, the sovereign of Rimini. His reputation was so
great, that his study was continually thronged either with visitors who
were persons of distinction, or with clients who came to him for advice;
and in a short time he acquired a considerable fortune. Notwithstanding
all these advantages, he passed his life miserably, and ended it on the
scaffold. The following story afterwards got into circulation, and has
been often triumphantly cited by succeeding astrologers as an irrefragable
proof of the truth of their science. It was said that, long before he
died, he uttered three remarkable prophecies--one relating to himself,
another to his friend, and the third to his patron, Pandolfo di Malatesta.
The first delivered was that relating to his friend Guido di Bogni, one of
the greatest captains of the time. Guido was exceedingly desirous to know
his fortune, and so importuned Tibertus, that the latter consulted the
stars and the lines on his palm to satisfy him. He afterwards told him
with a sorrowful face, that, according to all the rules of astrology and
palmistry, he should be falsely suspected by his best friend, and should
lose his life in consequence. Guido then asked the astrologer if he could
foretell his own fate; upon which Tibertus again consulted the stars, and
found that it was decreed from all eternity that he should end his days on
the scaffold. Malatesta, when he heard these predictions, so unlikely, to
all present appearance, to prove true, desired his astrologer to predict
his fate also, and to hide nothing from him, however unfavourable it might
be. Tibertus complied, and told his patron, at that time one of the most
flourishing and powerful princes of Italy, that he should suffer great
want, and die at last like a beggar in the common hospital of Bologna. And
so it happened in all three cases. Guido di Bogni was accused by his own
father-in-law, the Count di Bentivoglio, of a treasonable design to
deliver up the city of Rimini to the papal forces, and was assassinated
afterwards, by order of the tyrant Malatesta, as he sat at the
supper-table, to which he had been invited in all apparent friendship. The
astrologer was at the same time thrown into prison, as being concerned in
the treason of his friend. He attempted to escape, and had succeeded in
letting himself down from his dungeon-window into a moat, when he was
discovered by the sentinels. This being reported to Malatesta, he gave
orders for his execution on the following morning.

    [61] _Les Anecdotes de Florence, ou l'Histoire secrète de la
         Maison di Medicis_, p. 318.

Malatesta had, at this time, no remembrance of the prophecy; and his own
fate gave him no uneasiness; but events were silently working its
fulfilment. A conspiracy had been formed, though Guido di Bogni was
innocent of it, to deliver up Rimini to the pope; and all the necessary
measures having been taken, the city was seized by the Count de
Valentinois. In the confusion, Malatesta had barely time to escape from
his palace in disguise. He was pursued from place to place by his enemies,
abandoned by all his former friends, and, finally, by his own children. He
at last fell ill of a languishing disease, at Bologna; and, nobody caring
to afford him shelter, he was carried to the hospital, where he died. The
only thing that detracts from the interest of this remarkable story is the
fact, that the prophecy was made after the event.

For some weeks before the birth of Louis XIV., an astrologer from Germany,
who had been sent for by the Marshal de Bassompierre and other noblemen of
the court, had taken up his residence in the palace, to be ready, at a
moment's notice, to draw the horoscope of the future sovereign of France.
When the queen was taken in labour, he was ushered into a contiguous
apartment, that he might receive notice of the very instant the child was
born. The result of his observations were the three words, _diu, durè,
feliciter_; meaning, that the new-born prince should live and reign long,
with much labour, and with great glory. No prediction less favourable
could have been expected from an astrologer, who had his bread to get, and
who was at the same time a courtier. A medal was afterwards struck in
commemoration of the event; upon one side of which was figured the
nativity of the prince, representing him as driving the chariot of Apollo,
with the inscription "Ortus solis Gallici,"--the rising of the Gallic sun.

The best excuse ever made for astrology was that offered by the great
astronomer, Kepler, himself an unwilling practiser of the art.

He had many applications from his friends to cast nativities for them, and
generally gave a positive refusal to such as he was not afraid of
offending by his frankness. In other cases he accommodated himself to the
prevailing delusion. In sending a copy of his _Ephemerides_ to Professor
Gerlach, he wrote, that _they were nothing but worthless conjectures_; but
he was obliged to devote himself to them, or he would have starved. "Ye
overwise philosophers," he exclaimed, in his _Tertius Interveniens_; "ye
censure this daughter of astronomy beyond her deserts! _Know ye not that
she must support her mother by her charms?_ The scanty reward of an
astronomer would not provide him with bread, if men did not entertain
hopes of reading the future in the heavens."

NECROMANCY was, next to astrology, the pretended science most resorted to,
by those who wished to pry into the future. The earliest instance upon
record is that of the witch of Endor and the spirit of Samuel. Nearly all
the nations of antiquity believed in the possibility of summoning departed
ghosts to disclose the awful secrets that God made clear to the
disembodied. Many passages in allusion to this subject will at once
suggest themselves to the classical reader; but this art was never carried
on openly in any country. All governments looked upon it as a crime of the
deepest dye. While astrology was encouraged, and its professors courted
and rewarded, necromancers were universally condemned to the stake or the
gallows. Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Arnold of Villeneuve, and many
others, were accused by the public opinion of many centuries, of meddling
in these unhallowed matters. So deep-rooted has always been the popular
delusion with respect to accusations of this kind, that no crime was ever
disproved with such toil and difficulty. That it met great encouragement,
nevertheless, is evident from the vast numbers of pretenders to it; who,
in spite of the danger, have existed in all ages and countries.

GEOMANCY, or the art of foretelling the future by means of lines and
circles, and other mathematical figures drawn on the earth, is still
extensively practised in Asiatic countries, but is almost unknown in

AUGURY, from the flight or entrails of birds, so favourite a study among
the Romans, is, in like manner, exploded in Europe. Its most assiduous
professors, at the present day, are the abominable Thugs of India.

DIVINATION, of which there are many kinds, boasts a more enduring
reputation. It has held an empire over the minds of men from the earliest
periods of recorded history, and is, in all probability, coeval with time
itself. It was practised alike by the Jews, the Egyptians, the Chaldeans,
the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans; is equally known to all modern
nations, in every part of the world; and is not unfamiliar to the
untutored tribes that roam in the wilds of Africa and America. Divination,
as practised in civilised Europe at the present day, is chiefly from
cards, the tea-cup, and the lines on the palm of the hand. Gipsies alone
make a profession of it; but there are thousands and tens of thousands of
humble families in which the good-wife, and even the good-man, resort to
the grounds at the bottom of their tea-cups, to know whether the next
harvest will be abundant, or their sow bring forth a numerous litter; and
in which the young maidens look to the same place to know when they are to
be married, and whether the man of their choice is to be dark or fair,
rich or poor, kind or cruel. Divination by cards, so great a favourite
among the moderns, is, of course, a modern science; as cards do not yet
boast an antiquity of much more than four hundred years. Divination by the
palm, so confidently believed in by half the village lasses in Europe, is
of older date, and seems to have been known to the Egyptians in the time
of the patriarchs; as well as divination by the cup, which, as we are
informed in Genesis, was practised by Joseph. Divination by the rod was
also practised by the Egyptians. In comparatively recent times, it was
pretended that by this means hidden treasures could be discovered. It now
appears to be altogether exploded in Europe. Onomancy, or the foretelling
a man's fate by the letters of his name, and the various transpositions of
which they are capable, is a more modern sort of divination; but it
reckons comparatively few believers.

The following list of the various species of divination formerly in use,
is given by Gaule in his _Magastromancer_, and quoted in Hone's
_Year-Book_, p. 1517.

    _Stereomancy_, or divining by the elements.
    _Aeromancy_, or divining by the air.
    _Pyromancy_, by fire,
    _Hydromancy_, by water.
    _Geomancy_, by earth.
    _Theomancy_, pretending to divine by the revelation of the Spirit,
        and by the Scriptures, or word of God.
    _Demonomancy_, by the aid of devils and evil spirits.
    _Idolomancy_, by idols, images, and figures.
    _Psychomancy_, by the soul, affections, or dispositions of men.
    _Anthropomancy_, by the entrails of human beings.
    _Theriomancy_, by beasts.
    _Ornithomancy_, by birds.
    _Ichthyomancy_, by fishes.
    _Botanomancy_, by herbs.
    _Lithomancy_, by stones.
    _Kleromancy_, by lots.
    _Oneiromancy_, by dreams.
    _Onomancy_, by names.
    _Arithmancy_, by numbers.
    _Logarithmancy_, by logarithms.
    _Sternomancy_, by the marks from the breast to the belly.
    _Gastromancy_, by the sound of, or marks upon the belly.
    _Omphalomancy_, by the navel.
    _Chiromancy_, by the hands.
    _Podomancy_, by the feet.
    _Onchyomancy_, by the nails.
    _Cephaleonomancy_, by asses' heads.
    _Tephromancy_, by ashes.
    _Kapnomancy_, by smoke.
    _Knissomancy_, by the burning of incense.
    _Ceromancy_, by the melting of wax.
    _Lecanomancy_, by basins of water.
    _Katoptromancy_, by looking-glasses.
    _Chartomancy_, by writing in papers, and by Valentines.
    _Macharomancy_, by knives and swords.
    _Crystallomancy_, by crystals.
    _Dactylomancy_, by rings.
    _Koskinomancy_, by sieves.
    _Axinomancy_, by saws.
    _Chalmmancy_, by vessels of brass, or other metal.
    _Spatilomancy_, by skins, bones, &c.
    _Astromancy_, by stars.
    _Sciomancy_, by shadows.
    _Astragalomancy_, by dice.
    _Oinomancy_, by the lees of wine.
    _Sycomancy_, by figs.
    _Tyromancy_, by cheese.
    _Alphitomancy_, by meal, flour, or bran.
    _Krithomancy_, by corn or grain.
    _Alectromancy_, by cocks.
    _Gyromancy_, by circles.
    _Lampadomancy_, by candles and lamps.

ONEIRO-CRITICISM, or the art of interpreting dreams, is a relic of the
most remote ages, which has subsisted through all the changes that moral
or physical revolutions have operated in the world. The records of five
thousand years bear abundant testimony to the universal diffusion of the
belief, that the skilful could read the future in dreams. The rules of the
art, if any existed in ancient times, are not known; but in our day, one
simple rule opens the whole secret. Dreams, say all the wiseacres in
Christendom, are to be interpreted by contraries. Thus, if you dream of
filth, you will acquire something valuable; if you dream of the dead, you
will hear news of the living; if you dream of gold and silver, you run a
risk of being without either; and if you dream you have many friends, you
will be persecuted by many enemies. The rule, however, does not hold good
in all cases. It is fortunate to dream of little pigs, but unfortunate to
dream of big bullocks. If you dream you have lost a tooth, you may be sure
that you will shortly lose a friend; and if you dream that your house is
on fire, you will receive news from a far country. If you dream of vermin,
it is a sign that there will be sickness in your family; and if you dream
of serpents, you will have friends who, in the course of time, will prove
your bitterest enemies; but, of all dreams, it is most fortunate if you
dream that you are wallowing up to your neck in mud and mire. Clear water
is a sign of grief; and great troubles, distress, and perplexity are
predicted, if you dream that you stand naked in the public streets, and
know not where to find a garment to shield you from the gaze of the

In many parts of Great Britain, and the continents of Europe and America,
there are to be found elderly women in the villages and country-places
whose interpretations of dreams are looked upon with as much reverence as
if they were oracles. In districts remote from towns it is not uncommon to
find the members of a family regularly every morning narrating their
dreams at the breakfast-table, and becoming happy or miserable for the day
according to their interpretation. There is not a flower that blossoms, or
fruit that ripens, that, dreamed of, is not ominous of either good or evil
to such people. Every tree of the field or the forest is endowed with a
similar influence over the fate of mortals, if seen in the night-visions.
To dream of the ash, is the sign of a long journey; and of an oak,
prognosticates long life and prosperity. To dream you stript the bark off
any tree, is a sign to a maiden of an approaching loss of a character; to
a married woman, of a family bereavement; and to a man, of an accession of
fortune. To dream of a leafless tree, is a sign of great sorrow; and of a
branchless trunk, a sign of despair and suicide. The elder-tree is more
auspicious to the sleeper; while the fir-tree, better still, betokens all
manner of comfort and prosperity. The lime-tree predicts a voyage across
the ocean; while the yew and the alder are ominous of sickness to the
young and of death to the old.[62] Among the flowers and fruits charged
with messages for the future, the following is a list of the most
important, arranged from approved sources, in alphabetical order:

    _Asparagus_, gathered and tied up in bundles, is an omen of tears.
        If you see it growing in your dreams, it is a sign of good

    _Aloes_, without a flower, betokens long life; in flower, betokens
        a legacy.

    _Artichokes_. This vegetable is a sign that you will receive, in a
        short time, a favour from the hands of those from whom you
        would least expect it.

    _Agrimony_. This herb denotes that there will be sickness in your

    _Anemone_ predicts love.

    _Auriculas_, in beds, denote luck; in pots, marriage; while to
        gather them, foretells widowhood.

    _Bilberries_ predict a pleasant excursion.

    _Broom-flowers_ an increase of family.

    _Cauliflowers_ predict that all your friends will slight you, or
        that you will fall into poverty and find no one to pity you.

    _Dock-leaves_, a present from the country.

    _Daffodils_. Any maiden who dreams of daffodils is warned by her
        good angel to avoid going into a wood with her lover, or into
        any dark or retired place where she might not be able to make
        people hear her if she cried out. Alas for her if she pay no
        attention to the warning!

           "Never again shall she put garland on;
            Instead of it she'll wear sad cypress now,
            And bitter elder broken from the bough."

    _Figs_, if green, betoken embarrassment; if dried, money to the
        poor, and mirth to the rich.

    _Hearts-ease_ betokens heart's pain.

    _Lilies_ predict joy; _water-lilies_, danger from the sea.

    _Lemons_ betoken a separation.

    _Pomegranates_ predict happy wedlock to those who are single, and
        reconciliation to those who are married and have disagreed.

    _Quinces_ prognosticate pleasant company.

    _Roses_ denote happy love, not unmixed with sorrow from other

    _Sorrel_. To dream of this herb is a sign that you will shortly
        have occasion to exert all your prudence to overcome some
        great calamity.

    _Sunflowers_ shew that your pride will be deeply wounded.

    _Violets_ predict evil to the single, and joy to the married.

    _Yellow-flowers_ of any kind predict jealousy.

    _Yew-berries_ predict loss of character to both sexes.

    [62] It is quite astonishing to see the great demand there is,
         both in England and France, for dream-books, and other trash
         of the same kind. Two books in England enjoy an extraordinary
         popularity, and have run through upwards of fifty editions in
         as many years in London alone, besides being reprinted in
         Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dublin. One is _Mother
         Bridget's Dream-book and Oracle of Fate_; the other is the
         _Norwood Gipsy_. It is stated, on the authority of one who is
         curious in these matters, that there is a demand for these
         works, which are sold at sums varying from a penny to
         sixpence, chiefly to servant-girls and imperfectly-educated
         people, all over the country, of upwards of eleven thousand
         annually; and that at no period during the last thirty years
         has the average number sold been less than this. The total
         number during this period would thus amount to 330,000.

It should be observed that the rules for the interpretation of dreams are
far from being universal. The cheeks of the peasant girl of England glow
with pleasure in the morning after she has dreamed of a rose, while the
_paysanne_ of Normandy dreads disappointment and vexation for the very
same reason. The Switzer who dreams of an oak-tree does not share in the
Englishman's joy; for he imagines that the vision was a warning to him
that, from some trifling cause, an overwhelming calamity will burst over
him. Thus do the ignorant and the credulous torment themselves; thus do
they spread their nets to catch vexation, and pass their lives between
hopes which are of no value and fears which are a positive evil.

OMENS. Among the other means of self-annoyance upon which men have
stumbled, in their vain hope of discovering the future, signs and omens
hold a conspicuous place. There is scarcely an occurrence in nature which,
happening at a certain time, is not looked upon by some persons as a
prognosticator either of good or evil. The latter are in the greatest
number, so much more ingenious are we in tormenting ourselves than in
discovering reasons for enjoyment in the things that surround us. We go
out of our course to make ourselves uncomfortable; the cup of life is not
bitter enough to our palate, and we distil superfluous poison to put into
it, or conjure up hideous things to frighten ourselves at, which would
never exist if we did not make them. "We suffer," says Addison,[63] "as
much from trifling accidents as from real evils. I have known the shooting
of a star spoil a night's rest, and have seen a man in love grow pale and
lose his appetite upon the plucking of a merrythought. A screech-owl at
midnight has alarmed a family more than a band of robbers; nay, the voice
of a cricket has struck more terror than the roaring of a lion. There is
nothing so inconsiderable which may not appear dreadful to an imagination
that is filled with omens and prognostics. A rusty nail or a crooked pin
shoot up into prodigies."

    [63] _Spectator_, No. 7, March 8, 1710-11.

The century and a quarter that has passed away since Addison wrote has
seen the fall of many errors. Many fallacies and delusions have been
crushed under the foot of Time since then; but this has been left
unscathed, to frighten the weak-minded and embitter their existence. A
belief in omens is not confined to the humble and uninformed. A general
who led an army with credit has been known to feel alarmed at a
winding-sheet in the candle; and learned men, who had honourably and
fairly earned the highest honours of literature, have been seen to gather
their little ones around them, and fear that one would be snatched away,

    "When stole upon the time the dead of night,
    And heavy sleep had closed up mortal eyes,"

a dog in the street was howling at the moon. Persons who would acknowledge
freely that the belief in omens was unworthy of a man of sense, have yet
confessed at the same time that, in spite of their reason, they have been
unable to conquer their fears of death when they heard the harmless insect
called the death-watch ticking in the wall, or saw an oblong hollow coal
fly out of the fire.

Many other evil omens besides those mentioned above alarm the vulgar and
the weak. If a sudden shivering comes over such people, they believe that,
at that instant, an enemy is treading over the spot that will one day be
their grave. If they meet a sow when they first walk abroad in the
morning, it is an omen of evil for that day. To meet an ass, is in like
manner unlucky. It is also very unfortunate to walk under a ladder; to
forget to eat goose on the festival of St. Michael; to tread upon a
beetle, or to eat the twin nuts that are sometimes found in one shell.
Woe, in like manner, is predicted to that wight who inadvertently upsets
the salt; each grain that is overthrown will bring to him a day of sorrow.
If thirteen persons sit at table, one of them will die within the year;
and all of them will be unhappy. Of all evil omens this is the worst. The
facetious Dr. Kitchener used to observe that there was one case in which
he believed that it was really unlucky for thirteen persons to sit down to
dinner, and that was when there was only dinner enough for twelve.
Unfortunately for their peace of mind, the great majority of people do not
take this wise view of the matter. In almost every country of Europe the
same superstition prevails, and some carry it so far as to look upon the
number thirteen as in every way ominous of evil; and if they find thirteen
coins in their purse, cast away the odd one like a polluted thing. The
philosophic Beranger, in his exquisite song, _Thirteen at Table_, has
taken a poetical view of this humiliating superstition, and mingled, as is
his wont, a lesson of genuine wisdom in his lay. Being at dinner, he
overthrows the salt, and, looking round the room, discovers that he is the
thirteenth guest. While he is mourning his unhappy fate, and conjuring up
visions of disease and suffering and the grave, he is suddenly startled by
the apparition of Death herself, not in the shape of a grim foe, with
skeleton-ribs and menacing dart, but of an angel of light, who shews the
folly of tormenting ourselves with the dread of her approach, when she is
the friend, rather than the enemy, of man, and frees us from the fetters
which bind us to the dust.

If men could bring themselves to look upon death in this manner, living
well and wisely till her inevitable approach, how vast a store of grief
and vexation would they spare themselves!

Among good omens, one of the most conspicuous is to meet a piebald horse.
To meet two of these animals is still more fortunate; and if on such an
occasion you spit thrice, and form any reasonable wish, it will be
gratified within three days. It is also a sign of good fortune if you
inadvertently put on your stocking wrong side out. If you wilfully wear
your stocking in this fashion, no good will come of it. It is very lucky
to sneeze twice; but if you sneeze a third time, the omen loses its power,
and your good fortune will be nipped in the bud. If a strange dog follow
you, and fawn on you, and wish to attach itself to you, it is a sign of
very great prosperity. Just as fortunate is it if a strange male cat comes
to your house and manifests friendly intentions towards your family. If a
she cat, it is an omen, on the contrary, of very great misfortune. If a
swarm of bees alight in your garden, some very high honour and great joys
await you.

Besides these glimpses of the future, you may know something of your fate
by a diligent attention to every itching that you may feel in your body.
Thus, if the eye or the nose itches, it is a sign you will be shortly
vexed; if the foot itches, you will tread upon strange ground; and if the
elbow itches, you will change your bedfellow. Itching of the right hand
prognosticates that you will soon have a sum of money; and, of the left,
that you will be called upon to disburse it.

These are but a few of the omens which are generally credited in modern
Europe. A complete list of them would fatigue from its length, and sicken
from its absurdity. It would be still more unprofitable to attempt to
specify the various delusions of the same kind which are believed among
oriental nations. Every reader will remember the comprehensive formula of
cursing preserved in _Tristram Shandy_--curse a man after any fashion you
remember or can invent, you will be sure to find it there. The oriental
creed of omens is not less comprehensive. Every movement of the body,
every emotion of the mind, is at certain times an omen. Every form and
object in nature, even the shape of the clouds and the changes of the
weather; every colour, every sound, whether of men or animals, or birds or
insects, or inanimate things, is an omen. Nothing is too trifling or
inconsiderable to inspire a hope which is not worth cherishing, or a fear
which is sufficient to embitter existence.

From the belief in omens springs the superstition that has, from very
early ages, set apart certain days, as more favourable than others, for
prying into the secrets of futurity. The following, copied verbatim from
the popular _Dream and Omen Book_ of Mother Bridget, will shew the belief
of the people of England at the present day. Those who are curious as to
the ancient history of these observances, will find abundant aliment in
the _Every-day Book_.

"_The 1st of January._--If a young maiden drink, on going to bed, a pint
of cold spring water, in which is beat up an amulet, composed of the yolk
of a pullet's egg, the legs of a spider, and the skin of an eel pounded,
her future destiny will be revealed to her in a dream. This charm fails of
its effect if tried any other day of the year.

"_Valentine Day._--Let a single woman go out of her own door very early in
the morning, and if the first person she meets be a woman, she will not be
married that year; if she meet a man she will be married within three

"_Lady Day._--The following charm may be tried this day with certain
success: String thirty-one nuts on a string, composed of red worsted mixed
with blue silk, and tie it round your neck on going to bed, repeating
these lines:

   "Oh, I wish! oh, I wish to see
    Who my true love is to be!

Shortly after midnight, you will see your lover in a dream, and be
informed at the same time of all the principal events of your future life.

"_St. Swithin's Eve._--Select three things you most wish to know; write
them down with a new pen and red ink on a sheet of fine wove paper, from
which you must previously cut off all the corners and burn them. Fold the
paper into a true lover's knot, and wrap round it three hairs from your
head. Place the paper under your pillow for three successive nights, and
your curiosity to know the future will be satisfied.

"_St. Mark's Eve._--Repair to the nearest churchyard as the clock strikes
twelve, and take from a grave on the south side of the church three tufts
of grass (the longer and ranker the better), and on going to bed place
them under your pillow, repeating earnestly three several times,

   'The Eve of St. Mark by prediction is blest,
    Set therefore my hopes and my fears all to rest:
    Let me know my fate, whether weal or woe;
    Whether my rank's to be high or low;
    Whether to live single, or be a bride,
    And the destiny my star doth provide.'

Should you have no dream that night, you will be single and miserable all
your life. If you dream of thunder and lightning, your life will be one of
great difficulty and sorrow.

"_Candlemas Eve._--On this night (which is the purification of the Virgin
Mary), let three, five, seven, or nine young maidens assemble together in
a square chamber. Hang in each corner a bundle of sweet herbs, mixed with
rue and rosemary. Then mix a cake of flour, olive-oil, and white sugar;
every maiden having an equal share in the making and the expense of it.
Afterwards it must be cut into equal pieces, each one marking the piece as
she cuts it with the initials of her name. It is then to be baked one hour
before the fire, not a word being spoken the whole time, and the maidens
sitting with their arms and knees across. Each piece of cake is then to be
wrapped up in a sheet of paper, on which each maiden shall write the love
part of Solomon's Songs. If she put this under her pillow she will dream
true. She will see her future husband and every one of her children, and
will know besides whether her family will be poor or prosperous, a comfort
to her or the contrary.

"_Midsummer._--Take three roses, smoke them with sulphur, and exactly at
three in the day bury one of the roses under a yew-tree; the second in a
newly-made grave, and put the third under your pillow for three nights,
and at the end of that period burn it in a fire of charcoal. Your dreams
during that time will be prophetic of your future destiny, and, what is
still more curious and valuable, says Mother Bridget, the man whom you are
to wed will enjoy no peace till he comes and visits you. Besides this, you
will perpetually haunt his dreams.

"_St. John's Eve._--Make a new pincushion of the very best black velvet
(no inferior quality will answer the purpose), and on one side stick your
name at full length with the very smallest pins that can be bought (none
other will do). On the other side make a cross with some very large pins,
and surround it with a circle. Put this into your stocking when you take
it off at night, and hang it up at the foot of the bed. All your future
life will pass before you in a dream.

"_First New Moon of the year._--On the first new moon in the year take a
pint of clear spring water, and infuse into it the _white_ of an egg laid
by a _white_ hen, a glass of _white_ wine, three almonds peeled _white_,
and a tablespoonful of _white_ rose-water. Drink this on going to bed, not
making more nor less than three draughts of it; repeating the following
verses three several times in a clear distinct voice, but not so loud as
to be overheard by any body:

   'If I dream of water pure
      Before the coming morn,
    'Tis a sign I shall be poor,
      And unto wealth not born.
    If I dream of tasting beer,
    Middling then will be my cheer--
    Chequer'd with the good and bad,
    Sometimes joyful, sometimes sad;
    But should I dream of drinking wine,
    Wealth and pleasure will be mine.
    The stronger the drink, the better the cheer--
    Dreams of my destiny, appear, appear!'

"_Twenty-ninth of February._--This day, as it only occurs once in four
years, is peculiarly auspicious to those who desire to have a glance at
futurity, especially to young maidens burning with anxiety to know the
appearance and complexion of their future lords. The charm to be adopted
is the following: Stick twenty-seven of the smallest pins that are made,
three by three, into a tallow candle. Light it up at the wrong end, and
then place it in a candlestick made out of clay, which must be drawn from
a virgin's grave. Place this on the chimney-place, in the left-hand
corner, exactly as the clock strikes twelve, and go to bed immediately.
When the candle is burnt out, take the pins and put them into your left
shoe; and before nine nights have elapsed your fate will be revealed to

We have now taken a hasty review of the various modes of seeking to
discover the future, especially as practised in modern times. The main
features of the folly appear essentially the same in all countries.
National character and peculiarities operate some difference of
interpretation. The mountaineer makes the natural phenomena which he most
frequently witnesses prognosticative of the future. The dweller in the
plains, in a similar manner, seeks to know his fate among the signs of the
things that surround him, and tints his superstition with the hues of his
own clime. The same spirit animates them all--the same desire to know that
which Infinite Mercy has concealed. There is but little probability that
the curiosity of mankind in this respect will ever be wholly eradicated.
Death and ill fortune are continual bugbears to the weak-minded, the
irreligious, and the ignorant; and while such exist in the world, divines
will preach upon its impiety and philosophers discourse upon its absurdity
in vain. Still it is evident that these follies have greatly diminished.
Soothsayers and prophets have lost the credit they formerly enjoyed, and
skulk in secret now where they once shewed their faces in the blaze of
day. So far there is manifest improvement.


    Some deemed them wondrous wise, and some believed them mad.
                                        _Beattie's Minstrel_.

[Illustration: T]

The wonderful influence of imagination in the cure of diseases is well
known. A motion of the hand, or a glance of the eye, will throw a weak and
credulous patient into a fit; and a pill made of bread, if taken with
sufficient faith, will operate a cure better than all the drugs in the
pharmacopoeia. The Prince of Orange, at the siege of Breda, in 1625, cured
all his soldiers, who were dying of the scurvy, by a philanthropic piece
of quackery, which he played upon them with the knowledge of the
physicians, when all other means had failed.[64] Many hundreds of
instances, of a similar kind, might be related, especially from the
history of witchcraft. The mummeries, strange gesticulations, and
barbarous jargon of witches and sorcerers, which frightened credulous and
nervous women, brought on all those symptoms of hysteria and other similar
diseases, so well understood now, but which were then supposed to be the
work of the Devil, not only by the victims and the public in general, but
by the operators themselves.

    [64] See Van der Mye's account of the siege of Breda. The
         garrison, being afflicted with scurvy, the Prince of Orange
         sent the physicians two or three small phials, containing a
         decoction of camomile, wormwood, and camphor, telling them to
         pretend that it was a medicine of the greatest value and
         extremest rarity, which had been procured with very much
         danger and difficulty from the East; and so strong, that two
         or three drops would impart a healing virtue to a gallon of
         water. The soldiers had faith in their commander; they took
         the medicine with cheerful faces, and grew well rapidly. They
         afterwards thronged about the prince in groups of twenty and
         thirty at a time, praising his skill, and loading him with
         protestations of gratitude.

In the age when alchymy began to fall into some disrepute, and learning to
lift up its voice against it, a new delusion, based upon this
power of imagination, suddenly arose, and found apostles among all the
alchymists. Numbers of them, forsaking their old pursuits, made themselves
magnetisers. It appeared first in the shape of mineral, and afterwards of
animal, magnetism, under which latter name it survives to this day, and
numbers its dupes by thousands.

The mineral magnetisers claim the first notice, as the worthy predecessors
of the quacks of the present day. The honour claimed for Paracelsus, of
being the first of the Rosicrucians, has been disputed; but his claim to
be considered the first of the magnetisers can scarcely be challenged. It
has been already mentioned of him, in the part of this work which treats
of alchymy, that, like nearly all the distinguished adepts, he was a
physician; and pretended, not only to make gold and confer immortality,
but to cure all diseases. He was the first who, with the latter view,
attributed occult and miraculous powers to the magnet. Animated apparently
by a sincere conviction that the magnet was the philosopher's stone,
which, if it could not transmute metals, could soothe all human suffering
and arrest the progress of decay, he travelled for many years in Persia
and Arabia, in search of the mountain of adamant, so famed in oriental
fables. When he practised as a physician at Basle, he called one of his
nostrums by the name of azoth--a stone or crystal, which, he said,
contained magnetic properties, and cured epilepsy, hysteria, and spasmodic
affections. He soon found imitators. His fame spread far and near; and
thus were sown the first seeds of that error which has since taken root
and flourished so widely. In spite of the denial of modern practitioners,
this must be considered the origin of magnetism; for we find that,
beginning with Paracelsus, there was a regular succession of mineral
magnetisers until Mesmer appeared, and gave a new feature to the delusion.

Paracelsus boasted of being able to _transplant_ diseases from the human
frame into the earth, by means of the magnet. He said there were six ways
by which this might be effected. One of them will be quite sufficient as a
specimen. "If a person suffer from disease, either local or general, let
the following remedy be tried. Take a magnet, impregnated with mummy,[65]
and mixed with rich earth. In this earth sow some seeds that have
a congruity or homogeneity with the disease; then let this earth, well
sifted and mixed with mummy, be laid in an earthen vessel; and let the
seeds committed to it be watered daily with a lotion in which the diseased
limb or body has been washed. Thus will the disease be transplanted from
the human body to the seeds which are in the earth. Having done this,
transplant the seeds from the earthen vessel to the ground, and wait till
they begin to sprout into herbs; as they increase, the disease will
diminish; and when they have arrived at their full growth, it will
disappear altogether."

    [65] Mummies were of several kinds, and were all of great use in
         magnetic medicines. Paracelsus enumerates six kinds of
         mummies; the first four only differing in the composition
         used by different people for preserving their dead, are the
         Egyptian, Arabian, Pisasphaltos, and Libyan. The fifth mummy
         of peculiar power was made from criminals that had been
         hanged; "for from such there is a gentle siccation, that
         expungeth the watery humour, without destroying the oil and
         spirituall, which is cherished by the heavenly luminaries,
         and strengthened continually by the affluence and impulses of
         the celestial spirits; whence it may be properly called by
         the name of constellated or celestial mummie." The sixth kind
         of mummy was made of corpuscles, or spiritual effluences,
         radiated from the living body; though we cannot get very
         clear ideas on this head, or respecting the manner in which
         they were caught.--_Medicina Diatastica; or, Sympathetical
         Mummie, abstracted from the Works of Paracelsus, and
         translated out of the Latin_, by Fernando Parkhurst, Gent.
         London, 1653, pp. 2, 7. Quoted by the _Foreign Quarterly
         Review_, vol. xii. p. 415.

Kircher the Jesuit, whose quarrel with the alchymists was the means of
exposing many of their impostures, was a firm believer in the efficacy of
the magnet. Having been applied to by a patient afflicted with hernia, he
directed the man to swallow a small magnet reduced to powder, while he
applied at the same time to the external swelling, a poultice made of
filings of iron. He expected that by this means the magnet, when it got to
the corresponding place inside, would draw in the iron, and with it the
tumour; which would thus, he said, be safely and expeditiously reduced.

As this new doctrine of magnetism spread, it was found that wounds
inflicted with any metallic substance could be cured by the magnet. In
process of time, the delusion so increased, that it was deemed sufficient
to magnetise a sword, to cure any hurt which that sword might have
inflicted! This was the origin of the celebrated "weapon-salve," which
excited so much attention about the middle of the seventeenth century. The
following was the recipe given by Paracelsus for the cure of any wounds
inflicted by a sharp weapon, except such as had penetrated the heart, the
brain, or the arteries. "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--of each, one ounce; of human suet, two ounces; of linseed oil,
turpentine, and Armenian bole--of each, two drachms. Mix all well in a
mortar, and keep the salve in an oblong, narrow urn." With this salve the
weapon, after being dipped in the blood from the wound, was to be
carefully anointed, and then laid by in a cool place. In the mean time,
the wound was to be duly washed with fair clean water, covered with a
clean, soft, linen rag, and opened once a day to cleanse off purulent or
other matter. Of the success of this treatment, says the writer of
the able article on Animal Magnetism, in the twelfth volume of the
_Foreign Quarterly Review_, there cannot be the least doubt; "for surgeons
at this moment follow exactly the same method, _except_ anointing the

The weapon-salve continued to be much spoken of on the Continent, and many
eager claimants appeared for the honour of the invention. Dr. Fludd, or A.
Fluctibus, the Rosicrucian, who has been already mentioned in a previous
part of this volume, was very zealous in introducing it into England. He
tried it with great success in several cases, and no wonder, for while he
kept up the spirits of his patients by boasting of the great efficacy of
the salve, he never neglected those common, but much more important
remedies, of washing, bandaging, &c. which the experience of all ages had
declared sufficient for the purpose. Fludd moreover declared, that the
magnet was a remedy for all diseases, if properly applied; but that man
having, like the earth, a north and a south pole, magnetism could only
take place when his body was in a boreal position! In the midst of his
popularity, an attack was made upon him and his favourite remedy, the
salve; which, however, did little or nothing to diminish the belief in its
efficacy. One "Parson Foster" wrote a pamphlet, entitled _Hyplocrisma
Spongus; or, a Spunge to wipe away the Weapon-Salve_; in which he
declared, that it was as bad as witchcraft to use or recommend such an
unguent; that it was invented by the Devil, who, at the last day, would
seize upon every person who had given it the slightest encouragement. "In
fact," said Parson Foster, "the Devil himself gave it to Paracelsus;
Paracelsus to the emperor; the emperor to the courtier; the courtier to
Baptista Porta; and Baptista Porta to Dr. Fludd, a doctor of physic, yet
living and practising in the famous city of London, who now stands tooth
and nail for it." Dr. Fludd, thus assailed, took up the pen in defence of
his unguent, in a reply called _The Squeezing of Parson Foster's Spunge;
wherein the Spunge-bearer'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_.

Shortly after this dispute a more distinguished believer in the
weapon-salve made his appearance in the person of Sir Kenelm Digby, the
son of Sir Everard Digby, who was executed for his participation in the
Gunpowder Plot. This gentleman, who, in other respects, was an
accomplished scholar and an able man, was imbued with all the extravagant
notions of the alchymists. He believed in the philosopher's stone, and
wished to engage Descartes to devote his energies to the discovery
of the elixir of life, or some other means by which the existence of man
might be prolonged to an indefinite period. He gave his wife, the
beautiful Venetia Anastasia Stanley, a dish of capons fed upon vipers,
according to the plan supposed to have been laid down by Arnold of
Villeneuve, in the hope that she might thereby preserve her loveliness for
a century. If such a man once took up the idea of the weapon-salve, it was
to be expected that he would make the most of it. In his hands, however,
it was changed from an unguent into a powder, and was called the _powder
of sympathy_. He pretended that he had acquired the knowledge of it from a
Carmelite friar, who had learned it in Persia or Armenia, from an oriental
philosopher of great renown. King James, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of
Buchingham, and many other noble personages, believed in its efficacy. The
following remarkable instance of his mode of cure was read by Sir Kenelm
to a society of learned men at Montpellier. Mr. James Howell, the
well-known author of the _Dendrologia_, and of various letters, coming by
chance as two of his best friends were fighting a duel, rushed between
them and endeavoured to part them. He seized the sword of one of the
combatants by the hilt, while, at the same time, he grasped the other by
the blade. Being transported with fury one against the other, they
struggled to rid themselves of the hindrance caused by their friend; and
in so doing, the one whose sword was held by the blade by Mr. Howell, drew
it away roughly, and nearly cut his hand off, severing the nerves and
muscles, and penetrating to the bone. The other, almost at the same
instant, disengaged his sword, and aimed a blow at the head of his
antagonist, which Mr. Howell observing, raised his wounded hand with the
rapidity of thought to prevent the blow. The sword fell on the back of his
already wounded hand, and cut it severely. "It seemed," said Sir Kenelm
Digby, "as if some unlucky star raged over them, that they should have
both shed the blood of that dear friend for whose life they would have
given their own, if they had been in their proper mind at the time."
Seeing Mr. Howell's face all besmeared with blood from his wounded hand,
they both threw down their swords and embraced him, and bound up his hand
with a garter, to close the veins which were cut and bled profusely. They
then conveyed him home, and sent for a surgeon. King James, who was much
attached to Mr. Howell, afterwards sent his own surgeon to attend him. We
must continue the narrative in the words of Sir Kenelm Digby: "It was my
chance," says he, "to be lodged hard by him; and four or five days after,
as I was making myself ready, he came to my house, and prayed me to view
his wounds. 'For I understand,' said he, 'that you have extraordinary
remedies on such occasions; and my surgeons apprehend some fear
that it may grow to a gangrene, and so the hand must be cut off.' In
effect, his countenance discovered that he was in much pain, which, he
said, was insupportable in regard of the extreme inflammation. I told him
I would willingly serve him; but if, haply, he knew the manner how I could
cure him, without touching or seeing him, it might be that he would not
expose himself to my manner of curing; because he would think it,
peradventure, either ineffectual or superstitious. He replied, 'The many
wonderful things which people have related unto me of your way of
medicinement makes me nothing doubt at all of its efficacy; and all that I
have to say unto you is comprehended in the Spanish proverb, _Hagase el
milagro y hagalo Mahoma_--Let the miracle be done, though Mahomet do it.'

"I asked him then for any thing that had the blood upon it: so he
presently sent for his garter, wherewith his hand was first bound; and as
I called for a basin of water, as if I would wash my hands, I took a
handful of powder of vitriol, which I had in my study, and presently
dissolved it. As soon as the bloody garter was brought me, I put it in the
basin, observing, in the interim, what Mr. Howell did, who stood talking
with a gentleman in a corner of my chamber, not regarding at all what I
was doing. He started suddenly, as if he had found some strange alteration
in himself. I asked him what he ailed? 'I know not what ails me, but I
find that I feel no more pain. Methinks that a pleasing kind of freshness,
as it were a wet cold napkin, did spread over my hand, which hath taken
away the inflammation that tormented me before.' I replied, 'Since, then,
you feel already so much good of my medicament, I advise you to cast away
all your plasters; only keep the wound clean, and in a moderate temper
betwixt heat and cold.' This was presently reported to the Duke of
Buckingham, and, a little after, to the king, who were both very curious
to know the circumstances of the business; which was, that after dinner I
took the garter out of the water, and put it to dry before a great fire.
It was scarce dry before Mr. Howell's servant came running, and saying
that his master felt as much burning as ever he had done, if not more; for
the heat was such as if his hand were betwixt coals of fire. I answered
that, although that had happened at present, yet he should find ease in a
short time; for I knew the reason of this new accident, and would provide
accordingly; for his master should be free from that inflammation, it
might be before he could possibly return to him. But, in case he found no
ease, I wished him to come presently back again; if not, he might forbear
coming. Thereupon he went, and, at the instant I did put the
garter again into the water; thereupon he found his master without any
pain at all. To be brief, there was no cense of pain afterwards; but
within five or six days the wounds were sicatrised and entirely healed."

Such is the marvellous story of Sir Kenelm Digby. Other practitioners of
that age were not behind him in their pretensions. It was not always
thought necessary to use either the powder of sympathy, or the
weapon-salve, to effect a cure. It was sufficient to magnetise the sword
with the hand (the first faint dawn of the _animal_ theory), to relieve
any pain the same weapon had caused. They asserted, that if they stroked
the sword _upwards_ with their fingers, the wounded person would feel
immediate relief; but if they stroked it _downwards_, he would feel
intolerable pain.[66]

    [66] Reginald Scott, quoted by Sir Walter Scott, in the notes to
         the _Lay of the last Minstrel_, c. iii. v. xxiii.

Another very singular notion of the power and capabilities of magnetism
was entertained at the same time. It was believed that a _sympathetic
alphabet_ could be made on the flesh, by means of which persons could
correspond with each other, and communicate all their ideas with the
rapidity of volition, although thousands of miles apart. From the arms of
two persons a piece of flesh was cut, and mutually transplanted, while
still warm and bleeding. The piece so severed grew to the new arm on which
it was placed; but still retained so close a sympathy with its native
limb, that its old possessor was always sensible of any injury done to it.
Upon these transplanted pieces were tatooed the letters of the alphabet;
so that, when a communication was to be made, either of the persons,
though the wide Atlantic rolled between them, had only to prick his arm
with a magnetic needle, and straightway his friend received intimation
that the telegraph was at work. Whatever letter he pricked on his own arm
pained the same letter on the arm of his correspondent.

Contemporary with Sir Kenelm Digby was the no less famous Mr. Valentine
Greatraks, who, without mentioning magnetism, or laying claim to any
theory, practised upon himself and others a deception much more akin to
the animal magnetism of the present day than the mineral magnetism it was
then so much the fashion to study. He was the son of an Irish gentleman,
of good education and property, in the county of Cork. He fell, at an
early age, into a sort of melancholy derangement. After some time he had
an impulse, or strange persuasion in his mind, which continued to present
itself, whether he were sleeping or waking, that God had given him the
power of curing the king's evil. He mentioned this persuasion to his wife,
who very candidly told him that he was a fool. He was not quite sure of
this, notwithstanding the high authority from which it came, and
determined to make trial of the power that was in him. A few days
afterwards, he went to one William Maher, of Saltersbridge, in the parish
of Lismore, who was grievously afflicted with the king's evil in his eyes,
cheek, and throat. Upon this man, who was of abundant faith, he laid his
hands, stroked him, and prayed fervently. He had the satisfaction to see
him heal considerably in the course of a few days; and finally, with the
aid of other remedies, to be quite cured. This success encouraged him in
the belief that he had a divine mission. Day after day he had further
impulses from on high that he was called upon to cure the ague also. In
the course of time he extended his powers to the curing of epilepsy,
ulcers, aches, and lameness. All the county of Cork was in a commotion to
see this extraordinary physician, who certainly operated some very great
benefit in cases where the disease was heightened by hypochondria and
depression of spirits. According to his own account,[67] such great
multitudes resorted to him from divers places, that he had no time to
follow his own business, or enjoy the company of his family and friends.
He was obliged to set aside three days in the week, from six in the
morning till six at night, during which time only he laid hands upon all
that came. Still the crowds which thronged around him were so great, that
the neighbouring towns were not able to accommodate them. He thereupon
left his house in the country, and went to Youghal, where the resort of
sick people, not only from all parts of Ireland, but from England,
continued so great, that the magistrates were afraid they would infect the
place by their diseases. Several of these poor credulous people no sooner
saw him than they fell into fits, and he restored them by waving his hand
in their faces, and praying over them. Nay, he affirmed that the touch of
his glove had driven pains away, and, on one occasion, cast out from a
woman several devils, or evil spirits, who tormented her day and night.
"Every one of these devils," says Greatraks, "was like to choke her when
it came up into her throat." It is evident from this that the woman's
complaint was nothing but hysteria.

    [67] Greatraks' Account of himself, in a letter to the Honourable
         Robert Boyle.

The clergy of the diocese of Lismore, who seem to have had much clearer
notions of Greatraks' pretensions than their parishioners, set their faces
against the new prophet and worker of miracles. He was cited to appear in
the Dean's Court, and prohibited from laying on his hands for the future:
but he cared nothing for the Church. He imagined that he derived his
powers direct from heaven, and continued to throw people into
fits, and bring them to their senses again, as usual, almost exactly after
the fashion of modern magnetisers. His reputation became, at last, so
great, that Lord Conway sent to him from London, begging that he would
come over immediately to cure a grievous headache which his lady had
suffered for several years, and which the principal physicians of England
had been unable to relieve.

Greatraks accepted the invitation, and tried his manipulations and prayers
upon Lady Conway. He failed, however, in affording any relief. The poor
lady's headache was excited by causes too serious to allow her any help,
even from faith and a lively imagination. He lived for some months in Lord
Conway's house, at Ragley, in Warwickshire, operating cures similar to
those he had performed in Ireland. He afterwards removed to London, and
took a house in Lincoln's-Inn Fields, which soon became the daily resort
of all the nervous and credulous women of the metropolis. A very amusing
account of Greatraks at this time (1665) is given in the second volume of
the _Miscellanies of St. Evremond_, under the title of the Irish prophet.
It is the most graphic sketch ever made of this early magnetiser. Whether
his pretensions were more or less absurd than those of some of his
successors, who have lately made their appearance among us, would be hard
to say.

"When M. de Comminges," says St. Evremond, "was ambassador from his most
Christian majesty to the king of Great Britain, there came to London an
Irish prophet, who passed himself off as a great worker of miracles. Some
persons of quality having begged M. de Comminges to invite him to his
house, that they might be witnesses of some of his miracles, the
ambassador promised to satisfy them, as much to gratify his own curiosity
as from courtesy to his friends; and gave notice to Greatraks that he
would be glad to see him.

"A rumour of the prophet's coming soon spread all over the town, and the
hotel of M. de Comminges was crowded by sick persons, who came full of
confidence in their speedy cure. The Irishman made them wait a
considerable time for him, but came at last, in the midst of their
impatience, with a grave and simple countenance, that showed no signs of
his being a cheat. Monsieur de Comminges prepared to question him
strictly, hoping to discourse with him on the matters that he had read of
in Van Helmont and Bodinus; but he was not able to do so, much to his
regret, for the crowd became so great, and cripples and others pressed
around so impatiently to be the first cured, that the servants were
obliged to use threats, and even force, before they could
establish order among them, or place them in proper ranks.

"The prophet affirmed that all diseases were caused by evil spirits. Every
infirmity was with him a case of diabolical possession. The first that was
presented to him was a man suffering from gout and rheumatism, and so
severely that the physicians had been unable to cure him. 'Ah,' said the
miracle-worker, 'I have seen a good deal of this sort of spirits when I
was in Ireland. They are watery spirits, who bring on cold shivering, and
excite an overflow of aqueous humours in our poor bodies.' Then addressing
the man, he said, 'Evil spirit, who hast quitted thy dwelling in the
waters to come and afflict this miserable body, I command thee to quit thy
new abode, and to return to thine ancient habitation!' This said, the sick
man was ordered to withdraw, and another was brought forward in his place.
This new comer said he was tormented by the melancholy vapours. In fact,
he looked like a hypochondriac; one of those persons, diseased in
imagination, and who but too often become so in reality. 'Aerial spirit,'
said the Irishman, 'return, I command thee, into the air;--exercise thy
natural vocation of raising tempests, and do not excite any more wind in
this sad unlucky body!' This man was immediately turned away to make room
for a third patient, who, in the Irishman's opinion, was only tormented by
a little bit of a sprite, who could not withstand his command for an
instant. He pretended that he recognised this sprite by some marks which
were invisible to the company, to whom he turned with a smile, and said,
'This sort of spirit does not often do much harm, and is always very
diverting.' To hear him talk, one would have imagined that he knew all
about spirits,--their names, their rank, their numbers, their employment,
and all the functions they were destined to; and he boasted of being much
better acquainted with the intrigues of demons than he was with the
affairs of men. You can hardly imagine what a reputation he gained in a
short time. Catholics and Protestants visited him from every part, all
believing that power from heaven was in his hands."

After relating a rather equivocal adventure of a husband and wife, who
implored Greatraks to cast out the devil of dissension which had crept in
between them, St. Evremond thus sums up the effect he produced on the
popular mind: "So great was the confidence in him, that the blind fancied
they saw the light which they did not see--the deaf imagined that they
heard--the lame that they walked straight, and the paralytic that they had
recovered the use of their limbs. An idea of health made the sick forget
for a while their maladies; and imagination, which was not less
active in those merely drawn by curiosity than in the sick, gave a false
view to the one class, from the desire of seeing, as it operated a false
cure on the other from the strong desire of being healed. Such was the
power of the Irishman over the mind, and such was the influence of the
mind upon the body. Nothing was spoken of in London but his prodigies; and
these prodigies were supported by such great authorities, that the
bewildered multitude believed them almost without examination, while more
enlightened people did not dare to reject them from their own knowledge.
The public opinion, timid and enslaved, respected this imperious and,
apparently, well-authenticated error. Those who saw through the delusion
kept their opinion to themselves, knowing how useless it was to declare
their disbelief to a people filled with prejudice and admiration."

About the same time that Valentine Greatraks was thus _magnetising_ the
people of London, an Italian enthusiast, named Francisco Bagnone, was
performing the same tricks in Italy, and with as great success. He had
only to touch weak women with his hands, or sometimes (for the sake of
working more effectively upon their fanaticism) with a relic, to make them
fall into fits, and manifest all the symptoms of magnetism.

Besides these, several learned men, in different parts of Europe, directed
their attention to the study of the magnet, believing that it might be
rendered efficacious in many diseases. Van Helmont, in particular,
published a work on the effects of magnetism on the human frame; and
Balthazar Gracian, a Spaniard, rendered himself famous for the boldness of
his views on the subject. "The magnet," said the latter, "attracts iron;
iron is found every where; every thing, therefore, is under the influence
of magnetism. It is only a modification of the general principle, which
establishes harmony or foments divisions among men. It is the same agent
that gives rise to sympathy, antipathy, and the passions."[68]

    [68] _Introduction to the Study of Animal Magnetism_, by Baron
         Dupotet de Sennevoy, p. 315.

Baptista Porta, who, in the whimsical genealogy of the weapon-salve, given
by Parson Foster, in his attack upon Dr. à Fluctibus, is mentioned as one
of its fathers, had also great faith in the efficacy of the magnet, and
operated upon the imagination of his patients in a manner which was then
considered so extraordinary that he was accused of being a magician, and
prohibited from practising by the court of Rome. Among others who
distinguished themselves by their faith in magnetism, Sebastian Wirdig and
William Maxwell claim especial notice. Wirdig was professor of medicine at
the university of Rostock in Mecklenburg, and wrote a treatise
called _The New Medicine of the Spirits_, which he presented to the Royal
Society of London. An edition of this work was printed in 1673, in which
the author maintained that a magnetic influence took place, not only
between the celestial and terrestrial bodies, but between all living
things. The whole world, he said, was under the influence of magnetism;
life was preserved by magnetism; death was the consequence of magnetism!

Maxwell, the other enthusiast, was an admiring disciple of Paracelsus, and
boasted that he had irradiated the obscurity in which too many of the
wonder-working recipes of that great philosopher were enveloped. His works
were printed at Frankfort in 1679. It would seem, from the following
passage, that he was aware of the great influence of imagination, as well
in the production as in the cure of diseases. "If you wish to work
prodigies," says he, "abstract from the materiality of beings--increase
the sum of spirituality in bodies--rouse the spirit from its slumbers.
Unless you do one or other of these things--unless you can bind the idea,
you can never perform any thing good or great." Here, in fact, lies the
whole secret of magnetism, and all delusions of a similar kind: increase
the spirituality--rouse the spirit from its slumbers, or, in other words,
work upon the imagination--induce belief and blind confidence, and you may
do any thing. This passage, which is quoted with approbation by M.
Dupotet[69] in a work, as strongly corroborative of the theory now
advanced by the animal magnetists, is just the reverse. If they believe
they can work all their wonders by the means so dimly shadowed forth by
Maxwell, what becomes of the universal fluid pervading all nature, and
which they pretend to pour into weak and diseased bodies from the tips of
their fingers?

    [69] _Introduction to the Study of Animal Magnetism_, p. 318.

Early in the eighteenth century the attention of Europe was directed to a
very remarkable instance of fanaticism, which has been claimed by the
animal magnetists as a proof of their science. The _Convulsionaries of St.
Medard_, as they were called, assembled in great numbers round the tomb of
their favourite saint, the Jansenist priest Paris, and taught one another
how to fall into convulsions. They believed that St. Paris would cure all
their infirmities; and the number of hysterical women and weak-minded
persons of all descriptions that flocked to the tomb from far and near was
so great as daily to block up all the avenues leading to it. Working
themselves up to a pitch of excitement, they went off one after the other
into fits, while some of them, still in apparent possession of all their
faculties, voluntarily exposed themselves to sufferings which on
ordinary occasions would have been sufficient to deprive them of life. The
scenes that occurred were a scandal to civilisation and to religion--a
strange mixture of obscenity, absurdity, and superstition. While some were
praying on bended knees at the shrine of St. Paris, others were shrieking
and making the most hideous noises. The women especially exerted
themselves. On one side of the chapel there might be seen a score of them,
all in convulsions; while at another as many more, excited to a sort of
frenzy, yielded themselves up to gross indecencies. Some of them took an
insane delight in being beaten and trampled upon. One in particular,
according to Montégre, whose account we quote,[70] was so enraptured with
this ill-usage, that nothing but the hardest blows would satisfy her.
While a fellow of Herculean strength was beating her with all his might
with a heavy bar of iron, she kept continually urging him to renewed
exertion. The harder he struck the better she liked it, exclaiming all the
while, "Well done, brother, well done! Oh, how pleasant it is! what good
you are doing me! Courage, my brother, courage; strike harder, strike
harder still!" Another of these fanatics had, if possible, a still greater
love for a beating. Carré de Montgeron, who relates the circumstance, was
unable to satisfy her with sixty blows of a large sledge-hammer. He
afterwards used the same weapon with the same degree of strength, for the
sake of experiment, and succeeded in battering a hole in a stone wall at
the twenty-fifth stroke. Another woman, named Sonnet, laid herself down on
a red-hot brazier without flinching, and acquired for herself the nickname
of the _Salamander_; while others, desirous of a more illustrious
martyrdom, attempted to crucify themselves. M. Deleuze, in his critical
history of _Animal Magnetism_, attempts to prove that this fanatical
frenzy was produced by magnetism, and that these mad enthusiasts
magnetised each other without being aware of it. As well might he insist
that the fanaticism which tempts the Hindoo bigot to keep his arms
stretched in a horizontal position till the sinews wither, or his fingers
closed upon his palms till the nails grow out of the backs of his hands,
is also an effect of magnetism!

    [70] _Dictionaire des Sciences Médicales_--Article
         _Convulsionnaires_, par Montégre.

For a period of sixty or seventy years magnetism was almost wholly
confined to Germany. Men of sense and learning devoted their attention to
the properties of the loadstone; and one Father Hell, a Jesuit, and
professor of astronomy at the University of Vienna, rendered himself
famous by his magnetic cures. About the year 1771 or 1772 he invented
steel-plates of a peculiar form, which he applied to the naked body as a
cure for several diseases. In the year 1774 he communicated his system to
Anthony Mesmer. The latter improved upon the ideas of Father Hell,
constructed a new theory of his own, and became the founder of ANIMAL

It has been the fashion among the enemies of the new delusion to decry
Mesmer as an unprincipled adventurer, while his disciples have extolled
him to the skies as a regenerator of the human race. In nearly the same
words as the Rosicrucians applied to their founders, he has been called
the discoverer of the secret which brings man into more intimate connexion
with his Creator, the deliverer of the soul from the debasing trammels of
the flesh, the man who enables us to set time at defiance, and conquer the
obstructions of space. A careful sifting of his pretensions, and
examination of the evidence brought forward to sustain them, will soon
shew which opinion is the more correct. That the writer of these pages
considers him in the light of a man who, deluding himself, was the means
of deluding others, may be inferred from his finding a place in these
volumes, and figuring among the Flamels, the Agrippas, the Borris, the
Böhmens, and the Cagliostros.

He was born in May 1734, at Mersburg, in Swabia, and studied medicine at
the University of Vienna. He took his degrees in 1766, and chose the
influence of the planets on the human body as the subject of his inaugural
dissertation. Having treated the matter quite in the style of the old
astrological physicians, he was exposed to some ridicule both then and
afterwards. Even at this early period some faint ideas of his great theory
were germinating in his mind. He maintained in his dissertation "that the
sun, moon, and fixed stars mutually affect each other in their orbits;
that they cause and direct in our earth a flux and reflux not only in the
sea, but in the atmosphere, and affect in a similar manner all organised
bodies through the medium of a subtile and mobile fluid, which pervades
the universe, and associates all things together in mutual intercourse and
harmony." This influence, he said, was particularly exercised on the
nervous system, and produced two states, which he called _intension_ and
_remission_, which seemed to him to account for the different periodical
revolutions observable in several maladies. When in after-life he met with
Father Hell, he was confirmed by that person's observations in the truth
of many of his own ideas. Having caused Hell to make him some magnetic
plates, he determined to try experiments with them himself for his further

He tried accordingly, and was astonished at his success. The faith of
their wearers operated wonders with the metallic plates. Mesmer made due
reports to Father Hell of all he had done, and the latter published them
as the results of his own happy invention, and speaking of Mesmer as a
physician whom he had employed to work under him. Mesmer took offence at
being thus treated, considering himself a far greater personage than
Father Hell. He claimed the invention as his own, accused Hell of a breach
of confidence, and stigmatised him as a mean person, anxious to turn the
discoveries of others to his own account. Hell replied, and a very pretty
quarrel was the result, which afforded small talk for months to the
literati of Vienna. Hell ultimately gained the victory. Mesmer, nothing
daunted, continued to promulgate his views till he stumbled at last upon
the animal theory.

One of his patients was a young lady, named Oesterline, who suffered under
a convulsive malady. Her attacks were periodical, and attended by a rush
of blood to the head, followed by delirium and syncope. These symptoms he
soon succeeded in reducing under his system of planetary influence, and
imagined he could foretell the periods of accession and remission. Having
thus accounted satisfactorily to himself for the origin of the disease,
the idea struck him that he could operate a certain cure if he could
ascertain beyond doubt, what he had long believed, that there existed
between the bodies which compose our globe an action equally reciprocal
and similar to that of the heavenly bodies, by means of which he could
imitate artificially the periodical revolutions of the flux and reflux
before mentioned. He soon convinced himself that this action did exist.
When trying the metallic plates of Father Hell, he thought their efficacy
depended on their form; but he found afterwards that he could produce the
same effects without using them at all, merely by passing his hands
downwards towards the feet of the patient, even when at a considerable

This completed the theory of Mesmer. He wrote an account of his discovery
to all the learned societies of Europe, soliciting their investigation.
The Academy of Sciences at Berlin was the only one that answered him, and
their answer was any thing but favourable to his system or flattering to
himself. Still he was not discouraged. He maintained to all who would
listen to him that the magnetic matter, or fluid, pervaded all the
universe--that every human body contained it, and could communicate the
superabundance of it to another by an exertion of the will. Writing to a
friend from Vienna, he said, "I have observed that the magnetic is almost
the same thing as the electric fluid, and that it may be propagated in the
same manner, by means of intermediate bodies. Steel is not the only
substance adapted to this purpose. I have rendered paper, bread, wool,
silk, stones, leather, glass, wood, men, and dogs--in short, every thing I
touched, magnetic to such a degree, that these substances produced the
same effects as the loadstone on diseased persons. I have charged jars
with magnetic matter in the same way as is done with electricity."

Mesmer did not long find his residence at Vienna as agreeable as he
wished. His pretensions were looked upon with contempt or indifference,
and the case of Mademoiselle Oesterline brought him less fame than
notoriety. He determined to change his sphere of action, and travelled
into Swabia and Switzerland. In the latter country he met with the
celebrated Father Gassner, who, like Valentine Greatraks, amused himself
by casting out devils, and healing the sick by merely laying hands upon
them. At his approach, delicate girls fell into convulsions, and
hypochondriacs fancied themselves cured. His house was daily besieged by
the lame, the blind, and the hysteric. Mesmer at once acknowledged the
efficacy of his cures, and declared that they were the obvious result of
his own newly-discovered power of magnetism. A few of the father's
patients were forthwith subjected to the manipulations of Mesmer, and the
same symptoms were induced. He then tried his hand upon some paupers in
the hospitals of Berne and Zurich, and succeeded, according to his own
account, but no other person's, in curing an opththalmia and a gutta
serena. With memorials of these achievements he returned to Vienna, in the
hope of silencing his enemies, or at least forcing them to respect his
newly-acquired reputation, and to examine his system more attentively.

His second appearance in that capital was not more auspicious than the
first. He undertook to cure a Mademoiselle Paradis, who was quite blind,
and subject to convulsions. He magnetised her several times, and then
declared that she was cured; at least, if she was not, it was her fault
and not his. An eminent oculist of that day, named Barth, went to visit
her, and declared that she was as blind as ever; while her family said she
was as much subject to convulsions as before. Mesmer persisted that she
was cured. Like the French philosopher, he would not allow facts to
interfere with his theory.[71] He declared that there was a conspiracy
against him; and that Mademoiselle Paradis, at the instigation of her
family, feigned blindness in order to injure his reputation!

    [71] An enthusiastic philosopher, of whose name we are not
         informed, had constructed a very satisfactory theory on some
         subject or other, and was not a little proud of it. "But the
         facts, my dear fellow," said his friend, "the facts do not
         agree with your theory."--"Don't they?" replied the
         philosopher, shrugging his shoulders, "then, _tant pis pour
         les faits_;"--so much the worse for the facts!

The consequences of this pretended cure taught Mesmer that Vienna
was not the sphere for him. Paris, the idle, the debauched, the
pleasure-hunting, the novelty-loving, was the scene for a philosopher like
him, and thither he repaired accordingly. He arrived at Paris in 1778, and
began modestly by making himself and his theory known to the principal
physicians. At first, his encouragement was but slight; he found people
more inclined to laugh at than to patronise him. But he was a man who had
great confidence in himself, and of a perseverance which no difficulties
could overcome. He hired a sumptuous apartment, which he opened to all
comers who chose to make trial of the new power of nature. M. D'Eslon, a
physician of great reputation, became a convert; and from that time,
animal magnetism, or, as some called it, mesmerism, became the fashion in
Paris. The women were quite enthusiastic about it, and their admiring
tattle wafted its fame through every grade of society. Mesmer was the
rage; and high and low, rich and poor, credulous and unbelieving, all
hastened to convince themselves of the power of this mighty magician, who
made such magnificent promises. Mesmer, who knew as well as any man living
the influence of the imagination, determined that, on that score, nothing
should be wanting to heighten the effect of the magnetic charm. In all
Paris, there was not a house so charmingly furnished as Monsieur Mesmer's.
Richly-stained glass shed a dim religious light on his spacious saloons,
which were almost covered with mirrors. Orange-blossoms scented all the
air of his corridors; incense of the most expensive kinds burned in
antique vases on his chimney-pieces; æolian harps sighed melodious music
from distant chambers; while sometimes a sweet female voice, from above or
below, stole softly upon the mysterious silence that was kept in the
house, and insisted upon from all visitors. "_Was ever any thing so
delightful!_" cried all the Mrs. Wittitterleys of Paris, as they thronged
to his house in search of pleasant excitement; "_So wonderful!_" said the
pseudo-philosophers, who would believe anything if it were the fashion;
"_So amusing!_" said the worn-out debauchés, who had drained the cup of
sensuality to its dregs, and who longed to see lovely women in
convulsions, with the hope that they might gain some new emotions from the

The following was the mode of operation: In the centre of the saloon was
placed an oval vessel, about four feet in its longest diameter, and one
foot deep. In this were laid a number of wine-bottles, filled with
magnetised water, well corked-up, and disposed in radii, with their necks
outwards. Water was then poured into the vessel so as just to cover the
bottles, and filings of iron were thrown in occasionally to heighten the
magnetic effect. The vessel was then covered with an iron cover,
pierced through with many holes, and was called the _baquet_. From each
hole issued a long movable rod of iron, which the patients were to apply
to such parts of their bodies as were afflicted. Around this _baquet_ the
patients were directed to sit, holding each other by the hand, and
pressing their knees together as closely as possible, to facilitate the
passage of the magnetic fluid from one to the other.

Then came in the assistant magnetisers, generally strong, handsome young
men, to pour into the patient from their finger-tips fresh streams of the
wondrous fluid. They embraced the patient between the knees, rubbed them
gently down the spine and the course of the nerves, using gentle pressure
upon the breasts of the ladies, and staring them out of countenance to
magnetise them by the eye! All this time the most rigorous silence was
maintained, with the exception of a few wild notes on the harmonica or the
piano-forte, or the melodious voice of a hidden opera-singer swelling
softly at long intervals. Gradually the cheeks of the ladies began to
glow, their imaginations to become inflamed; and off they went, one after
the other, in convulsive fits. Some of them sobbed and tore their hair,
others laughed till the tears ran from their eyes, while others shrieked
and screamed and yelled till they became insensible altogether.

This was the crisis of the delirium. In the midst of it, the chief actor
made his appearance, waving his wand, like Prospero, to work new wonders.
Dressed in a long robe of lilac-coloured silk richly embroidered with gold
flowers, bearing in his hand a white magnetic rod, and with a look of
dignity which would have sat well on an eastern caliph, he marched with
solemn strides into the room. He awed the still sensible by his eye, and
the violence of their symptoms diminished. He stroked the insensible with
his hands upon the eye-brows and down the spine; traced figures upon their
breast and abdomen with his long white wand, and they were restored to
consciousness. They became calm, acknowledged his power, and said they
felt streams of cold or burning vapour passing through their frames,
according as he waved his wand or his fingers before them.

"It is impossible," says M. Dupotet, "to conceive the sensation which
Mesmer's experiments created in Paris. No theological controversy, in the
earlier ages of the Catholic Church, was ever conducted with greater
bitterness." His adversaries denied the discovery; some calling him a
quack, others a fool, and others again, like the Abbé Fiard, a man who had
sold himself to the Devil! His friends were as extravagant in their
praise, as his foes were in their censure. Paris was inundated with
pamphlets upon the subject, as many defending as attacking the doctrine.
At court, the queen expressed herself in favour of it, and nothing
else was to be heard of in society.

By the advice of M. D'Eslon, Mesmer challenged an examination of his
doctrine by the Faculty of Medicine. He proposed to select twenty-four
patients, twelve of whom he would treat magnetically, leaving the other
twelve to be treated by the faculty according to the old and approved
methods. He also stipulated that, to prevent disputes, the government
should nominate certain persons who were not physicians, to be present at
the experiments; and that the object of the inquiry should be, not how
these effects were produced, but whether they were really efficacious in
the cure of any disease. The faculty objected to limit the inquiry in this
manner, and the proposition fell to the ground.

Mesmer now wrote to Marie Antoinette, with the view of securing her
influence in obtaining for him the protection of government. He wished to
have a château and its lands given to him, with a handsome yearly income,
that he might be enabled to continue his experiments at leisure,
untroubled by the persecution of his enemies. He hinted the duty of
governments to support men of science, and expressed his fear, that if he
met no more encouragement, he should be compelled to carry his great
discovery to some other land more willing to appreciate him. "In the eyes
of your majesty," said he, "four or five hundred thousand francs, applied
to a good purpose, are of no account. The welfare and happiness of your
people are every thing. My discovery ought to be received and rewarded
with a munificence worthy of the monarch to whom I shall attach myself."
The government at last offered him a pension of twenty thousand francs,
and the cross of the order of St. Michael, if he had made any discovery in
medicine, and would communicate it to physicians nominated by the king.
The latter part of the proposition was not agreeable to Mesmer. He feared
the unfavourable report of the king's physicians; and, breaking off the
negotiation, spoke of his disregard of money, and his wish to have his
discovery at once recognised by the government. He then retired to Spa, in
a fit of disgust, upon pretence of drinking the waters for the benefit of
his health.

After he had left Paris, the Faculty of Medicine called upon M. D'Eslon,
for the third and last time, to renounce the doctrine of animal magnetism,
or be expelled from their body. M. D'Eslon, so far from doing this,
declared that he had discovered new secrets, and solicited further
examination. A royal commission of the Faculty of Medicine was, in
consequence, appointed on the 12th of March 1784, seconded by another
commission of the Académie des Sciences, to investigate the phenomena and
report upon them. The first commission was composed of the
principal physicians of Paris; while, among the eminent men comprised in
the latter, were Benjamin Franklin, Lavoisier, and Bailly the historian of
astronomy. Mesmer was formally invited to appear before this body, but
absented himself from day to day, upon one pretence or another. M. D'Eslon
was more honest, because he thoroughly believed in the phenomena, which it
is to be questioned if Mesmer ever did, and regularly attended the
sittings and performed experiments.

Bailly has thus described the scenes of which he was a witness in the
course of this investigation. "The sick persons, arranged in great numbers
and in several rows around the _baquet_, receive the magnetism, by all
these means: by the iron rods which convey it to them from the
_baquet_--by the cords wound round their bodies--by the connexion of the
thumb, which conveys to them the magnetism of their neighbours--and by the
sounds of a piano-forte, or of an agreeable voice, diffusing the magnetism
in the air. The patients were also directly magnetised by means of the
finger and wand of the magnetiser moved slowly before their faces, above
or behind their heads, and on the diseased parts, always observing the
direction of the holes. The magnetiser acts by fixing his eyes on them.
But above all, they are magnetised by the application of his hands and the
pressure of his fingers on the hypochondres and on the regions of the
abdomen; an application often continued for a long time--sometimes for
several hours.

"Meanwhile the patients in their different conditions present a very
varied picture. Some are calm, tranquil, and experience no effect. Others
cough, spit, feel slight pains, local or general heat, and have sweatings.
Others again are agitated and tormented with convulsions. These
convulsions are remarkable in regard to the number affected with them, to
their duration and force. As soon as one begins to be convulsed, several
others are affected. The commissioners have observed some of these
convulsions last more than three hours. They are accompanied with
expectorations of a muddy viscous water, brought away by violent efforts.
Sometimes streaks of blood have been observed in this fluid. These
convulsions are characterised by the precipitous, involuntary motion of
all the limbs, and of the whole body; by the contraction of the throat--by
the leaping motions of the hypochondria and the epigastrium--by the
dimness and wandering of the eyes--by piercing shrieks, tears, sobbing,
and immoderate laughter. They are preceded or followed by a state of
langour or reverie, a kind of depression, and sometimes drowsiness. The
smallest sudden noise occasions a shuddering; and it was remarked, that
the change of measure in the airs played on the piano-forte had a
great influence on the patients. A quicker motion, a livelier melody,
agitated them more, and renewed the vivacity of their convulsions.

"Nothing is more astonishing than the spectacle of these convulsions. One
who has not seen them can form no idea of them. The spectator is as much
astonished at the profound repose of one portion of the patients as at the
agitation of the rest--at the various accidents which are repeated, and at
the sympathies which are exhibited. Some of the patients may be seen
devoting their attention exclusively to one another, rushing towards each
other with open arms, smiling, soothing, and manifesting every symptom of
attachment and affection. All are under the power of the magnetiser; it
matters not in what state of drowsiness they may be, the sound of his
voice--a look, a motion of his hand--brings them out of it. Among the
patients in convulsions there are always observed a great many women, and
very few men."[72]

    [72] _Rapport des Commissaires_, rédigé par M. Bailly. Paris, 1784.

These experiments lasted for about five months. They had hardly commenced,
before Mesmer, alarmed at the loss both of fame and profit, determined to
return to Paris. Some patients of rank and fortune, enthusiastic believers
in his doctrine, had followed him to Spa. One of them named Bergasse,
proposed to open a subscription for him, of one hundred shares, at one
hundred louis each, on condition that he would disclose his secret to the
subscribers, who were to be permitted to make whatever use they pleased of
it. Mesmer readily embraced the proposal; and such was the infatuation,
that the subscription was not only filled in a few days, but exceeded by
no less a sum than one hundred and forty thousand francs.

With this fortune he returned to Paris, and recommenced his experiments,
while the royal commission continued theirs. His admiring pupils, who had
paid him so handsomely for his instructions, spread his fame over the
country, and established in all the principal towns of France, "Societies
of Harmony," for trying experiments and curing all diseases by means of
magnetism. Some of these societies were a scandal to morality, being
joined by profligate men of depraved appetites, who took a disgusting
delight in witnessing young girls in convulsions. Many of the pretended
magnetisers were asserted at the time to be notorious libertines, who took
that opportunity of gratifying their passions.

At last the commissioners published their report, which was drawn up by
the illustrious and unfortunate Bailly. For clearness of reasoning and
strict impartiality it has never been surpassed. After detailing the
various experiments made, and their results, they came to the conclusion
that the only proof advanced in support of animal magnetism was the
effects it produced on the human body--that those effects could be
produced without passes or other magnetic manipulations--that all these
manipulations and passes and ceremonies never produce any effect at all if
employed without the patient's knowledge; and that therefore imagination
did, and animal magnetism did not, account for the phenomena.

This report was the ruin of Mesmer's reputation in France. He quitted
Paris shortly after, with the three hundred and forty thousand francs
which had been subscribed by his admirers, and retired to his own country,
where he died in 1815, at the advanced age of eighty-one. But the seeds he
had sown fructified of themselves, nourished and brought to maturity by
the kindly warmth of popular credulity. Imitators sprang up in France,
Germany, and England, more extravagant than their master, and claiming
powers for the new science which its founder had never dreamt of. Among
others, Cagliostro made good use of the delusion in extending his claims
to be considered a master of the occult sciences. But he made no
discoveries worthy to be compared to those of the Marquis de Puysegur and
the Chevalier Barbarin, honest men, who began by deceiving themselves
before they deceived others.

The Marquis de Puysegur, the owner of a considerable estate at Busancy,
was one of those who had entered into the subscription for Mesmer. After
that individual had quitted France, he retired to Busancy, with his
brother, to try animal magnetism upon his tenants, and cure the country
people of all manner of diseases. He was a man of great simplicity and
much benevolence, and not only magnetised but fed the sick that flocked
around him. In all the neighbourhood, and indeed within a circumference of
twenty miles, he was looked upon as endowed with a power almost divine.
His great discovery, as he called it, was made by chance. One day he had
magnetised his gardener; and observing him to fall into a deep sleep, it
occurred to him that he would address a question to him, as he would have
done to a natural somnambulist. He did so, and the man replied with much
clearness and precision. M. de Puysegur was agreeably surprised: he
continued his experiments, and found that, in this state of magnetic
somnambulism, _the soul of the sleeper was enlarged, and brought into more
intimate communion with all nature, and more especially with him, M. de
Puysegur_. He found that all further manipulations were unnecessary; that,
without speaking or making any sign, he could convey his will to the
patient; that he could, in fact, converse with him, soul to soul,
without the employment of any physical operation whatever!

Simultaneously with this marvellous discovery he made another, which
reflects equal credit upon his understanding. Like Valentine Greatraks, he
found it hard work to magnetise all that came--that he had not even time
to take the repose and relaxation which were necessary for his health. In
this emergency he hit upon a clever expedient. He had heard Mesmer say
that he could magnetise bits of wood: why should he not be able to
magnetise a whole tree? It was no sooner thought than done. There was a
large elm on the village green at Busancy, under which the peasant girls
used to dance on festive occasions, and the old men to sit, drinking their
_vin du pays_, on the fine summer evenings. M. de Puysegur proceeded to
this tree and magnetised it, by first touching it with his hands, and then
retiring a few steps from it; all the while directing streams of the
magnetic fluid from the branches toward the trunk, and from the trunk
toward the root. This done, he caused circular seats to be erected round
it, and cords suspended from it in all directions. When the patients had
seated themselves, they twisted the cords round the diseased parts of
their bodies, and held one another firmly by their thumbs to form a direct
channel of communication for the passage of the fluid.

M. de Puysegur had now two "hobbies"--the man with the enlarged soul and
the magnetic elm. The infatuation of himself and his patients cannot be
better expressed than in his own words. Writing to his brother, on the
17th of May 1784, he says, "If you do not come, my dear friend, you will
not see my extraordinary man, for his health is now almost quite restored.
I continue to make use of the happy power for which I am indebted to M.
Mesmer. Every day I bless his name; for I am very useful, and produce many
salutary effects on all the sick poor in the neighbourhood. They flock
around my tree; there were more than one hundred and thirty of them this
morning. It is the best _baquet_ possible; _not a leaf of it but
communicates health!_ all feel, more or less, the good effects of it. You
will be delighted to see the charming picture of humanity which this
presents. I have only one regret--it is, that I cannot touch all who come.
But my magnetised man--my intelligence--sets me at ease. He teaches me
what conduct I should adopt. According to him, it is not at all necessary
that I should touch every one; a look, a gesture, even a wish, is
sufficient. And it is one of the most ignorant peasants of the country
that teaches me this! When he is in a crisis, I know of nothing more
profound, more prudent, more clearsighted (_clairvoyant_) than he is."

In another letter, describing his first experiment with the magnetic tree,
he says, "Yesterday evening I brought my first patient to it. As soon as I
had put the cord round him he gazed at the tree; and, with an air of
astonishment which I cannot describe, exclaimed, 'What is it that I see
there?' His head then sunk down, and he fell into a perfect fit of
somnambulism. At the end of an hour, I took him home to his house again,
when I restored him to his senses. Several men and women came to tell him
what he had been doing. He maintained it was not true; that, weak as he
was, and scarcely able to walk, it would have been scarcely possible for
him to have gone down stairs and walked to the tree. To-day I have
repeated the experiment on him, and with the same success. I own to you
that my head turns round with pleasure to think of the good I do. Madame
de Puysegur, the friends she has with her, my servants, and, in fact, all
who are near me, feel an amazement, mingled with admiration, which cannot
be described; but they do not experience the half of my sensations.
Without my tree, which gives me rest, and which will give me still more, I
should be in a state of agitation, inconsistent, I believe, with my
health. I exist too much, if I may be allowed to use the expression."

In another letter, he descants still more poetically upon his gardener
with the enlarged soul. He says, "It is from this simple man, this tall
and stout rustic, twenty-three years of age, enfeebled by disease, or
rather by sorrow, and therefore the more predisposed to be affected by any
great natural agent,--it is from this man, I repeat, that I derive
instruction and knowledge. When in the magnetic state, he is no longer a
peasant who can hardly utter a single sentence; he is a being, to describe
whom I cannot find a name. I need not speak; _I have only to think before
him, when he instantly understands and answers me_. Should any body come
into the room, he sees him, if I desire it (but not else), and addresses
him, and says what I wish to say; not indeed exactly as I dictate to him,
but as truth requires. When he wants to add more than I deem it prudent
strangers should hear, I stop the flow of his ideas, and of his
conversation in the middle of a word, and give it quite a different turn!"

Among other persons attracted to Busancy by the report of these
extraordinary occurrences was M. Cloquet, the Receiver of Finance. His
appetite for the marvellous being somewhat insatiable, he readily believed
all that was told him by M. de Puysegur. He also has left a record of what
he saw, and what he credited, which throws a still clearer light upon the
progress of the delusion.[73] He says that the patients he saw in the
magnetic state had an appearance of deep sleep, during which all
the physical faculties were suspended, to the advantage of the
intellectual faculties. The eyes of the patients were closed, the sense of
hearing was abolished; and they awoke only at the voice of their
magnetiser. "If any one touched a patient during a crisis, or even the
chair on which he was seated," says M. Cloquet, "it would cause him much
pain and suffering, and throw him into convulsions. During the crisis,
they possess an extraordinary and supernatural power, by which, on
touching a patient presented to them, they can feel what part of his body
is diseased, even by merely passing their hand over the clothes." Another
singularity was, that these sleepers who could thus discover diseases, see
into the interior of other men's stomachs, and point out remedies,
remembered absolutely nothing after the magnetiser thought proper to
disenchant them. The time that elapsed between their entering the crisis
and their coming out of it was obliterated. Not only had the magnetiser
the power of making himself heard by the somnambulists, but he could make
them follow him by merely pointing his finger at them from a distance,
though they had their eyes the whole time completely closed.

    [73] _Introduction to the Study of Animal Magnetism_, by Baron
         Dupotet, p. 73.

Such was animal magnetism under the auspices of the Marquis de Puysegur.
While he was exhibiting these phenomena around his elm-tree, a magnetiser
of another class appeared in Lyons, in the person of the Chevalier de
Barbarin. This gentleman thought the effort of the will, without any of
the paraphernalia of wands or _baquets_, was sufficient to throw patients
into the magnetic sleep. He tried it and succeeded. By sitting at the
bedside of his patients, and praying that they might be magnetised, they
went off into a state very similar to that of the persons who fell under
the notice of M. de Puysegur. In the course of time a very considerable
number of magnetisers, acknowledging Barbarin for their model, and called
after him Barbarinists, appeared in different parts, and were believed to
have effected some remarkable cures. In Sweden and Germany this sect of
fanatics increased rapidly, and were called _spiritualists_, to
distinguish them from the followers of M. de Puysegur, who were called
_experimentalists_. They maintained that all the effects of animal
magnetism, which Mesmer believed to be producible by a magnetic fluid
dispersed through nature, were produced by the mere effort of one human
soul acting upon another; that when a connexion had once been established
between a magnetiser and his patient, the former could communicate his
influence to the latter from any distance, even hundreds of miles, by the
will. One of them thus described the blessed state of a magnetic patient:
"In such a man animal instinct ascends to the highest degree admissible in
this world. The _clairvoyant_ is then a pure animal, without any
admixture of matter. His observations are those of a spirit. He is similar
to God: his eye penetrates all the secrets of nature. When his attention
is fixed on any of the objects of this world--on his disease, his death,
his well-beloved, his friends, his relations, his enemies--in spirit he
sees them acting; he penetrates into the causes and the consequences of
their actions; he becomes a physician, a prophet, a divine!"[74]

    [74] See _Foreign Review and Continental Miscellany_, vol. v.
         p. 113.

Let us now see what progress these mysteries made in England. In the year
1788 Dr. Mainauduc, who had been a pupil, first of Mesmer, and afterwards
of D'Eslon, arrived in Bristol, and gave public lectures upon magnetism.
His success was quite extraordinary. People of rank and fortune hastened
from London to Bristol to be magnetised, or to place themselves under his
tuition. Dr. George Winter, in his _History of Animal Magnetism_, gives
the following list of them: "They amounted to one hundred and
twenty-seven, among whom there were one duke, one duchess, one
marchioness, two countesses, one earl, one baron, three baronesses, one
bishop, five right honourable gentlemen and ladies, two baronets, seven
members of parliament, one clergyman, two physicians, seven surgeons,
besides ninety-two gentlemen and ladies of respectability." He afterwards
established himself in London, where he performed with equal success.

He began by publishing proposals to the ladies for the formation of a
Hygeian Society. In this paper he vaunted highly the curative effects of
animal magnetism, and took great credit to himself for being the first
person to introduce it into England, and thus concluded: "As this method
of cure is not confined to sex or college education, and the fair sex
being in general the most sympathising part of the creation, and most
immediately concerned in the health and care of its offspring, I think
myself bound in gratitude to you, ladies, for the partiality you have
shewn me in midwifery, to contribute, as far as lies in my power, to
render you additionally useful and valuable to the community. With this
view I propose forming my Hygeian Society, to be incorporated with that of
Paris. As soon as twenty ladies have given in their names, the day shall
be appointed for the first meeting at my house, when they are to pay
fifteen guineas, which will include the whole expense."

Hannah More, in a letter addressed to Horace Walpole in September 1788,
speaks of the "demoniacal mummeries" of Dr. Mainauduc, and says he was in
a fair way of gaining a hundred thousand pounds by them, as Mesmer had
done by his exhibitions in Paris.

So much curiosity was excited by the subject, that, about the same time, a
man named Holloway gave a course of lectures on animal magnetism
in London, at the rate of five guineas for each pupil, and realised a
considerable fortune. Loutherbourg the painter and his wife followed the
same profitable trade; and such was the infatuation of the people to be
witnesses of their strange manipulations, that at times upwards of three
thousand persons crowded around their house at Hammersmith, unable to gain
admission. The tickets sold at prices varying from one to three guineas.
Loutherbourg performed his cures by the touch, after the manner of
Valentine Greatraks, and finally pretended to a divine mission. An account
of his miracles, as they were called, was published in 1789, entitled _A
List of New Cures performed by Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg, of
Hammersmith Terrace, without Medicine; by a Lover of the Lamb of God.
Dedicated to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury_.

This "Lover of the Lamb of God" was a half-crazy old woman, named Mary
Pratt, who conceived for Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg a veneration which
almost prompted her to worship them. She chose for the motto of her
pamphlet a verse in the thirteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles:
"Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish! for I will work a work in
your days which ye shall not believe, though a man declare it unto you."
Attempting to give a religious character to the cures of the painter, she
thought a _woman_ was the proper person to make them known, since the
apostle had declared that a _man_ should not be able to conquer the
incredulity of the people. She stated, that from Christmas 1788 to July
1789, De Loutherbourg and his wife had cured two thousand people, "having
been made _proper recipients to receive divine manuductions_; which
heavenly and divine influx, coming from the radix _God_, his Divine
Majesty had most graciously bestowed upon them to diffuse healing to all,
be they deaf, dumb, blind, lame, or halt."

In her dedication to the Archbishop of Canterbury she implored him to
compose a new form of prayer, to be used in all churches and chapels, that
nothing might impede this inestimable gift from having its due course. She
further entreated all the magistrates and men of authority in the land to
wait on Mr. and Mrs. de Loutherbourg, to consult with them on the
immediate erection of a large hospital, with a pool of Bethesda attached
to it. All the magnetisers were scandalised at the preposterous jabber of
this old woman, and De Loutherbourg appears to have left London to avoid
her,--continuing, however, in conjunction with his wife, the fantastic
tricks which had turned the brain of this poor fanatic, and deluded many
others who pretended to more sense than she had.

From this period until 1798 magnetism excited little or no attention in
England. An attempt to revive the belief in it was made in that
year, but it was in the shape of mineral rather than of animal magnetism.
One Benjamin Douglas Perkins, an American, practising as a surgeon in
Leicester Square, invented and took out a patent for the celebrated
"Metallic Tractors." He pretended that these tractors, which were two
small pieces of metal strongly magnetised, something resembling the steel
plates which were first brought into notice by Father Hell, would cure
gout, rheumatism, palsy, and, in fact, almost every disease the human
frame was subject to, if applied externally to the afflicted part, and
moved about gently, touching the surface only. The most wonderful stories
soon obtained general circulation, and the press groaned with pamphlets,
all vaunting the curative effects of the tractors, which were sold at five
guineas the pair. Perkins gained money rapidly. Gouty subjects forgot
their pains in the presence of this new remedy; the rheumatism fled at its
approach; and toothache, which is often cured by the mere sight of a
dentist, vanished before Perkins and his marvellous steel-plates. The
benevolent Society of Friends, of whose body he was a member, warmly
patronised the invention. Desirous that the poor, who could not afford to
pay Mr. Perkins five guineas, or even five shillings for his tractors,
should also share in the benefits of that sublime discovery, they
subscribed a large sum, and built an hospital, called the "Perkinean
Institution," in which all comers might be magnetised free of cost. In the
course of a few months they were in very general use, and their lucky
inventor in possession of five thousand pounds.

Dr. Haygarth, an eminent physician at Bath, recollecting the influence of
imagination in the cure of disease, hit upon an expedient to try the real
value of the tractors. Perkins's cures were too well established to be
doubted; and Dr. Haygarth, without gain-saying them, quietly, but in the
face of numerous witnesses, exposed the delusion under which people
laboured with respect to the curative medium. He suggested to Dr. Falconer
that they should make wooden tractors, paint them to resemble the steel
ones, and see if the very same effects would not be produced. Five
patients were chosen from the hospital in Bath, upon whom to operate. Four
of them suffered severely from chronic rheumatism in the ankle, knee,
wrist, and hip; and the fifth had been afflicted for several months with
the gout. On the day appointed for the experiments Dr. Haygarth and his
friends assembled at the hospital, and with much solemnity brought forth
the fictitious tractors. Four out of the five patients said their pains
were immediately relieved; and three of them said they were not only
relieved but very much benefited. One felt his knee warmer, and said he
could walk across the room. He tried and succeeded, although on the
previous day he had not been able to stir. The gouty man felt his
pains diminish rapidly, and was quite easy for nine hours, until he went
to bed, when the twitching began again. On the following day the real
tractors were applied to all the patients, when they described their
symptoms in nearly the same terms.

To make still more sure, the experiment was tried in the Bristol
infirmary, a few weeks afterwards, on a man who had a rheumatic affection
in the shoulder, so severe as to incapacitate him from lifting his hand
from his knee. The fictitious tractors were brought and applied to the
afflicted part, one of the physicians, to add solemnity to the scene,
drawing a stop-watch from his pocket to calculate the time exactly, while
another, with a pen in his hand, sat down to write the change of symptoms
from minute to minute as they occurred. In less than four minutes the man
felt so much relieved, that he lifted his hand several inches without any
pain in the shoulder!

An account of these matters was published by Dr. Haygarth, in a small
volume entitled, _Of the Imagination, as a Cause and Cure of Disorders,
exemplified by fictitious Tractors_. The exposure was a _coup de grace_ to
the system of Mr. Perkins. His friends and patrons, still unwilling to
confess that they had been deceived, tried the tractors upon sheep, cows,
and horses, alleging that the animals received benefit from the metallic
plates, but none at all from the wooden ones. But they found nobody to
believe them; the Perkinean institution fell into neglect; and Perkins
made his exit from England, carrying with him about ten thousand pounds,
to soothe his declining years in the good city of Pennsylvania.

Thus was magnetism laughed out of England for a time. In France the
revolution left men no leisure for studying it. The _Sociétés de
l'Harmonie_ of Strasbourg, and other great towns lingered for a while,
till sterner matters occupying men's attention, they were one after the
other abandoned, both by pupils and professors. The system, thus driven
from the first two nations of Europe, took refuge among the dreamy
philosophers of Germany. There the wonders of the magnetic sleep grew more
and more wonderful every day; the patients acquired the gift of prophecy;
their vision extended over all the surface of the globe; they could hear
and see with their toes and fingers, and read unknown languages, and
understand them too, by merely having the book placed on their stomachs.
Ignorant peasants, when once entranced by the grand mesmeric fluid, could
spout philosophy diviner than Plato ever wrote, descant upon the mysteries
of the mind with more eloquence and truth than the profoundest
metaphysicians the world ever saw, and solve knotty points of divinity
with as much ease as waking men could undo their shoe-buckles!

During the first twelve years of the present century little was heard of
animal magnetism in any country of Europe. Even the Germans forgot their
airy fancies, recalled to the knowledge of this every-day world by the
roar of Napoleon's cannon and the fall or the establishment of kingdoms.
During this period a cloud of obscurity hung over the science, which was
not dispersed until M. Deleuze published, in 1813, his _Histoire Critique
du Magnétisme Animal_. This work gave a new impulse to the half-forgotten
fancy. Newspapers, pamphlets, and books again waged war upon each other on
the question of its truth or falsehood; and many eminent men in the
profession of medicine recommenced inquiry with an earnest design to
discover the truth.

The assertions made in the celebrated treatise of Deleuze are thus summed
up:[75] "There is a fluid continually escaping from the human body," and
"forming an atmosphere around us," which, as "it has no determined
current," produces no sensible effects on surrounding individuals. It is,
however, "capable of being directed by the will;" and, when so directed,
"is sent forth in currents," with a force corresponding to the energy we
possess. Its motion is "similar to that of the rays from burning bodies;"
"it possesses different qualities in different individuals." It is capable
of a high degree of concentration, "and exists also in trees." The will of
the magnetiser, "guided by a motion of the hand, several times repeated in
the same direction," can fill a tree with this fluid. Most persons, when
this fluid is poured into them from the body and by the will of the
magnetiser, "feel a sensation of heat or cold" when he passes his hand
before them, without even touching them. Some persons, when sufficiently
charged with this fluid, fall into a state of somnambulism, or magnetic
ecstasy; and when in this state, "they see the fluid encircling the
magnetiser like a halo of light, and issuing in luminous streams from his
mouth and nostrils, his head and hands, possessing a very agreeable smell,
and communicating a particular taste to food and water."

    [75] See the very clear, and dispassionate article upon the
         subject in the fifth volume (1830) of _The Foreign Review_,
         p. 96 et seq.

One would think that these "notions" were quite enough to be insisted upon
by any physician who wished to be considered sane; but they form only a
small portion of the wondrous things related by M. Deleuze. He further
said, "When magnetism produces somnambulism, the person who is in this
state acquires a prodigious extension of all his faculties. Several of his
external organs, especially those of sight and hearing, become inactive;
but the sensations which depend upon them take place internally.
Seeing and hearing are carried on by the magnetic fluid, which transmits
the impressions immediately, and without the intervention of any nerves or
organs directly to the brain. Thus the somnambulist, though his eyes and
ears are closed, not only sees and hears, but sees and hears much better
than he does when awake. In all things he feels the will of the
magnetiser, although that will be not expressed. He sees into the interior
of his own body, and the most secret organisation of the bodies of all
those who may be put _en rapport_, or in magnetic connexion, with him.
Most commonly, he only sees those parts which are diseased and disordered,
and intuitively prescribes a remedy for them. He has prophetic visions and
sensations, which are generally true, but sometimes erroneous. He
expresses himself with astonishing eloquence and facility. He is not free
from vanity. He becomes a more perfect being of his own accord for a
certain time, if guided wisely by the magnetiser, but wanders if he is

According to M. Deleuze, any person could become a magnetiser and produce
these effects, by conforming to the following conditions, and acting upon
the following rules:

"Forget for a while all your knowledge of physics and metaphysics.

"Remove from your mind all objections that may occur.

"Imagine that it is in your power to take the malady in hand, and throw it
on one side.

"_Never reason for six weeks after you have commenced the study_.

"Have an active desire to do good; a firm belief in the power of
magnetism, and an entire confidence in employing it. In short, repel all
doubts; desire success, and act with simplicity and attention."

That is to say, "be very credulous; be very persevering; reject all past
experience, and do not listen to reason," and you are a magnetiser after
M. Deleuze's own heart.

Having brought yourself into this edifying state, "remove from the patient
all persons who might be troublesome to you; keep with you only the
necessary witnesses--a single person if need be; desire them not to occupy
themselves in any way with the processes you employ and the effects which
result from them, but to join with you in the desire of doing good to your
patient. Arrange yourself so as neither to be too hot nor too cold, and in
such a manner that nothing may obstruct the freedom of your motions; and
take precautions to prevent interruption during the sitting. Make your
patient then sit as commodiously as possible, and place yourself opposite
to him, on a seat a little more elevated, in such a manner that his knees
may be betwixt yours, and your feet at the side of his. First, request him
to resign himself; to think of nothing; not to perplex himself by
examining the effects which may be produced; to banish all fear; to
surrender himself to hope, and not to be disturbed or discouraged if the
action of magnetism should cause in him momentary pains. After having
collected yourself, take his thumbs between your fingers in such a way
that the internal part of your thumbs may be in contact with the internal
part of his, _and then fix your eyes upon him_! You must remain from two
to five minutes in this situation, or until you feel an equal heat between
your thumbs and his. This done, you will withdraw your hands, removing
them to the right and left; and at the same time turning them till their
internal surface be outwards, and you will raise them to the height of the
head. You will now place them upon the two shoulders, and let them remain
there about a minute; afterwards drawing them gently along the arms to the
extremities of the fingers, touching very slightly as you go. You will
renew this pass five or six times, always turning your hands, and removing
them a little from the body before you lift them. You will then place them
above the head; and after holding them there for an instant, lower them,
passing them before the face, at the distance of one or two inches, down
to the pit of the stomach. There you will stop them two minutes also,
putting your thumbs upon the pit of the stomach and the rest of your
fingers below the ribs. You will then descend slowly along the body to the
knees, or rather, if you can do so without deranging yourself, to the
extremity of the feet. You will repeat the same processes several times
during the remainder of the sitting. You will also occasionally approach
your patient, so as to place your hands behind his shoulders, in order to
descend slowly along the spine of the back and the thighs, down to the
knees or the feet. After the first passes, you may dispense with putting
your hands upon the head, and may make the subsequent passes upon the
arms, beginning at the shoulders, and upon the body, beginning at the

Such was the process of magnetising recommended by Deleuze. That delicate,
fanciful, and nervous women, when subjected to it, should have worked
themselves into convulsions will be readily believed by the sturdiest
opponent of animal magnetism. To sit in a constrained posture--be stared
out of countenance by a fellow who enclosed her knees between his, while
he made _passes_ upon different parts of her body, was quite enough to
throw any weak woman into a fit, especially if she were predisposed to
hysteria, and believed in the efficacy of the treatment. It is just as
evident that those of stronger minds and healthier bodies should be sent
to sleep by the process. That these effects have been produced by these
means, there are thousands of instances to shew. But are they testimony in
favour of animal magnetism?--do they prove the existence of the
magnetic fluid? It needs neither magnetism, nor ghost from the grave, to
tell us that silence, monotony, and long recumbency in one position, must
produce sleep; or that excitement, imitation, and a strong imagination
acting upon a weak body, will bring on convulsions.

M. Deleuze's book produced quite a sensation in France; the study was
resumed with redoubled vigour. In the following year, a journal was
established devoted exclusively to the science, under the title of
_Annales du Magnétisme Animal_; and shortly afterwards appeared the
_Bibliothèque du Magnétisme Animal_, and many others. About the same time,
the Abbé Faria, "the man of wonders," began to magnetise; and the belief
being that he had more of the mesmeric fluid about him, and a stronger
will, than most men, he was very successful in his treatment. His
experiments afford a convincing proof that imagination can operate all,
and the supposed fluid none, of the results so confidently claimed as
evidence of the new science. He placed his patients in an arm-chair; told
them to shut their eyes; and then, in a loud commanding voice, pronounced
the single word, "Sleep!" He used no manipulations whatever--had no
_baquet_, or conductor of the fluid; but he nevertheless succeeded in
causing sleep in hundreds of patients. He boasted of having in his time
produced five thousand somnambulists by this method. It was often
necessary to repeat the command three or four times; and if the patient
still remained awake, the abbé got out of the difficulty by dismissing him
from the chair, and declaring that he was incapable of being acted on. And
it should be especially remarked that the magnetisers do not lay claim to
universal efficacy for their fluid; the strong and the healthy cannot be
magnetised; the incredulous cannot be magnetised; those who reason upon it
cannot be magnetised; those who firmly believe in it can be magnetised;
the weak in body can be magnetised, and the weak in mind can be
magnetised. And lest, from some cause or other, individuals of the latter
classes should resist the magnetic charm, the apostles of the science
declare that there are times when even _they_ cannot be acted upon; the
presence of one scorner or unbeliever may weaken the potency of the fluid
and destroy its efficacy. In M. Deleuze's instructions to a magnetiser, he
expressly says, "Never magnetise before inquisitive persons!"[76]

    [76] _Histoire Critique du Magnétisme Animal_, p. 60.

Here we conclude the subject, as it would serve no good purpose to extend
to greater length the history of Animal Magnetism; especially at a time
when many phenomena, the reality of which it is impossible to dispute, are
daily occurring to startle and perplex the most learned,
impartial, and truth-loving of mankind. Enough, however, has been stated
to shew, that if there be some truth in magnetism, there has been much
error, misconception, and exaggeration. Taking its history from the
commencement, it can hardly be said to have been without its uses. To
quote the words of Bailly, in 1784, "Magnetism has not been altogether
unavailing to the philosophy which condemns it: it is an additional fact
to record among the errors of the human mind, and a great experiment on
the strength of the imagination." Over that vast inquiry of the influence
of mind over matter,--an inquiry which the embodied intellect of mankind
will never be able to fathom completely,--it will at least have thrown a
feeble and imperfect light. It will have afforded an additional proof of
the strength of the unconquerable will, and the weakness of matter as
compared with it; another illustration of the words of the inspired
Psalmist, that "we are fearfully and wonderfully made."



    Speak with respect and honour
    Both of the beard and the beard's owner.

The famous declaration of St. Paul, "that long hair was a shame unto a
man," has been made the pretext for many singular enactments, both of
civil and ecclesiastical governments. The fashion of the hair and the cut
of the beard were state questions in France and England, from the
establishment of Christianity until the fifteenth century.

We find, too, that in much earlier times, men were not permitted to do as
they liked with their own hair. Alexander the Great thought that the
beards of the soldiery afforded convenient handles for the enemy to lay
hold of, preparatory to cutting off their heads; and, with a view of
depriving them of this advantage, he ordered the whole of his army to be
closely shaven. His notions of courtesy towards an enemy were quite
different from those entertained by the North American Indians, and
amongst whom it is held a point of honour to allow one "chivalrous lock"
to grow, that the foe, in taking the scalp, may have something to catch
hold of.

At one time, long hair was the symbol of sovereignty in Europe. We learn
from Gregory of Tours, that, among the successors of Clovis, it was the
exclusive privilege of the royal family to have their hair long and
curled. The nobles, equal to kings in power, would not shew any
inferiority in this respect, and wore not only their hair, but their
beards of an enormous length. This fashion lasted, with but slight
changes, till the time of Louis the Debonnaire; but his successors, up to
Hugh Capet, wore their hair short, by way of distinction. Even the serfs
had set all regulation at defiance, and allowed their locks and beards to

At the time of the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, the
Normans wore their hair very short. Harold, in his progress towards
Hastings, sent forward spies to view the strength and number of the enemy.
They reported, amongst other things, on their return, that "the host did
almost seem to be priests, because they had all their face and both their
lips shaven." The fashion among the English at the time was to wear the
hair long upon the head and the upper lip, but to shave the chin. When the
haughty victors had divided the broad lands of the Saxon thanes and
franklins among them, when tyranny of every kind was employed to make the
English feel that they were indeed a subdued and broken nation, the latter
encouraged the growth of their hair, that they might resemble as little as
possible their cropped and shaven masters.

This fashion was exceedingly displeasing to the clergy, and prevailed to a
considerable extent in France and Germany. Towards the end of the eleventh
century, it was decreed by the pope, and zealously supported by the
ecclesiastical authorities all over Europe, that such persons as wore long
hair should be excommunicated while living, and not be prayed for when
dead. William of Malmesbury relates, that the famous St. Wulstan, Bishop
of Worcester, was peculiarly indignant whenever he saw a man with long
hair. He declaimed against the practice as one highly immoral, criminal,
and beastly. He continually carried a small knife in his pocket, and
whenever any body offending in this respect knelt before him to receive
his blessing, he would whip it out slily, and cut off a handful, and then,
throwing it in his face, tell him to cut off all the rest, or he would go
to hell.

But fashion, which at times it is possible to move with a wisp, stands
firm against a lever; and men preferred to run the risk of damnation to
parting with the superfluity of their hair. In the time of Henry I.,
Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, found it necessary to republish the
famous decree of excommunication and outlawry against the offenders; but,
as the court itself had begun to patronise curls, the fulminations of the
Church were unavailing. Henry I. and his nobles wore their hair in long
ringlets down their backs and shoulders, and became a _scandalum magnatum_
in the eyes of the godly. One Serlo, the king's chaplain, was so grieved
in spirit at the impiety of his master, that he preached a sermon from the
well-known text of St. Paul before the assembled court, in which he drew
so dreadful a picture of the torments that awaited them in the other
world, that several of them burst into tears, and wrung their hair, as if
they would have pulled it out by the roots. Henry himself was observed to
weep. The priest, seeing the impression he had made, determined to strike
while the iron was hot, and pulling a pair of scissors from his pocket,
cut the king's hair in presence of them all. Several of the principal
courtiers consented to do the like, and for a short time long hair
appeared to be going out of fashion. But the courtiers thought, after the
first glow of their penitence had been cooled by reflection, that the
clerical Delilah had shorn them of their strength, and in less than six
months they were as great sinners as ever.

Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had been a monk of Bec, in
Normandy, and who had signalised himself at Rouen by his fierce opposition
to long hair, was still anxious to work a reformation in this matter. But
his pertinacity was far from pleasing to the king, who had finally made up
his mind to wear ringlets. There were other disputes, of a more serious
nature, between them; so that when the archbishop died, the king was so
glad to be rid of him, that he allowed the see to remain vacant for five
years. Still the cause had other advocates, and every pulpit in the land
resounded with anathemas against that disobedient and long-haired
generation. But all was of no avail. Stowe, in writing of this period,
asserts, on the authority of some more ancient chronicler, "that men,
forgetting their birth, transformed themselves, by the length of their
haires, into the semblance of woman kind;" and that when their hair
decayed from age, or other causes, "they knit about their heads certain
rolls and braidings of false hair." At last accident turned the tide of
fashion. A knight of the court, who was exceedingly proud of his beauteous
locks, dreamed one night that, as he lay in bed, the devil sprang upon
him, and endeavoured to choke him with his own hair. He started in
affright, and actually found that he had a great quantity of hair in his
mouth. Sorely stricken in conscience, and looking upon the dream as a
warning from heaven, he set about the work of reformation, and cut off his
luxuriant tresses the same night. The story was soon bruited abroad; of
course it was made the most of by the clergy, and the knight, being a man
of influence and consideration, and the acknowledged leader of the
fashion, his example, aided by priestly exhortations, was very generally
imitated. Men appeared almost as decent as St. Wulstan himself could have
wished, the dream of a dandy having proved more efficacious than the
entreaties of a saint. But, as Stowe informs us, "scarcely was one year
past, when all that thought themselves courtiers fell into the former
vice, and contended with women in their long haires." Henry, the king,
appears to have been quite uninfluenced by the dreams of others, for even
his own would not induce him a second time to undergo a cropping from
priestly shears. It is said, that he was much troubled at this time by
disagreeable visions. Having offended the Church in this and other
respects, he could get no sound, refreshing sleep, and used to imagine
that he saw all the bishops, abbots, and monks of every degree, standing
around his bed-side, and threatening to belabour him with their pastoral
staves; which sight, we are told, so frightened him, that he often started
naked out of his bed, and attacked the phantoms sword in hand. Grimbalde,
his physician, who, like most of his fraternity at that day, was an
ecclesiastic, never hinted that his dreams were the result of a bad
digestion, but told him to shave his head, be reconciled to the Church,
and reform himself with alms and prayer. But he would not take this good
advice, and it was not until he had been nearly drowned a year afterwards,
in a violent storm at sea, that he repented of his evil ways, cut his hair
short, and paid proper deference to the wishes of the clergy.

In France, the thunders of the Vatican with regard to long curly hair were
hardly more respected than in England. Louis VII., however, was more
obedient than his brother-king, and cropped himself as closely as a monk,
to the great sorrow of all the gallants of his court. His queen, the gay,
haughty, and pleasure-seeking Eleanor of Guienne, never admired him in
this trim, and continually reproached him with imitating, not only the
head-dress, but the asceticism of the monks. From this cause a coldness
arose between them. The lady proving at last unfaithful to her shaven and
indifferent lord, they were divorced, and the kings of France lost the
rich provinces of Guienne and Poitou, which were her dowry. She soon after
bestowed her hand and her possessions upon Henry Duke of Normandy,
afterwards Henry II. of England, and thus gave the English sovereigns that
strong footing in France which was for so many centuries the cause of such
long and bloody wars between the nations. When the Crusades had drawn all
the smart young fellows into Palestine, the clergy did not find it so
difficult to convince the staid burghers who remained in Europe, of the
enormity of long hair. During the absence of Richard Coeur de Lion, his
English subjects not only cut their hair close, but shaved their faces.
William Fitz-osbert, or Long-beard, the great demagogue of that day,
reintroduced among the people who claimed to be of Saxon origin the
fashion of long hair. He did this with the view of making them as unlike
as possible to the citizens and the Normans. He wore his own beard hanging
down to his waist, from whence the name by which he is best known to

The Church never shewed itself so great an enemy to the beard as to long
hair on the head. It generally allowed fashion to take its own course,
both with regard to the chin and the upper lip. This fashion varied
continually; for we find that, in little more than a century after the
time of Richard I., when beards were short, that they had again become so
long as to be mentioned in the famous epigram made by the Scots who
visited London in 1327, when David, son of Robert Bruce, was married to
Joan, the sister of King Edward. This epigram, which was stuck on the
church-door of St. Peter Stangate, ran as follows:

   "Long beards heartlesse,
    Painted hoods witlesse,
    Gray coats gracelesse,
    Make England thriftlesse."

When the Emperor Charles V. ascended the throne of Spain he had no beard.
It was not to be expected that the obsequious parasites who always
surround a monarch, could presume to look more virile than their master.
Immediately all the courtiers appeared beardless, with the exception of
such few grave old men as had outgrown the influence of fashion, and who
had determined to die bearded as they had lived. Sober people in general
saw this revolution with sorrow and alarm, and thought that every manly
virtue would be banished with the beard. It became at the time a common

         "Desde que no hay barba, no hay mas alma."
    We have no longer souls since we have lost our beards.

In France also the beard fell into disrepute after the death of Henry IV.,
from the mere reason that his successor was too young to have one. Some of
the more immediate friends of the great Béarnais, and his minister Sully
among the rest, refused to part with their beards, notwithstanding the
jeers of the new generation.

Who does not remember the division of England into the two great parties
of Roundheads and Cavaliers? In those days every species of vice and
iniquity was thought by the Puritans to lurk in the long curly tresses of
the monarchists, while the latter imagined that their opponents were as
destitute of wit, of wisdom, and of virtue, as they were of hair. A man's
locks were the symbol of his creed, both in politics and religion. The
more abundant the hair, the more scant the faith; and the balder the head,
the more sincere the piety.

[Illustration: PETER THE GREAT.]

But among all the instances of the interference of governments with men's
hair, the most extraordinary, not only for its daring, but for its
success, is that of Peter the Great, in 1705. By this time fashion had
condemned the beard in every other country in Europe, and with a voice
more potent than popes or emperors, had banished it from civilised
society. But this only made the Russians cling more fondly to their
ancient ornament, as a mark to distinguish them from foreigners, whom they
hated. Peter, however, resolved that they should be shaven. If he had been
a man deeply read in history, he might have hesitated before he attempted
so despotic an attack upon the time-hallowed customs and prejudices of his
countrymen; but he was not. He did not know or consider the danger of the
innovation; he only listened to the promptings of his own indomitable
will, and his fiat went forth, that not only the army, but all ranks of
citizens, from the nobles to the serfs, should shave their beards. A
certain time was given, that people might get over the first throes of
their repugnance, after which every man who chose to retain his beard was
to pay a tax of one hundred roubles. The priests and the serfs were put on
a lower footing, and allowed to retain theirs upon payment of a copeck
every time they passed the gate of a city. Great discontent existed in
consequence, but the dreadful fate of the Strelitzes was too recent to be
forgotten, and thousands who had the will had not the courage to revolt.
As is well remarked by a writer in the _Encyclopædia Britannica_, they
thought it wiser to cut off their beards than to run the risk of incensing
a man who would make no scruple in cutting off their heads. Wiser, too,
than the popes and bishops of a former age, he did not threaten them with
eternal damnation, but made them pay in hard cash the penalty of their
disobedience. For many years, a very considerable revenue was collected
from this source. The collectors gave in receipt for its payment a small
copper coin, struck expressly for the purpose, and called the
"_borodováia_," or "the bearded." On one side it bore the figure of a
nose, mouth, and moustaches, with a long bushy beard, surmounted by the
words, "_Deuyee Vyeatee_," "money received;" the whole encircled by a
wreath, and stamped with the black eagle of Russia. On the reverse, it
bore the date of the year. Every man who chose to wear a beard was obliged
to produce this receipt on his entry into a town. Those who were
refractory, and refused to pay the tax, were thrown into prison.

Since that day, the rulers of modern Europe have endeavoured to persuade,
rather than to force, in all matters pertaining to fashion. The Vatican
troubles itself no more about beards or ringlets, and men may become hairy
as bears, if such is their fancy, without fear of excommunication or
deprivation of their political rights. Folly has taken a new start, and
cultivates the moustache.

Even upon this point governments will not let men alone. Religion as yet
has not meddled with it; but perhaps it will; and politics already
influence it considerably. Before the revolution of 1830, neither the
French nor Belgian citizens were remarkable for their moustaches; but,
after that event, there was hardly a shopkeeper either in Paris or
Brussels whose upper lip did not suddenly become hairy with real or mock
moustaches. During a temporary triumph gained by the Dutch soldiers over
the citizens of Louvain, in October 1830, it became a standing joke
against the patriots, that they shaved their faces clean immediately; and
the wits of the Dutch army asserted that they had gathered moustaches
enough from the denuded lips of the Belgians to stuff mattresses for all
the sick and wounded in their hospital.

The last folly of this kind is still more recent. In the German
newspapers, of August 1838, appeared an ordonnance, signed by the king of
Bavaria, forbidding civilians, on any pretence whatever, to wear
moustaches, and commanding the police and other authorities to arrest, and
cause to be shaved, the offending parties. "Strange to say," adds _Le
Droit_, the journal from which this account is taken, "moustaches
disappeared immediately, like leaves from the trees in autumn; every body
made haste to obey the royal order, and not one person was arrested."

The king of Bavaria, a rhymester of some celebrity, has taken a good many
poetical licences in his time. His licence in this matter appears neither
poetical nor reasonable. It is to be hoped that he will not take it into
his royal head to make his subjects shave theirs; nothing but that is
wanting to complete their degradation.

[Illustration: BAYEUX TAPESTRY.[77]]

    [77] The above engraving, shewing two soldiers of William the
         Conqueror's army, is taken from the celebrated Bayeux
         Tapestry.--See _ante_, p. 297.





















    N'en déplaise à ces fous nommés sages de Grèce,
    En ce monde il n'est point de parfaite sagesse;
    Tous les hommes sont fous, et malgré tous leurs soîns
    Ne diffèrent entre eux que du plus ou du moins.







Different accounts of the Crusaders derived from History and
Romance--Pilgrimages to the Holy Land first undertaken by converted Jews
and the very credulous--Increasing number of pilgrims every year--Relics
greatly valued--Haroun al Reschid--The pilgrims taxed--Robert of
Normandy--The pilgrims persecuted by the Turks--Peter the Hermit--His
first idea of rousing the powers of Christendom--His interview with
Simeon--Peter the Hermit preaches the Holy War to all the nations of
Christendom--The Pope crosses the Alps--King Philip accused of adultery
with Bertrade de Montfort--The Council of Clermont--Oration of Urban
II.--The "Truce of God"--_Gautier sans Avoir_, or Walter the
Pennyless--Gottschalk--The arrival at Semlin--Peter the Hermit at
Nissa--At Constantinople--The Crusaders conducted in safety to
Constantinople--Fresh hordes from Germany--Godfrey of Bouillon--Count of
Vermandois--Tancred--The siege of Antioch--The Holy Lance--Fate of Peter
Barthelemy--Siege of Jerusalem--St. Bernard--Second Crusade: Siege of
Damascus--Third Crusade: Death of Henry II.--Richard Coeur de Lion--Fourth
Crusade--Fifth Crusade: Constantinople assaulted--Sixth Crusade: Camhel
and Cohreddin--Seventh Crusade: Departure of Louis IX. for Cyprus--For
Acre--His death at Carthage--End of the Crusades


Popular notions of the devil--Inferior demons--Demons of both
sexes--Demons preferring the night between Friday and Saturday--The devil
in the shape of a goat--Sorcery--Execution of Joan of Arc--Witches burned
in Europe--Various charges of Witchcraft--Trois Echelles--The Witches of
Warbois--John Knox--Torture of Dr. Fian--The Lancashire Witches--Matthew
Hopkins--Burnings at Würzburg, at Lindheim, at Labourt--Request of the
parliament of Rouen to the King, in 1670--Würzburg the scene of the last
case of Witchcraft--The Witchcraft of Lady Hatton--Witchcraft at Hastings
and many other parts of England


Murder of Sir Thomas Overbury--Trial of Weston--Of Sir Jervis
Elwes--Poisoning most prevalent in Italy--Poisons manufactured by La
Tophania--Her death--Madame de Brinvilliers--The poisoning of her father
and two brothers--Lavoisin and Lavigoreux


The haunted house in Aix-la-Chapelle--In Tours--The royal palace of
Woodstock a haunted house--The supposed ghosts at Tedworth--At Cock
Lane--At Stockwell--Haunted house at Baldarroch


Cant phrases--"Quoz"--"What a shocking bad hat"--"Hookey Walker"--"There
he goes with his eye out"--"Has your mother sold her mangle?"--"Does your
mother know you're out?"--"Tom and Jerry"--"Jim Crow"


Robin Hood--Claude Duval--Dick Turpin--Jonathan Wild--Jack
Sheppard--Vidocq--Mausch Nadel--The Beggar's Opera--Rob Roy


The origin of the Duello--All persons engaged in duelling excommunicated
by the Council of Trent--The fire ordeal--The water ordeal--The
Corsned--Duel between Ingelgerius and Gontran--Duel between François de
Vivonne and Guy de Chabot--L'Isle-Marivaut and Marolles--Richelieu--Duel
between the Dukes De Beaufort and De Nemours--Laws against Duelling--Duel
between Lord Sanquir and Turner--Between the Duke of Hamilton and Lord
Mohun--German students inveterate Duellists


The True Cross--Tears of our Saviour--The Santa Scala, or Holy Stairs--The
mad Knight of Malta--Shakspeare's Mulberry-tree


Pope Urban preaching the first Crusade.--Frontispiece.

View in the Harz Mountains. (Capt. Batty's _Hanoverian and Saxon

Initial--Crusaders' Weapons of the eleventh century

Peter the Hermit preaching

Cathedral at Clermont. (Sommerard's _Album_)

Nicée, Asia Minor. (Leon de Laborde's _Voyage en Orient_)

Godfrey of Bouillon. (From the Statue by Simonis, Brussels)

Siege of Antioch

The Holy Lance. (Copied, in Hone's _Everyday Book_, from a very rare print
published by the Ecclesiastics of Nuremberg)

Shrine of the Nativity, Bethlehem. (Laborde's _Voyage en Orient_)

Pilgrims' first sight of Jerusalem. (Print by Plüddemann)

Siege of Jerusalem

Jerusalem. (Gerhardt von Breydenbach's _Grand Voyage de Jherusalem_, 1517)

Bible of Baldwin's Queen. (Original in the British Museum)

Cathedral of Vezelai. (Sommerard's _Album_)

Pilgrim's Staff. (The _Archæologia_)

Damascus. (Laborde's _Voyage en Orient_)

Seal of Frederick Barbarossa. (Venetian History)

Henry II. (Stothard's _Monumental Effigies_)

Château of Gisors, Normandy. (_L'Univers Pittoresque_)

Philip Augustus. (Willemin's _Monumens Français inédits_)

The Island of Rhodes. (Royal Library, British Museum; print "in _Venetia_,

Richard I. and Berengaria. (Stothard's _Monumental Effigies_)

Bethlehem. (Laborde's _Voyage en Orient_)

Constantinople. (Print, Johann Baptist Hooman, Royal Library, British

Templar and Hospitaller. (Fairholt's _Book of Costumes_)

Jaffa. (Laborde's _Voyage en Orient_)

Longespee or Longsword, Earl of Salisbury. (Effigy in Salisbury Cathedral)

Seal of Edward I. (From Great Seal)

Tomb of Queen Eleanor, Westminster Abbey. (Original sketch)

Arras. (Coney's _Cathedrals and Hotels de Ville_)

Philip IV. of France

Joan of Arc

Gate of Constance. (Print, from drawing by Major Cockburn)

Charles IX. of France. (French print by Adolph Brune)

Bishop Jewell

John Knox

Torture of the Boots. (Knight's _Pictorial Shakspere_)

James I. the Demonologist

Sir G. Mackenzie

Pietro d'Apone

Mathew Hopkins. (Print in Caulfield's _Remarkable Persons_, copied from a
rare print in the collection of J. Bindley, Esq.)

Sir Mathew Hale

Sir Thomas Brown

Lyons. (Prout's _Views in France_)

Bamberg. (Prout's _Views in Germany_)

Palais de Justice, Rouen. (Sommerard's _Arts du Moyen Age_)

Louis XIV.

Würzburg. (Prout's _Views in Germany_)

Lady Hatton's House, Cross Street, Hatton Garden. (Original sketch)

Floating a Witch

Place de Grève, Paris. (Old print)

Sir T. Overbury. (An extremely rare print by R. Elstracke)

George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham

Lord Chief-Justice Coke

The Earl of Somerset

Countess of Somerset

Death of Dr. Lamb, St. Paul's Cross. (The Cross copied from print in
Wilkinson's _Londina Illustrata_)

The Bastille. (_Views of Public Edifices in Paris_, by MM. Legard et

Palace of Woodstock in 1714. (From a print of date)

Saint Louis of France. (Willemin's _Monumens Français inédits_)

Haunted House in Cock Lane. (Original sketch)

Room in the haunted house in Cock Lane. (Original sketch)

Sherwood Forest

Duel between Du Guesclin and Troussel

Duel between Ingelgerius and Gontran

Henry IV.

Gallery in the Palace of Fontainebleau. (Sommerard's _Arts du Moyen Age_)

The Duke de Sully

Lord Bacon






    They heard, and up they sprang upon the wing
    Innumerable. As when the potent rod
    Of Amram's son, in Egypt's evil day,
    Waved round the coast, up call'd a pitchy cloud
    Of locusts, warping on the eastern wind
    That o'er the realm of impious Pharaoh hung
    Like night, and darken'd all the realm of Nile,
    So numberless were they. *  *  *  *
    All in a moment through the gloom were seen
    Ten thousand banners rise into the air,
    With orient colours waving. With them rose
    A forest huge of spears; and thronging helms
    Appear'd, and serried shields, in thick array,
    Of depth immeasurable.
                                                      _Paradise Lost_.

[Illustration: E]

Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into
which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of
excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing in these, it has some
madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both
combined. Every one of these causes influenced the Crusades, and conspired
to render them the most extraordinary instance upon record of the extent
to which popular enthusiasm can be carried. History in her solemn page
informs us, that the Crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that
their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway
was one of blood and tears. Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their
piety and heroism, and portrays, in her most glowing and impassioned hues,
their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honour they acquired for
themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity. In the
following pages we shall ransack the stores of both, to discover the true
spirit that animated the motley multitude who took up arms in the service
of the cross, leaving history to vouch for facts, but not disdaining the
aid of contemporary poetry and romance, to throw light upon feelings,
motives, and opinions.

In order to understand thoroughly the state of public feeling in Europe at
the time when Peter the Hermit preached the holy war, it will be necessary
to go back for many years anterior to that event. We must make
acquaintance with the pilgrims of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries,
and learn the tales they told of the dangers they had passed and the
wonders they had seen. Pilgrimages to the Holy Land seem at first to have
been undertaken by converted Jews, and by Christian devotees of lively
imagination, pining with a natural curiosity to visit the scenes which of
all others were most interesting in their eyes. The pious and the impious
alike flocked to Jerusalem,--the one class to feast their sight on the
scenes hallowed by the life and sufferings of their Lord, and the other,
because it soon became a generally received opinion, that such a
pilgrimage was sufficient to rub off the long score of sins, however
atrocious. Another and very numerous class of pilgrims were the idle and
roving, who visited Palestine then as the moderns visit Italy or
Switzerland now, because it was the fashion, and because they might please
their vanity by retailing, on their return, the adventures they had met
with. But the really pious formed the great majority. Every year their
numbers increased, until at last they became so numerous as to be called
the "armies of the Lord." Full of enthusiasm, they set the dangers and
difficulties of the way at defiance, and lingered with holy rapture on
every scene described by the Evangelists. To them it was bliss indeed to
drink the clear waters of the Jordan, or be baptised in the same stream
where John had baptised the Saviour. They wandered with awe and pleasure
in the purlieus of the Temple, on the solemn Mount of Olives, or the awful
Calvary, where a God had bled for sinful men. To these pilgrims every
object was precious. Relics were eagerly sought after; flagons of water
from Jordan, or panniers of mould from the hill of the Crucifixion, were
brought home, and sold at extravagant prices to churches and monasteries.
More apocryphal relics, such as the wood of the true cross, the tears of
the Virgin Mary, the hems of her garments, the toe-nails and hair of the
Apostles--even the tents that Paul had helped to manufacture--were
exhibited for sale by the knavish in Palestine, and brought back to Europe
"with wondrous cost and care." A grove of a hundred oaks would not have
furnished all the wood sold in little morsels as remnants of the true
cross; and the tears of Mary, if collected together, would have filled a

For upwards of two hundred years the pilgrims met with no impediment in
Palestine. The enlightened Haroun Al Reschid, and his more immediate
successors, encouraged the stream which brought so much wealth into Syria,
and treated the wayfarers with the utmost courtesy. The race of Fatemite
caliphs,--who, although in other respects as tolerant, were more
distressed for money, or more unscrupulous in obtaining it, than their
predecessors of the house of Abbas,--imposed a tax of a bezant for each
pilgrim that entered Jerusalem. This was a serious hardship upon the
poorer sort, who had begged their weary way across Europe, and arrived at
the bourne of all their hopes without a coin. A great outcry was
immediately raised, but still the tax was rigorously levied. The pilgrims
unable to pay were compelled to remain at the gate of the holy city until
some rich devotee arriving with his train, paid the tax and let them in.
Robert of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror, who, in common with
many other nobles of the highest rank, undertook the pilgrimage, found on
his arrival scores of pilgrims at the gate, anxiously expecting his coming
to pay the tax for them. Upon no occasion was such a boon refused.

The sums drawn from this source were a mine of wealth to the Moslem
governors of Palestine, imposed as the tax had been at a time when
pilgrimages had become more numerous than ever. A strange idea had taken
possession of the popular mind at the close of the tenth and commencement
of the eleventh century. It was universally believed that the end of the
world was at hand; that the thousand years of the Apocalypse were near
completion, and that Jesus Christ would descend upon Jerusalem to judge
mankind. All Christendom was in commotion. A panic terror seized upon the
weak, the credulous, and the guilty, who in those days formed more than
nineteen-twentieths of the population. Forsaking their homes, kindred, and
occupation, they crowded to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Lord,
lightened, as they imagined, of a load of sin by their weary pilgrimage.
To increase the panic, the stars were observed to fall from heaven,
earthquakes to shake the land, and violent hurricanes to blow down the
forests. All these, and more especially the meteoric phenomena, were
looked upon as the forerunners of the approaching judgments. Not a meteor
shot athwart the horizon that did not fill a district with alarm, and send
away to Jerusalem a score of pilgrims, with staff in hand and wallet on
their back, praying as they went for the remission of their sins. Men,
women, and even children, trudged in droves to the holy city, in
expectation of the day when the heavens would open, and the Son of God
descend in his glory. This extraordinary delusion, while it augmented the
numbers, increased also the hardships of the pilgrims. Beggars became so
numerous on all the highways between the west of Europe and
Constantinople, that the monks, the great almsgivers upon these occasions,
would have brought starvation within sight of their own doors, if they had
not economised their resources, and left the devotees to shift for
themselves as they could. Hundreds of them were glad to subsist upon the
berries that ripened by the road, who, before this great flux, might have
shared the bread and flesh of the monasteries.

But this was not the greatest of their difficulties. On their arrival in
Jerusalem they found that a sterner race had obtained possession of the
Holy Land. The caliphs of Bagdad had been succeeded by the harsh Turks of
the race of Seljook, who looked upon the pilgrims with contempt and
aversion. The Turks of the eleventh century were more ferocious and less
scrupulous than the Saracens of the tenth. They were annoyed at the
immense number of pilgrims who overran the country, and still more so
because they shewed no intention of quitting it. The hourly expectation of
the last judgment kept them waiting; and the Turks, apprehensive of being
at last driven from the soil by the swarms that were still arriving,
heaped up difficulties in their way. Persecution of every kind awaited
them. They were plundered, and beaten with stripes, and kept in suspense
for months at the gates of Jerusalem, unable to pay the golden bezant that
was to procure them admission.

When the first epidemic terror of the day of judgment began to subside, a
few pilgrims ventured to return to Europe, their hearts big with
indignation at the insults they had suffered. Every where as they passed
they related to a sympathising auditory the wrongs of Christendom. Strange
to say, even these recitals increased the mania for pilgrimage. The
greater the dangers of the way, the fairer chance that sins of deep dye
would be atoned for. Difficulty and suffering only heightened the merit,
and fresh hordes issued from every town and village, to win favour in the
sight of heaven by a visit to the holy sepulchre. Thus did things continue
during the whole of the eleventh century.

The train that was to explode so fearfully was now laid, and there wanted
but the hand to apply the torch. At last the man appeared upon the scene.
Like all who have ever achieved so great an end, Peter the Hermit was
exactly suited to the age; neither behind it nor in advance of it; but
acute enough to penetrate its mystery ere it was discovered by any other.
Enthusiastic, chivalrous, bigoted, and, if not insane, not far removed
from insanity, he was the very prototype of the time. True enthusiasm is
always persevering and always eloquent, and these two qualities were
united in no common degree in the person of this extraordinary preacher.
He was a monk of Amiens, and ere he assumed the hood had served as a
soldier. He is represented as having been ill favoured and low in stature,
but with an eye of surpassing brightness and intelligence. Having been
seized with the mania of the age, he visited Jerusalem, and remained there
till his blood boiled to see the cruel persecution heaped upon the
devotees. On his return home he shook the world by the eloquent story of
their wrongs.

Before entering into any further details of the marvellous results of his
preaching, it will be advisable to cast a glance at the state of the mind
of Europe, that we may understand all the better the causes of his
success. First of all, there was the priesthood, which, exercising as it
did the most conspicuous influence upon the fortunes of society, claims
the largest share of attention. Religion was the ruling idea of that day,
and the only civiliser capable of taming such wolves as then constituted
the flock of the faithful. The clergy were all in all; and though they
kept the popular mind in the most slavish subjection with regard to
religious matters, they furnished it with the means of defence against all
other oppression except their own. In the ecclesiastical ranks were
concentrated all the true piety, all the learning, all the wisdom of the
time; and, as a natural consequence, a great portion of power, which their
very wisdom perpetually incited them to extend. The people knew nothing of
kings and nobles, except in the way of injuries inflicted. The first ruled
for, or more properly speaking against, the barons, and the barons only
existed to brave the power of the kings, or to trample with their iron
heels upon the neck of prostrate democracy. The latter had no friend but
the clergy, and these, though they necessarily instilled the superstition
from which they themselves were not exempt, yet taught the cheering
doctrine that all men were equal in the sight of heaven. Thus, while
Feudalism told them they had no rights in this world, Religion told them
they had every right in the next. With this consolation they were for the
time content, for political ideas had as yet taken no root. When the
clergy, for other reasons, recommended the Crusade, the people joined in
it with enthusiasm. The subject of Palestine filled all minds; the
pilgrims' tales of two centuries warmed every imagination; and when their
friends, their guides, and their instructors preached a war so much in
accordance with their own prejudices and modes of thinking, the enthusiasm
rose into a frenzy.

But while religion inspired the masses, another agent was at work upon the
nobility. These were fierce and lawless; tainted with every vice, endowed
with no virtue, and redeemed by one good quality alone, that of courage.
The only religion they felt was the religion of fear. That and their
overboiling turbulence alike combined to guide them to the Holy Land. Most
of them had sins enough to answer for. They lived with their hand against
every man, and with no law but their own passions. They set at defiance
the secular power of the clergy; but their hearts quailed at the awful
denunciations of the pulpit with regard to the life to come. War was the
business and the delight of their existence; and when they were promised
remission of all their sins upon the easy condition of following their
favourite bent, it is not to be wondered at that they rushed with
enthusiasm to the onslaught, and became as zealous in the service of the
cross as the great majority of the people, who were swayed by more purely
religious motives. Fanaticism and the love of battle alike impelled them
to the war, while the kings and princes of Europe had still another motive
for encouraging their zeal. Policy opened their eyes to the great
advantages which would accrue to themselves by the absence of so many
restless, intriguing, and bloodthirsty men, whose insolence it required
more than the small power of royalty to restrain within due bounds. Thus
every motive was favourable to the Crusades. Every class of society was
alike incited to join or encourage the war: kings and the clergy by
policy, the nobles by turbulence and the love of dominion, and the people
by religious zeal and the concentrated enthusiasm of two centuries,
skilfully directed by their only instructors.

It was in Palestine itself that Peter the Hermit first conceived the grand
idea of rousing the powers of Christendom to rescue the Christians of the
East from the thraldom of the Mussulmans, and the sepulchre of Jesus from
the rude hands of the infidel. The subject engrossed his whole mind. Even
in the visions of the night he was full of it. One dream made such an
impression upon him, that he devoutly believed the Saviour of the world
himself appeared before him, and promised him aid and protection in his
holy undertaking. If his zeal had ever wavered before, this was sufficient
to fix it for ever.

Peter, after he had performed all the penances and duties of his
pilgrimage, demanded an interview with Simeon, the Patriarch of the Greek
Church at Jerusalem. Though the latter was a heretic in Peter's eyes, yet
he was still a Christian, and felt as acutely as himself for the
persecutions heaped by the Turks upon the followers of Jesus. The good
prelate entered fully into his views, and, at his suggestion, wrote
letters to the Pope, and to the most influential monarchs of Christendom,
detailing the sorrows of the faithful, and urging them to take up arms in
their defence. Peter was not a laggard in the work. Taking an affectionate
farewell of the Patriarch, he returned in all haste to Italy. Pope Urban
II. occupied the apostolic chair. It was at that time far from being an
easy seat. His predecessor Gregory had bequeathed him a host of disputes
with the Emperor Henry IV. of Germany, and he had converted Philip I. of
France into an enemy by his strenuous opposition to an adulterous
connexion formed by that monarch. So many dangers encompassed him, that
the Vatican was no secure abode, and he had taken refuge in Apulia, under
the protection of the renowned Robert Guiscard. Thither Peter appears to
have followed him, though in what spot their meeting took place is not
stated with any precision by ancient chroniclers or modern historians.
Urban received him most kindly; read, with tears in his eyes, the epistle
from the Patriarch Simeon, and listened to the eloquent story of the
Hermit with an attention which shewed how deeply he sympathised with the
woes of the Christian Church. Enthusiasm is contagious; and the Pope
appears to have caught it instantly from one whose zeal was so unbounded.
Giving the Hermit full powers, he sent him abroad to preach the holy war
to all the nations and potentates of Christendom. The Hermit preached, and
countless thousands answered to his call. France, Germany, and Italy
started at his voice, and prepared for the deliverance of Zion. One of the
early historians of the Crusade, who was himself an eye-witness of the
rapture of Europe,[1] describes the personal appearance of the Hermit at
this time. He says, that there appeared to be something of divine in every
thing which he said or did. The people so highly reverenced him, that they
plucked hairs from the mane of his mule that they might keep them as
relics. While preaching, he wore in general a woollen tunic, with a
dark-coloured mantle, which fell down to his heels. His arms and feet were
bare; and he ate neither flesh nor bread, supporting himself chiefly upon
fish and wine. "He set out," says the chronicler, "from whence I know not;
but we saw him passing through the towns and villages, preaching every
where, and the people surrounding him in crowds, loading him with
offerings, and celebrating his sanctity with such great praises, that I
never remember to have seen such honours bestowed upon any one." Thus he
went on, untired, inflexible, and full of devotion, communicating his own
madness to his hearers, until Europe was stirred from its very depths.

    [1] Guibert de Nogent.

While the Hermit was appealing with such signal success to the people, the
Pope appealed with as much success to those who were to become the chiefs
and leaders of the expedition. His first step was to call a council at
Placentia, in the autumn of the year 1095. Here, in the assembly of the
clergy, the Pope debated the grand scheme, and gave audience to emissaries
who had been sent from Constantinople by the Emperor of the East, to
detail the progress made by the Turks in their design of establishing
themselves in Europe. The clergy were of course unanimous in support of
the Crusade; and the council separated, each individual member of it being
empowered to preach it to his people.

But Italy could not be expected to furnish all the aid required; and the
Pope crossed the Alps to inspire the fierce and powerful nobility and
chivalrous population of Gaul. His boldness in entering the territory, and
placing himself in the power of his foe, King Philip of France, is not the
least surprising feature of his mission. Some have imagined that cool
policy alone actuated him; while others assert that it was mere zeal, as
warm and as blind as that of Peter the Hermit. The latter opinion seems to
be the true one. Society did not calculate the consequences of what it was
doing. Every man seemed to act from impulse only; and the Pope, in
throwing himself into the heart of France, acted as much from impulse as
the thousands who responded to his call. A council was eventually summoned
to meet him at Clermont, in Auvergne, to consider the state of the Church,
reform abuses, and, above all, make preparations for the war. It was in
the midst of an extremely cold winter, and the ground was covered with
snow. During seven days the council sat with closed doors, while immense
crowds from all parts of France flocked into the town, in expectation that
the Pope himself would address the people. All the towns and villages for
miles around were filled with the multitude; even the fields were
encumbered with people, who, unable to procure lodging, pitched their
tents under the trees and by the way-side. All the neighbourhood presented
the appearance of a vast camp.


During the seven days' deliberation, a sentence of excommunication was
passed upon King Philip for adultery with Bertrade de Montfort, Countess
of Anjou, and for disobedience to the supreme authority of the apostolic
see. This bold step impressed the people with reverence for so stern a
Church, which in the discharge of its duty shewed itself no respecter of
persons. Their love and their fear were alike increased, and they were
prepared to listen with more intense devotion to the preaching of so
righteous and inflexible a pastor. The great square before the cathedral
church of Clermont became every instant more densely crowded as the hour
drew nigh when the Pope was to address the populace. Issuing from the
church in his full canonicals, surrounded by his cardinals and bishops in
all the splendour of Romish ecclesiastical costume, the Pope stood before
the populace on a high scaffolding erected for the occasion, and covered
with scarlet cloth. A brilliant array of bishops and cardinals surrounded
him; and among them, humbler in rank, but more important in the world's
eye, the Hermit Peter, dressed in his simple and austere habiliments.
Historians differ as to whether or not Peter addressed the crowd, but as
all agree that he was present, it seems reasonable to suppose that he
spoke. But it was the oration of the Pope that was most important. As he
lifted up his hands to ensure attention, every voice immediately became
still. He began by detailing the miseries endured by their brethren in the
Holy Land; how the plains of Palestine were desolated by the outrageous
heathen, who with the sword and the firebrand carried wailing into the
dwellings and flames into the possessions of the faithful; how Christian
wives and daughters were defiled by pagan lust; how the altars of the true
God were desecrated, and the relics of the saints trodden under foot.
"You," continued the eloquent pontiff (and Urban II. was one of the most
eloquent men of the day), "you, who hear me, and who have received the
true faith, and been endowed by God with power, and strength, and
greatness of soul,--whose ancestors have been the prop of Christendom, and
whose kings have put a barrier against the progress of the infidel,--I
call upon you to wipe off these impurities from the face of the earth, and
lift your oppressed fellow-Christians from the depths into which they have
been trampled. The sepulchre of Christ is possessed by the heathen, the
sacred places dishonoured by their vileness. Oh, brave knights and
faithful people! offspring of invincible fathers! ye will not degenerate
from your ancient renown. Ye will not be restrained from embarking in this
great cause by the tender ties of wife or little ones, but will remember
the words of the Saviour of the world himself, 'Whosoever loves father and
mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whosoever shall abandon for my
name's sake his house, or his brethren, or his sisters, or his father, or
his mother, or his wife, or his children, or his lands, shall receive a
hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life.'"

The warmth of the Pontiff communicated itself to the crowd, and the
enthusiasm of the people broke out several times ere he concluded his
address. He went on to portray, not only the spiritual but the temporal
advantages that would accrue to those who took up arms in the service of
the cross. Palestine was, he said, a land flowing with milk and honey, and
precious in the sight of God, as the scene of the grand events which had
saved mankind. That land, he promised, should be divided among them.
Moreover, they should have full pardon for all their offences, either
against God or man. "Go, then," he added, "in expiation of your sins; and
go assured, that after this world shall have passed away, imperishable
glory shall be yours in the world which is to come." The enthusiasm was no
longer to be restrained, and loud shouts interrupted the speaker; the
people exclaiming as if with one voice, "_Dieu le veult! Dieu le veult!_"
With great presence of mind Urban took advantage of the outburst, and as
soon as silence was obtained, continued: "Dear brethren, to-day is shewn
forth in you that which the Lord has said by his Evangelist, 'When two or
three are gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of
them to bless them.' If the Lord God had not been in your souls, you would
not all have pronounced the same words; or rather God himself pronounced
them by your lips, for it was he that put them in your hearts. Be they,
then, your war-cry in the combat, for those words came forth from God. Let
the army of the Lord, when it rushes upon his enemies, shout but that one
cry, '_Dieu le veult! Dieu le veult!_' Let whoever is inclined to devote
himself to this holy cause make it a solemn engagement, and bear the cross
of the Lord either on his breast or his brow till he set out; and let him
who is ready to begin his march place the holy emblem on his shoulders, in
memory of that precept of our Saviour, 'He who does not take up his cross
and follow me is not worthy of me.'"

The news of this council spread to the remotest parts of Europe in an
incredibly short space of time. Long before the fleetest horseman could
have brought the intelligence, it was known by the people in distant
provinces; a fact which was considered as nothing less than supernatural.
But the subject was in every body's mouth, and the minds of men were
prepared for the result. The enthusiastic merely asserted what they
wished, and the event tallied with their prediction. This was, however,
quite enough in those days for a miracle, and as a miracle every one
regarded it.

For several months after the Council of Clermont, France and Germany
presented a singular spectacle. The pious, the fanatic, the needy, the
dissolute, the young and the old, even women and children, and the halt
and lame, enrolled themselves by hundreds. In every village the clergy
were busied in keeping up the excitement, promising eternal rewards to
those who assumed the red cross, and fulminating the most awful
denunciations against all the worldly-minded who refused or even
hesitated. Every debtor who joined the Crusade was freed by the papal
edict from the claims of his creditors; outlaws of every grade were made
equal with the honest upon the same conditions. The property of those who
went was placed under the protection of the Church, and St. Paul and St.
Peter themselves were believed to descend from their high abode, to watch
over the chattels of the absent pilgrims. Signs and portents were seen in
the air, to increase the fervour of the multitude. An aurora-borealis of
unusual brilliancy appeared, and thousands of the Crusaders came out to
gaze upon it, prostrating themselves upon the earth in adoration. It was
thought to be a sure prognostic of the interposition of the Most High; and
a representation of his armies fighting with and overthrowing the
infidels. Reports of wonders were every where rife. A monk had seen two
gigantic warriors on horseback, the one representing a Christian and the
other a Turk, fighting in the sky with flaming swords, the Christian of
course overcoming the Paynim. Myriads of stars were said to have fallen
from heaven, each representing the fall of a Pagan foe. It was believed at
the same time that the Emperor Charlemagne would rise from the grave, and
lead on to victory the embattled armies of the Lord. A singular feature of
the popular madness was the enthusiasm of the women. Every where they
encouraged their lovers and husbands to forsake all things for the holy
war. Many of them burned the sign of the cross upon their breasts and
arms, and coloured the wound with a red dye, as a lasting memorial of
their zeal. Others, still more zealous, impressed the mark by the same
means upon the tender limbs of young children and infants at the breast.

Guibert de Nogent tells of a monk who made a large incision upon his
forehead in the form of a cross, which he coloured with some powerful
ingredient, telling the people that an angel had done it when he was
asleep. This monk appears to have been more of a rogue than a fool, for he
contrived to fare more sumptuously than any of his brother pilgrims, upon
the strength of his sanctity. The Crusaders every where gave him presents
of food and money, and he became quite fat ere he arrived at Jerusalem,
notwithstanding the fatigues of the way. If he had acknowledged in the
first place that he had made the wound himself, he would not have been
thought more holy than his fellows; but the story of the angel was a

All those who had property of any description rushed to the mart to change
it into hard cash. Lands and houses could be had for a quarter of their
value, while arms and accoutrements of war rose in the same proportion.
Corn, which had been excessively dear in anticipation of a year of
scarcity, suddenly became plentiful; and such was the diminution in the
value of provisions, that seven sheep were sold for five _deniers_.[2] The
nobles mortgaged their estates for mere trifles to Jews and unbelievers,
or conferred charters of immunity upon the towns and communes within their
fiefs, for sums which, a few years previously, they would have rejected
with disdain. The farmer endeavoured to sell his plough, and the artisan
his tools, to purchase a sword for the deliverance of Jerusalem. Women
disposed of their trinkets for the same purpose. During the spring and
summer of this year (1096) the roads teemed with crusaders, all hastening
to the towns and villages appointed as the rendezvous of the district.
Some were on horseback, some in carts, and some came down the rivers in
boats and rafts, bringing their wives and children, all eager to go to
Jerusalem. Very few knew where Jerusalem was. Some thought it fifty
thousand miles away, and others imagined that it was but a month's
journey; while at sight of every town or castle the children exclaimed,
"Is that Jerusalem? Is that the city?"[3] Parties of knights and nobles
might be seen travelling eastward, and amusing themselves as they went
with the knightly diversion of hawking, to lighten the fatigues of the

    [2] Guibert de Nogent.

    [3] Guibert de Nogent.

Guibert de Nogent, who did not write from hearsay, but from actual
observation, says the enthusiasm was so contagious, that when any one
heard the orders of the Pontiff, he went instantly to solicit his
neighbours and friends to join with him in "the way of God," for so they
called the proposed expedition. The Counts Palatine were full of the
desire to undertake the journey, and all the inferior knights were
animated with the same zeal. Even the poor caught the flame so ardently,
that no one paused to think of the inadequacy of his means, or to consider
whether he ought to yield up his farm, his vineyard, or his fields. Each
one set about selling his property at as low a price as if he had been
held in some horrible captivity, and sought to pay his ransom without loss
of time. Those who had not determined upon the journey joked and laughed
at those who were thus disposing of their goods at such ruinous prices,
prophesying that the expedition would be miserable and their return worse.
But they held this language only for a day; the next they were suddenly
seized with the same frenzy as the rest. Those who had been loudest in
their jeers gave up all their property for a few crowns, and set out with
those they had so laughed at a few hours before. In most cases the laugh
was turned against them; for when it became known that a man was
hesitating, his more zealous neighbours sent him a present of a
knitting-needle or a distaff, to shew their contempt of him. There was no
resisting this; so that the fear of ridicule contributed its fair
contingent to the armies of the Lord.

Another effect of the Crusade was, the religious obedience with which it
inspired the people and the nobility for that singular institution "The
Truce of God." At the commencement of the eleventh century, the clergy of
France, sympathising for the woes of the people, but unable to diminish
them, by repressing the rapacity and insolence of the feudal chiefs,
endeavoured to promote universal good-will by the promulgation of the
famous "Peace of God." All who conformed to it bound themselves by oath
not to take revenge for any injury, not to enjoy the fruits of property
usurped from others, nor to use deadly weapons; in reward of which they
would receive remission of all their sins. However benevolent the
intention of this "Peace," it led to nothing but perjury, and violence
reigned as uncontrolled as before. In the year 1041, another attempt was
made to soften the angry passions of the semi-barbarous chiefs, and the
"Truce of God" was solemnly proclaimed. The _truce_ lasted from the
Wednesday evening to the Monday morning of every week, in which interval
it was strictly forbidden to recur to violence on any pretext, or to seek
revenge for any injury. It was impossible to civilise men by these means.
Few even promised to become peaceable for so unconscionable a period as
five days a-week; or if they did, they made ample amends on the two days
left open to them. The truce was afterwards shortened from the Saturday
evening to the Monday morning; but little or no diminution of violence and
bloodshed was the consequence. At the Council of Clermont, Urban II. again
solemnly proclaimed the truce. So strong was the religious feeling, that
every one hastened to obey. All minor passions disappeared before the
grand passion of crusading. The feudal chief ceased to oppress, the robber
to plunder, the people to complain; but one idea was in all hearts, and
there seemed to be no room for any other.

The encampments of these heterogeneous multitudes offered a singular
aspect. Those vassals who ranged themselves under the banners of their
lord erected tents around his castle; while those who undertook the war on
their own account constructed booths and huts in the neighbourhood of the
towns or villages, preparatory to their joining some popular leader of the
expedition. The meadows of France were covered with tents. As the
belligerents were to have remission of all their sins on their arrival in
Palestine, hundreds of them gave themselves up to the most unbounded
licentiousness. The courtesan, with the red cross upon her shoulders,
plied her shameless trade with sensual pilgrims without scruple on either
side; the lover of good cheer gave loose rein to his appetite, and
drunkenness and debauchery flourished. Their zeal in the service of the
Lord was to wipe out all faults and follies, and they had the same surety
of salvation as the rigid anchorite. This reasoning had charms for the
ignorant, and the sounds of lewd revelry and the voice of prayer rose at
the same instant from the camp.

It is now time to speak of the leaders of the expedition. Great multitudes
ranged themselves under the command of Peter the Hermit, whom, as the
originator, they considered the most appropriate leader of the war. Others
joined the banner of a bold adventurer, whom history has dignified with no
other name than that of Gautier sans Avoir, or Walter the Pennyless, but
who is represented as having been of noble family, and well skilled in the
art of war. A third multitude from Germany flocked around the standard of
a monk named Gottschalk, of whom nothing is known except that he was a
fanatic of the deepest dye. All these bands, which together are said to
have amounted to three hundred thousand men, women, and children, were
composed of the vilest rascality of Europe. Without discipline, principle,
or true courage, they rushed through the nations like a pestilence,
spreading terror and death wherever they went. The first multitude that
set forth was led by Walter the Pennyless early in the spring of 1096,
within a very few months after the Council of Clermont. Each man of that
irregular host aspired to be his own master. Like their nominal leader,
each was poor to penury, and trusted for subsistence on his journey to the
chances of the road. Rolling through Germany like a tide, they entered
Hungary, where, at first, they were received with some degree of kindness
by the people. The latter had not yet caught sufficient of the fire of
enthusiasm to join the Crusade themselves, but were willing enough to
forward the cause by aiding those embarked in it. Unfortunately this good
understanding did not last long. The swarm were not contented with food
for their necessities, but craved for luxuries also. They attacked and
plundered the dwellings of the country people, and thought nothing of
murder where resistance was offered. On their arrival before Semlin, the
outraged Hungarians collected in large numbers, and, attacking the rear of
the crusading host, slew a great many of the stragglers, and, taking away
their arms and crosses, affixed them as trophies to the walls of the city.
Walter appears to have been in no mood or condition to make reprisals; for
his army, destructive as a plague of locusts when plunder urged them on,
were useless against any regular attack from a determined enemy. Their
rear continued to be thus harassed by the wrathful Hungarians until they
were fairly out of their territory. On his entrance into Bulgaria, Walter
met with no better fate. The cities and towns refused to let him pass; the
villages denied him provisions; and the citizens and country people
uniting, slaughtered his followers by hundreds. The progress of the army
was more like a retreat than an advance; but as it was impossible to stand
still, Walter continued his course till he arrived at Constantinople with
a force which famine and the sword had diminished to one-third of its
original number.

The greater multitude, led by the enthusiastic Hermit, followed close upon
his heels, with a bulky train of baggage, and women and children
sufficient to form a host of themselves. If it were possible to find a
rabble more vile than the army of Walter the Pennyless, it was that led by
Peter the Hermit. Being better provided with means, they were not reduced
to the necessity of pillage in their progress through Hungary; and had
they taken any other route than that which led through Semlin, might
perhaps have traversed the country without molestation. On their arrival
before that city, their fury was raised at seeing the arms and red crosses
of their predecessors hanging as trophies over the gates. Their pent-up
ferocity exploded at the sight. The city was tumultuously attacked, and
the besiegers entering, not by dint of bravery, but of superior numbers,
it was given up to all the horrors which follow when victory, brutality,
and licentiousness are linked together. Every evil passion was allowed to
revel with impunity, and revenge, lust, and avarice,--each had its
hundreds of victims in unhappy Semlin. Any maniac can kindle a
conflagration, but it may require many wise men to put it out. Peter the
Hermit had blown the popular fury into a flame, but to cool it again was
beyond his power. His followers rioted unrestrained, until the fear of
retaliation warned them to desist. When the king of Hungary was informed
of the disasters of Semlin, he marched with a sufficient force to chastise
the Hermit, who, at the news, broke up his camp and retreated towards the
Morava, a broad and rapid stream that joins the Danube a few miles to the
eastward of Belgrade. Here a party of indignant Bulgarians awaited him,
and so harassed him, as to make the passage of the river a task both of
difficulty and danger. Great numbers of his infatuated followers perished
in the waters, and many fell under the swords of the Bulgarians. The
ancient chronicles do not mention the amount of the Hermit's loss at this
passage, but represent it in general terms as very great.

At Nissa, the Duke of Bulgaria fortified himself, in fear of an assault;
but Peter, having learned a little wisdom from experience, thought it best
to avoid hostilities. He passed three nights in quietness under the walls,
and the duke, not wishing to exasperate unnecessarily so fierce and
rapacious a host, allowed the townspeople to supply them with provisions.
Peter took his departure peaceably on the following morning; but some
German vagabonds, falling behind the main body of the army, set fire to
the mills and house of a Bulgarian, with whom, it appears, they had had
some dispute on the previous evening. The citizens of Nissa, who had
throughout mistrusted the Crusaders, and were prepared for the worst,
sallied out immediately, and took signal vengeance. The spoilers were cut
to pieces, and the townspeople pursuing the Hermit, captured all the women
and children who had lagged in the rear, and a great quantity of baggage.
Peter hereupon turned round and marched back to Nissa, to demand
explanation of the Duke of Bulgaria. The latter fairly stated the
provocation given, and the Hermit could urge nothing in palliation of so
gross an outrage. A negotiation was entered into, which promised to be
successful, and the Bulgarians were about to deliver up the women and
children, when a party of undisciplined Crusaders, acting solely upon
their own suggestion, endeavoured to scale the walls and seize upon the
town. Peter in vain exerted his authority; the confusion became general,
and after a short but desperate battle, the Crusaders threw down their
arms, and fled in all directions. Their vast host was completely routed,
the slaughter being so great among them, as to be counted, not by
hundreds, but by thousands.

It is said that the Hermit fled from this fatal field to a forest a few
miles from Nissa, abandoned by every human creature. It would be curious
to know whether, after so dire a reverse,

                        "His enpierced breast
    Sharp sorrow did in thousand pieces rive,"

or whether his fiery zeal still rose superior to calamity, and pictured
the eventual triumph of his cause. He, so lately the leader of a hundred
thousand men, was now a solitary skulker in the forests, liable at every
instant to be discovered by some pursuing Bulgarian, and cut off in mid
career. Chance at last brought him within sight of an eminence, where two
or three of his bravest knights had collected five hundred of the
stragglers. These gladly received the Hermit, and a consultation having
taken place, it was resolved to gather together the scattered remnants of
the army. Fires were lighted on the hill, and scouts sent out in all
directions for the fugitives. Horns were sounded at intervals, to make
known that friends were near, and before nightfall the Hermit saw himself
at the head of seven thousand men. During the succeeding day, he was
joined by twenty thousand more, and with this miserable remnant of his
force, he pursued his route towards Constantinople. The bones of the rest
mouldered in the forests of Bulgaria.

On his arrival at Constantinople, where he found Walter the Pennyless
awaiting him, he was hospitably received by the Emperor Alexius. It might
have been expected that the sad reverses they had undergone would have
taught his followers common prudence; but, unhappily for them, their
turbulence and love of plunder was not to be restrained. Although they
were surrounded by friends, by whom all their wants were liberally
supplied, they could not refrain from rapine. In vain the Hermit exhorted
them to tranquillity; he possessed no more power over them, in subduing
their passions, than the obscurest soldier of the host. They set fire to
several public buildings in Constantinople out of pure mischief, and
stripped the lead from the roofs of the churches, which they afterwards
sold for old metal in the purlieus of the city. From this time may be
dated the aversion which the Emperor Alexius entertained for the
Crusaders, and which was afterwards manifested in all his actions, even
when he had to deal with the chivalrous and more honourable armies which
arrived after the Hermit. He seems to have imagined that the Turks
themselves were enemies less formidable to his power than these
outpourings of the refuse of Europe: he soon found a pretext to hurry them
into Asia Minor. Peter crossed the Bosphorus with Walter, but the excesses
of his followers were such, that, despairing of accomplishing any good end
by remaining at their head, he left them to themselves, and returned to
Constantinople, on the pretext of making arrangements with the government
of Alexius for a proper supply of provisions. The Crusaders, forgetting
that they were in the enemy's country, and that union, above all things,
was desirable, gave themselves up to dissensions. Violent disputes arose
between the Lombards and Normans commanded by Walter the Pennyless, and
the Franks and Germans led out by Peter. The latter separated themselves
from the former, and, choosing for their leader one Reinaldo, or Reinhold,
marched forward, and took possession of the fortress of Exorogorgon. The
Sultan Solimaun was on the alert, with a superior force. A party of
Crusaders, which had been detached from the fort, and stationed at a
little distance as an ambuscade, were surprised and cut to pieces, and
Exorogorgon invested on all sides. The siege was protracted for eight
days, during which the Christians suffered the most acute agony from the
want of water. It is hard to say how long the hope of succour or the
energy of despair would have enabled them to hold out: their treacherous
leader cut the matter short by renouncing the Christian faith, and
delivering up the fort into the hands of the sultan. He was followed by
two or three of his officers; all the rest, refusing to become Mahometans,
were ruthlessly put to the sword. Thus perished the last wretched remnant
of the vast multitude which had traversed Europe with Peter the Hermit.

Walter the Pennyless and his multitude met as miserable a fate. On the
news of the disasters of Exorogorgon, they demanded to be led instantly
against the Turks. Walter, who only wanted good soldiers to have made a
good general, was cooler of head, and saw all the dangers of such a step.
His force was wholly insufficient to make any decisive movement in a
country where the enemy was so much superior, and where, in case of
defeat, he had no secure position to fall back upon; and he therefore
expressed his opinion against advancing until the arrival of
reinforcements. This prudent counsel found no favour: the army loudly
expressed their dissatisfaction at their chief, and prepared to march
forward without him. Upon this, the brave Walter put himself at their
head, and rushed to destruction. Proceeding towards Nice, the modern
Isnik, he was intercepted by the army of the sultan: a fierce battle
ensued, in which the Turks made fearful havoc; out of twenty-five thousand
Christians, twenty-two thousand were slain, and among them Gautier
himself, who fell pierced by seven mortal wounds. The remaining three
thousand retreated upon Civitot, where they entrenched themselves.

[Illustration: ISNIK.]

Disgusted as was Peter the Hermit at the excesses of the multitude, who,
at his call, had forsaken Europe, his heart was moved with grief and pity
at their misfortunes. All his former zeal revived: casting himself at the
feet of the Emperor Alexius, he implored him, with tears in his eyes, to
send relief to the few survivors at Civitot. The emperor consented, and a
force was sent, which arrived just in time to save them from destruction.
The Turks had beleaguered the place, and the Crusaders were reduced to the
last extremity. Negotiations were entered into, and the last three
thousand were conducted in safety to Constantinople. Alexius had suffered
too much by their former excesses to be very desirous of retaining them in
his capital: he therefore caused them all to be disarmed, and, furnishing
each with a sum of money, he sent them back to their own country.

While these events were taking place, fresh hordes were issuing from the
woods and wilds of Germany, all bent for the Holy Land. They were
commanded by a fanatical priest, named Gottschalk, who, like Gautier and
Peter the Hermit, took his way through Hungary. History is extremely
meagre in her details of the conduct and fate of this host, which amounted
to at least one hundred thousand men. Robbery and murder seem to have
journeyed with them, and the poor Hungarians were rendered almost
desperate by their numbers and rapacity. Karloman, the king of the
country, made a bold effort to get rid of them; for the resentment of his
people had arrived at such a height, that nothing short of the total
extermination of the Crusaders would satisfy them. Gottschalk had to pay
the penalty, not only for the ravages of his own bands, but for those of
the swarms that had come before him. He and his army were induced, by some
means or other, to lay down their arms: the savage Hungarians, seeing them
thus defenceless, set upon them, and slaughtered them in great numbers.
How many escaped their arrows we are not informed; but not one of them
reached Palestine.

Other swarms, under nameless leaders, issued from Germany and France, more
brutal and more frantic than any that had preceded them. Their fanaticism
surpassed by far the wildest freaks of the followers of the Hermit. In
bands, varying in numbers from one to five thousand, they traversed the
country in all directions, bent upon plunder and massacre. They wore the
symbol of the Crusade upon their shoulders, but inveighed against the
folly of proceeding to the Holy Land to destroy the Turks, while they left
behind them so many Jews, the still more inveterate enemies of Christ.
They swore fierce vengeance against this unhappy race, and murdered all
the Hebrews they could lay their hands on, first subjecting them to the
most horrible mutilation. According to the testimony of Albert Aquensis,
they lived among each other in the most shameless profligacy, and their
vice was only exceeded by their superstition. Whenever they were in search
of Jews, they were preceded by a goose and goat, which they believed to be
holy, and animated with divine power to discover the retreats of the
unbelievers. In Germany alone they slaughtered more than a thousand Jews,
notwithstanding all the efforts of the clergy to save them. So dreadful
was the cruelty of their tormentors, that great numbers of Jews committed
self-destruction to avoid falling into their hands.

Again it fell to the lot of the Hungarians to deliver Europe from these
pests. When there were no more Jews to murder, the bands collected in one
body, and took the old route to the Holy Land, a route stained with the
blood of three hundred thousand who had gone before, and destined also to
receive theirs. The number of these swarms has never been stated; but so
many of them perished in Hungary, that contemporary writers, despairing of
giving any adequate idea of their multitudes, state that the fields were
actually heaped with their corpses, and that for miles in its course the
waters of the Danube were dyed with their blood. It was at Mersburg, on
the Danube, that the greatest slaughter took place,--a slaughter so great
as to amount almost to extermination. The Hungarians for a while disputed
the passage of the river, but the Crusaders forced their way across, and
attacking the city with the blind courage of madness, succeeded in making
a breach in the walls. At this moment of victory an unaccountable fear
came over them. Throwing down their arms, they fled panic-stricken, no one
knew why, and no one knew whither. The Hungarians followed, sword in hand,
and cut them down without remorse, and in such numbers, that the stream of
the Danube is said to have been choked up by their unburied bodies.

This was the worst paroxysm of the madness of Europe; and this passed, her
chivalry stepped upon the scene. Men of cool heads, mature plans, and
invincible courage stood forward to lead and direct the grand movement of
Europe upon Asia. It is upon these men that romance has lavished her most
admiring epithets, leaving to the condemnation of history the vileness and
brutality of those who went before. Of these leaders the most
distinguished were Godfrey of Bouillon duke of Lorraine, and Raymond count
of Toulouse. Four other chiefs of the royal blood of Europe also assumed
the cross, and led each his army to the Holy Land; Hugh count of
Vermandois, brother of the king of France; Robert duke of Normandy, the
elder brother of William Rufus; Robert count of Flanders, and Bohemund
prince of Tarentum, eldest son of the celebrated Robert Guiscard. These
men were all tinged with the fanaticism of the age, but none of them acted
entirely from religious motives. They were neither utterly reckless like
Gautier sans Avoir, crazy like Peter the Hermit, nor brutal like
Gottschalk the Monk, but possessed each of these qualities in a milder
form; their valour being tempered by caution, their religious zeal by
worldly views, and their ferocity by the spirit of chivalry. They saw
whither led the torrent of the public will; and it being neither their
wish nor their interest to stem it, they allowed themselves to be carried
with it, in the hope that it would lead them at last to a haven of
aggrandisement. Around them congregated many minor chiefs, the flower of
the nobility of France and Italy, with some few from Germany, England, and
Spain. It was wisely conjectured that armies so numerous would find a
difficulty in procuring provisions if they all journeyed by the same road.
They therefore resolved to separate; Godfrey de Bouillon proceeding
through Hungary and Bulgaria, the Count of Toulouse through Lombardy and
Dalmatia, and the other leaders through Apulia to Constantinople, where
the several divisions were to reunite. The forces under these leaders have
been variously estimated. The Princess Anna Comnena talks of them as
having been as numerous as the sands on the sea-shore, or the stars in the
firmament. Fulcher of Chartres is more satisfactory, and exaggerates less
magnificently, when he states, that all the divisions, when they had sat
down before Nice in Bithynia, amounted to one hundred thousand horsemen,
and six hundred thousand men on foot, exclusive of the priests, women, and
children. Gibbon is of opinion that this amount is exaggerated; but thinks
the actual numbers did not fall very far short of the calculation. The
Princess Anna afterwards gives the number of those under Godfrey of
Bouillon as eighty thousand foot and horse; and supposing that each of the
other chiefs led an army as numerous, the total would be near half a
million. This must be over rather than under the mark, as the army of
Godfrey of Bouillon was confessedly the largest when it set out, and
suffered less by the way than any other.

[Illustration: GODFREY DE BOUILLON.]

The Count of Vermandois was the first who set foot on the Grecian
territory. On his arrival at Durazzo he was received with every mark of
respect and courtesy by the agents of the emperor, and his followers were
abundantly supplied with provisions. Suddenly, however, and without cause
assigned, the count was arrested by order of the Emperor Alexius, and
conveyed a close prisoner to Constantinople. Various motives have been
assigned by different authors as having induced the emperor to this
treacherous and imprudent proceeding. By every writer he has been
condemned for so flagrant a breach of hospitality and justice. The most
probable reason for his conduct appears to be that suggested by Guibert of
Nogent, who states that Alexius, fearful of the designs of the Crusaders
upon his throne, resorted to this extremity in order afterwards to force
the count to take the oath of allegiance to him, as the price of his
liberation. The example of a prince so eminent as the brother of the king
of France, would, he thought, be readily followed by the other chiefs of
the Crusade. In the result he was wofully disappointed, as every man
deserves to be who commits positive evil that doubtful good may ensue. But
this line of policy accorded well enough with the narrowmindedness of the
emperor, who, in the enervating atmosphere of his highly civilised and
luxurious court, dreaded the influx of the hardy and ambitious warriors of
the West, and strove to nibble away by unworthy means the power which he
had not energy enough to confront. If danger to himself had existed from
the residence of the chiefs in his dominions, he might easily have averted
it, by the simple means of placing himself at the head of the European
movement, and directing its energies to their avowed object, the conquest
of the Holy Land. But the emperor, instead of being, as he might have
been, the lord and leader of the Crusades, which he had himself aided in
no inconsiderable degree to suscitate by his embassies to the Pope, became
the slave of men who hated and despised him. No doubt the barbarous
excesses of the followers of Gautier and Peter the Hermit made him look
upon the whole body of them with disgust, but it was the disgust of a
little mind, which is glad of any excuse to palliate or justify its own
irresolution and love of ease.

Godfrey of Bouillon traversed Hungary in the most quiet and orderly
manner. On his arrival at Mersburg he found the country strewed with the
mangled corpses of the Jew-killers, and demanded of the king of Hungary
for what reason his people had set upon them. The latter detailed the
atrocities they had committed, and made it so evident to Godfrey that the
Hungarians had only acted in self-defence, that the high-minded leader
declared himself satisfied, and passed on without giving or receiving
molestation. On his arrival at Philippopoli he was informed for the first
time of the imprisonment of the count of Vermandois. He immediately sent
messengers to the emperor, demanding the count's release, and threatening,
in case of refusal, to lay waste the country with fire and sword. After
waiting a day at Philippopoli, he marched on to Adrianople, where he was
met by his messengers returning with the emperor's refusal. Godfrey, the
bravest and most determined of the leaders of the Crusade, was not a man
to swerve from his word, and the country was given up to pillage. Alexius
here committed another blunder. No sooner did he learn from dire
experience that the Crusader was not an utterer of idle threats, than he
consented to the release of the prisoner. As he had been unjust in the
first instance, he became cowardly in the second, and taught his enemies
(for so the Crusaders were forced to consider themselves) a lesson which
they took care to remember to his cost, that they could hope nothing from
his sense of justice, but every thing from his fears. Godfrey remained
encamped for several weeks in the neighbourhood of Constantinople, to the
great annoyance of Alexius, who sought by every means to extort from him
the homage he had extorted from Vermandois. Sometimes he acted as if at
open and declared war with the Crusaders, and sent his troops against
them. Sometimes he refused to supply them with food, and ordered the
markets to be shut against them, while at other times he was all for peace
and good-will, and sent costly presents to Godfrey. The honest,
straightforward Crusader was at last so wearied by his false kindness, and
so pestered by his attacks, that, allowing his indignation to get the
better of his judgment, he gave up the country around Constantinople to be
plundered by his soldiers. For six days the flames of the farm-houses
around struck terror into the heart of Alexius; but, as Godfrey
anticipated, they convinced him of his error. Fearing that Constantinople
itself would be the next object of attack, he sent messengers to demand an
interview with Godfrey, offering at the same time to leave his son as a
hostage for his good faith. Godfrey agreed to meet him; and, whether to
put an end to these useless dissensions, or for some other unexplained
reason, he rendered homage to Alexius as his liege lord. He was thereupon
loaded with honours, and, according to a singular custom of that age,
underwent the ceremony of the "adoption of honour" as son to the emperor.
Godfrey and his brother Baudouin de Bouillon conducted themselves with
proper courtesy on this occasion, but were not able to restrain the
insolence of their followers, who did not conceive themselves bound to
keep any terms with a man so insincere as he had shewn himself. One
barbarous chieftain, Count Robert of Paris, carried his insolence so far
as to seat himself upon the throne; an insult which Alexius merely
resented with a sneer, but which did not induce him to look with less
mistrust upon the hordes that were still advancing.

It is impossible, notwithstanding his treachery, to avoid feeling some
compassion for the emperor, whose life at this time was rendered one long
scene of misery by the presumption of the Crusaders, and his not
altogether groundless fears of the evil they might inflict upon him,
should any untoward circumstance force the current of their ambition to
the conquest of his empire. His daughter Anna Comnena feelingly deplores
his state of life at this time, and a learned German[4], in a recent work,
describes it, on the authority of the princess, in the following manner:

"To avoid all occasion of offence to the Crusaders, Alexius complied with
all their whims and their (on many occasions) unreasonable demands, even
at the expense of great bodily exertion, at a time when he was suffering
severely under the gout, which eventually brought him to his grave. No
Crusader who desired an interview with him was refused access; he listened
with the utmost patience to the long-winded harangues which their
loquacity or zeal continually wearied him with; he endured, without
expressing any impatience, the unbecoming and haughty language which they
permitted themselves to employ towards him, and severely reprimanded his
officers when they undertook to defend the dignity of the imperial station
from these rude assaults, for he trembled with apprehension at the
slightest disputes, lest they might become the occasion of greater evil.
Though the counts often appeared before him with trains altogether
unsuitable to their dignity and to his--sometimes with an entire troop,
which completely filled the royal apartment--the emperor held his peace.
He listened to them at all hours; he often seated himself on his throne at
day-break to attend to their wishes and requests, and the evening twilight
saw him still in the same place. Very frequently he could not snatch time
to refresh himself with meat and drink. During many nights he could not
obtain any repose, and was obliged to indulge in an unrefreshing sleep
upon his throne, with his head resting on his hands. Even this slumber was
continually disturbed by the appearance and harangues of some
newly-arrived rude knights. When all the courtiers, wearied out by the
efforts of the day and by night-watching, could no longer keep themselves
on their feet, and sank down exhausted--some upon benches and others on
the floor--Alexius still rallied his strength to listen with seeming
attention to the wearisome chatter of the Latins, that they might have no
occasion or pretext for discontent. In such a state of fear and anxiety,
how could Alexius comport himself with dignity and like an emperor?"

    [4] M. Wilken's _Geschichte der Kreuzzüge_.

Alexius, however, had himself to blame, in a great measure, for the
indignities he suffered: owing to his insincerity, the Crusaders
mistrusted him so much, that it became at last a common saying, that the
Turks and Saracens were not such inveterate foes to the Western or Latin
Christians as the Emperor Alexius and the Greeks[5]. It would be needless
in this sketch, which does not profess to be so much a history of the
Crusades, as of the madness of Europe, from which they sprang, to detail
the various acts of bribery and intimidation, cajolery and hostility, by
which Alexius contrived to make each of the leaders in succession, as they
arrived, take the oath of allegiance to him as their suzerain. One way or
another he exacted from each the barren homage on which he had set his
heart, and they were then allowed to proceed into Asia Minor. One only,
Raymond de St. Gilles count of Toulouse, obstinately refused the homage.

    [5] Wilken.

Their residence in Constantinople was productive of no good to the armies
of the cross. Bickerings and contentions on the one hand, and the
influence of a depraved and luxurious court on the other, destroyed the
elasticity of their spirits, and cooled the first ardour of their
enthusiasm. At one time the army of the Count of Toulouse was on the point
of disbanding itself; and, had not their leader energetically removed them
across the Bosphorus, this would have been the result. Once in Asia, their
spirits in some degree revived, and the presence of danger and difficulty
nerved them to the work they had undertaken. The first operation of the
war was the siege of Nice, to gain possession of which all their efforts
were directed.

Godfrey of Bouillon and the Count of Vermandois were joined under its
walls by each host in succession as it left Constantinople. Among the
celebrated Crusaders who fought at this siege we find, besides the leaders
already mentioned, the brave and generous Tancred, whose name and fame
have been immortalised in the _Gerusalemme Liberata_, the valorous Bishop
of Puy, Baldwin, afterwards king of Jerusalem, and Peter the Hermit, now
an almost solitary soldier, shorn of all the power and influence he had
formerly possessed. Kilij Aslaun the sultan of Roum and chief of the
Seljukian Turks, whose deeds, surrounded by the false halo of romance, are
familiar to the readers of Tasso, under the name of Soliman, marched to
defend this city, but was defeated after several obstinate engagements, in
which the Christians shewed a degree of heroism that quite astonished him.
The Turkish chief had expected to find a wild undisciplined multitude,
like that under Peter the Hermit, without leaders capable of enforcing
obedience; instead of which, he found the most experienced leaders of the
age at the head of armies that had just fanaticism enough to be ferocious,
but not enough to render them ungovernable. In these engagements, many
hundreds fell on both sides; and on both sides the most revolting
barbarity was practised: the Crusaders cut off the heads of the fallen
Mussulmans, and sent them in panniers to Constantinople, as trophies of
their victory. After the temporary defeat of Kilij Aslaun, the siege of
Nice was carried on with redoubled vigour. The Turks defended themselves
with the greatest obstinacy, and discharged showers of poisoned arrows
upon the Crusaders. When any unfortunate wretch was killed under the
walls, they let down iron hooks from above, and drew the body up, which,
after stripping and mutilating, they threw back again at the besiegers.
The latter were well supplied with provisions, and for six-and-thirty days
the siege continued without any relaxation of the efforts on either side.
Many tales are told of the almost superhuman heroism of the Christian
leaders--how one man put a thousand to flight; and how the arrows of the
faithful never missed their mark. One anecdote of Godfrey of Bouillon,
related by Albert of Aix, is worth recording, not only as shewing the high
opinion entertained of his valour, but as shewing the contagious credulity
of the armies--a credulity which as often led them to the very verge of
defeat, as it incited them to victory. One Turk, of gigantic stature, took
his station day by day on the battlements of Nice, and, bearing an
enormous bow, committed great havoc among the Christian host. Not a shaft
he sped but bore death upon its point; and although the Crusaders aimed
repeatedly at his breast, and he stood in the most exposed position, their
arrows fell harmless at his feet. He seemed to be invulnerable to attack;
and a report was soon spread abroad, that he was no other than the Arch
Fiend himself, and that mortal hand could not prevail against him. Godfrey
of Bouillon, who had no faith in the supernatural character of the
Mussulman, determined, if possible, to put an end to the dismay which was
rapidly paralysing the exertions of his best soldiers. Taking a huge
cross-bow, he stood forward in front of the army, to try the steadiness of
his hand against the much-dreaded archer: the shaft was aimed directly at
his heart, and took fatal effect. The Moslem fell amid the groans of the
besieged, and the shouts of _Deus adjuva! Deus adjuva!_ the war-cry of the

At last the Crusaders imagined that they had overcome all obstacles, and
were preparing to take possession of the city, when, to their great
astonishment, they saw the flag of the Emperor Alexius flying from the
battlements. An emissary of the emperor, named Faticius or Tatin, had
contrived to gain admission, with a body of Greek troops, at a point which
the Crusaders had left unprotected, and had persuaded the Turks to
surrender to him rather than to the crusading forces. The greatest
indignation prevailed in the army when this stratagem was discovered, and
the soldiers were, with the utmost difficulty, prevented from renewing the
attack and besieging the Greek emissary.

The army, however, continued its march, and, by some means or other, was
broken into two divisions; some historians say accidentally,[6] while
others affirm by mutual consent, and for the convenience of obtaining
provisions on the way.[7] The one division was composed of the forces
under Bohemund, Tancred, and the Duke of Normandy; while the other, which
took a route at some distance on the right, was commanded by Godfrey of
Bouillon and the other chiefs. The Sultan of Roum, who, after his losses
at Nice, had been silently making great efforts to crush the Crusaders at
one blow, collected in a very short time all the multitudinous tribes that
owed him allegiance, and with an army which, according to a moderate
calculation, amounted to two hundred thousand men, chiefly cavalry, he
fell upon the first division of the Christian host in the valley of
Dorylæum. It was early in the morning of the 1st of July 1097, when the
Crusaders saw the first companies of the Turkish horsemen pouring down
upon them from the hills. Bohemund had hardly time to set himself in
order, and transport his sick and helpless to the rear, when the
overwhelming force of the Orientals was upon him. The Christian army,
composed principally of men on foot, gave way on all sides, and the hoofs
of the Turkish steeds, and the poisoned arrows of their bowmen, mowed them
down by hundreds. After having lost the flower of their chivalry, the
Christians retreated upon their baggage, when a dreadful slaughter took
place. Neither women nor children, nor the sick, were spared. Just as they
were reduced to the last extremity, Godfrey of Bouillon and the Count of
Toulouse made their appearance on the field, and turned the tide of
battle. After an obstinate engagement the Turks fled, and their rich camp
fell into the hands of the enemy. The loss of the Crusaders amounted to
about four thousand men, with several chiefs of renown, among whom were
Count Robert of Paris and William the brother of Tancred. The loss of the
Turks, which did not exceed this number, taught them to pursue a different
mode of warfare. The sultan was far from being defeated. With his still
gigantic army, he laid waste all the country on either side of the
Crusaders. The latter, who were unaware of the tactics of the enemy, found
plenty of provisions in the Turkish camp; but so far from economising
these resources, they gave themselves up for several days to the most
unbounded extravagance. They soon paid dearly for their heedlessness. In
the ravaged country of Phrygia, through which they advanced towards
Antiochetta, they suffered dreadfully for want of food for themselves and
pasture for their cattle. Above them was a scorching sun, almost
sufficient of itself to dry up the freshness of the land, a task which the
firebrands of the sultan had but too surely effected, and water was not to
be had after the first day of their march. The pilgrims died at the rate
of five hundred a day. The horses of the knights perished on the road, and
the baggage which they had aided to transport was either placed upon dogs,
sheep, and swine, or abandoned altogether. In some of the calamities that
afterwards befell them, the Christians gave themselves up to the most
reckless profligacy; but upon this occasion, the dissensions which
prosperity had engendered were all forgotten. Religion, often disregarded,
arose in the stern presence of misfortune, and cheered them as they died
by the promises of eternal felicity.

    [6] Fulcher of Chartres; Guibert de Nogent; Vital.

    [7] William of Tyre; Mills; Wilken, &c.

At length they reached Antiochetta, where they found water in abundance,
and pastures for their expiring cattle. Plenty once more surrounded them,
and here they pitched their tents. Untaught by the bitter experience of
famine, they again gave themselves up to luxury and waste.

On the 18th of October they sat down before the strong city of Antioch,
the siege of which, and the events to which it gave rise, are among the
most extraordinary incidents of the Crusade. The city, which is situated
on an eminence, and washed by the river Orontes, is naturally a very
strong position, and the Turkish garrison were well supplied with
provisions to endure a long siege. In this respect the Christians were
also fortunate, but unluckily for themselves, unwise. Their force amounted
to three hundred thousand fighting men; and we are informed by Raymond
d'Argilles, that they had so much provision, that they threw away the
greater part of every animal they killed, being so dainty, that they would
only eat particular parts of the beast. So insane was their extravagance,
that in less than ten days famine began to stare them in the face. After
making a fruitless attempt to gain possession of the city by a _coup de
main_, they, starving themselves, sat down to starve out the enemy. But
with want came a cooling of enthusiasm. The chiefs began to grow weary of
the expedition. Baldwin had previously detached himself from the main body
of the army, and, proceeding to Edessa, had intrigued himself into the
supreme power in that little principality. The other leaders were animated
with less zeal than heretofore. Stephen of Chartres and Hugh of Vermandois
began to waver, unable to endure the privations which their own folly and
profusion had brought upon them. Even Peter the Hermit became sick at
heart ere all was over. When the famine had become so urgent that they
were reduced to eat human flesh in the extremity of their hunger, Bohemund
and Robert of Flanders set forth on an expedition to procure a supply.
They were in a slight degree successful; but the relief they brought was
not economised, and in two days they were as destitute as before.
Faticius, the Greek commander and representative of Alexius, deserted with
his division under pretence of seeking for food, and his example was
followed by various bodies of Crusaders.

Misery was rife among those who remained, and they strove to alleviate it
by a diligent attention to signs and omens. These, with extraordinary
visions seen by the enthusiastic, alternately cheered and depressed them
according as they foretold the triumph or pictured the reverses of the
cross. At one time a violent hurricane arose, levelling great trees with
the ground, and blowing down the tents of the Christian leaders. At
another time an earthquake shook the camp, and was thought to
prognosticate some great impending evil to the cause of Christendom. But a
comet which appeared shortly afterwards raised them from the despondency
into which they had fallen; their lively imaginations making it assume the
form of a flaming cross leading them on to victory. Famine was not the
least of the evils they endured. Unwholesome food, and the impure air from
the neighbouring marshes, engendered pestilential diseases, which carried
them off more rapidly than the arrows of the enemy. A thousand of them
died in a day, and it became at last a matter of extreme difficulty to
afford them burial. To add to their misery, each man grew suspicious of
his neighbour; for the camp was infested by Turkish spies, who conveyed
daily to the besieged intelligence of the movements and distresses of the
enemy. With a ferocity, engendered by despair, Bohemund caused two spies,
whom he had detected, to be roasted alive in presence of the army, and
within sight of the battlements of Antioch. But even this example failed
to reduce their numbers, and the Turks continued to be as well informed as
the Christians themselves of all that was passing in the camp.

The news of the arrival of a reinforcement of soldiers from Europe, with
an abundant stock of provisions, came to cheer them when reduced to the
last extremity. The welcome succour landed at St. Simeon, the port of
Antioch, and about six miles from that city. Thitherwards the famishing
Crusaders proceeded in tumultuous bands, followed by Bohemund and the
Count of Toulouse, with strong detachments of their retainers and vassals,
to escort the supplies in safety to the camp. The garrison of Antioch,
forewarned of this arrival, was on the alert, and a corps of Turkish
archers was despatched to lie in ambuscade among the mountains and
intercept their return. Bohemund, laden with provisions, was encountered
in the rocky passes by the Turkish host. Great numbers of his followers
were slain, and he himself had just time to escape to the camp with the
news of his defeat. Godfrey of Bouillon, the Duke of Normandy, and the
other leaders had heard the rumour of this battle, and were at that
instant preparing for the rescue. The army was immediately in motion,
animated both by zeal and by hunger, and marched so rapidly as to
intercept the victorious Turks before they had time to reach Antioch with
their spoil. A fierce battle ensued, which lasted from noon till the going
down of the sun. The Christians gained and maintained the advantage, each
man fighting as if upon himself alone had depended the fortune of the day.
Hundreds of Turks perished in the Orontes, and more than two thousand were
left dead upon the field of battle. All the provision was recaptured and
brought in safety to the camp, whither the Crusaders returned singing
_Alleluia!_ or shouting _Deus adjuva! Deus adjuva!_

This relief lasted for some days, and, had it been duly economised, would
have lasted much longer; but the chiefs had no authority, and were unable
to exercise any control over its distribution. Famine again approached
with rapid strides, and Stephen count of Blois, not liking the prospect,
withdrew from the camp with four thousand of his retainers, and
established himself at Alexandretta. The moral influence of this desertion
was highly prejudicial upon those who remained; and Bohemund, the most
impatient and ambitious of the chiefs, foresaw that, unless speedily
checked, it would lead to the utter failure of the expedition. It was
necessary to act decisively; the army murmured at the length of the siege,
and the sultan was collecting his forces to crush them. Against the
efforts of the Crusaders Antioch might have held out for months; but
treason within effected that which courage without might have striven for
in vain.

Baghasihan, the Turkish prince or emir of Antioch, had under his command
an Armenian of the name of Phirouz, whom he had entrusted with the defence
of a tower on that part of the city wall which overlooked the passes of
the mountains. Bohemund, by means of a spy who had embraced the Christian
religion, and to whom he had given his own name at baptism, kept up a
daily communication with this captain, and made him the most magnificent
promises of reward, if he would deliver up his post to the Crusaders.
Whether the proposal was first made by Bohemund or by the Armenian is
uncertain, but that a good understanding soon existed between them is
undoubted; and a night was fixed for the execution of the project.
Bohemund communicated the scheme to Godfrey and the Count of Toulouse,
with the stipulation that, if the city were won, he, as the soul of the
enterprise, should enjoy the dignity of Prince of Antioch. The other
leaders hesitated: ambition and jealousy prompted them to refuse their aid
in furthering the views of the intriguer. More mature consideration
decided them to acquiesce, and seven hundred of the bravest knights were
chosen for the expedition, the real object of which, for fear of spies,
was kept a profound secret from the rest of the army. When all was ready,
a report was promulgated that the seven hundred were intended to form an
ambuscade for a division of the sultan's army, which was stated to be

Every thing favoured the treacherous project of the Armenian captain, who,
on his solitary watch-tower, received due intimation of the approach of
the Crusaders. The night was dark and stormy; not a star was visible
above, and the wind howled so furiously as to overpower all other sounds:
the rain fell in torrents, and the watchers on the towers adjoining to
that of Phirouz could not hear the tramp of the armed knights for the
wind, nor see them for the obscurity of the night and the dismalness of
the weather. When within shot of the walls, Bohemund sent forward an
interpreter to confer with the Armenian. The latter urged them to make
haste, and seize the favourable interval, as armed men, with lighted
torches, patrolled the battlements every half hour, and at that instant
they had just passed. The chiefs were instantly at the foot of the wall:
Phirouz let down a rope; Bohemund attached it to the end of a ladder of
hides, which was then raised by the Armenian, and held while the knights
mounted. A momentary fear came over the spirits of the adventurers, and
every one hesitated. At last Bohemund,[8] encouraged by Phirouz from
above, ascended a few steps on the ladder, and was followed by Godfrey,
Count Robert of Flanders, and a number of other knights. As they advanced,
others pressed forward, until their weight became too great for the
ladder, which, breaking, precipitated about a dozen of them to the ground,
where they fell one upon the other, making a great clatter with their
heavy coats of mail. For a moment they thought that all was lost; but the
wind made so loud a howling as it swept in fierce gusts through the
mountain gorges--and the Orontes, swollen by the rain, rushed so noisily
along--that the guards heard nothing. The ladder was easily repaired, and
the knights ascended two at a time, and reached the platform in safety.
When sixty of them had thus ascended, the torch of the coming patrol was
seen to gleam at the angle of the wall. Hiding themselves behind a
buttress, they awaited his coming in breathless silence. As soon as he
arrived at arm's length, he was suddenly seized, and, before he could open
his lips to raise an alarm, the silence of death closed them up for ever.
They next descended rapidly the spiral staircase of the tower, and opening
the portal, admitted the whole of their companions. Raymond of Toulouse,
who, cognisant of the whole plan, had been left behind with the main body
of the army, heard at this instant the signal horn, which announced that
an entry had been effected, and, leading on his legions, the town was
attacked from within and without.

    [8] Vide William of Tyre.

Imagination cannot conceive a scene more dreadful than that presented by
the devoted city of Antioch on that night of horror. The Crusaders fought
with a blind fury, which fanaticism and suffering alike incited. Men,
women, and children were indiscriminately slaughtered, till the streets
ran with blood. Darkness increased the destruction, for when morning
dawned the Crusaders found themselves with their swords at the breasts of
their fellow-soldiers, whom they had mistaken for foes. The Turkish
commander fled, first to the citadel, and that becoming insecure, to the
mountains, whither he was pursued and slain, and his grey head brought
back to Antioch as a trophy. At daylight the massacre ceased, and the
Crusaders gave themselves up to plunder. They found gold, and jewels, and
silks, and velvets in abundance, but of provisions, which were of more
importance to them, they found but little of any kind. Corn was
excessively scarce, and they discovered to their sorrow that in this
respect the besieged had been but little better off than the besiegers.

[Illustration: SIEGE OF ANTIOCH.]

Before they had time to instal themselves in their new position, and take
the necessary measures for procuring a supply, the city was invested by
the Turks. The sultan of Persia had raised an immense army, which he
entrusted to the command of Kerbogha, the emir of Mosul, with instructions
to sweep the Christian locusts from the face of the land. The emir
effected a junction with Kilij Aslaun, and the two armies surrounded the
city. Discouragement took complete possession of the Christian host, and
numbers of them contrived to elude the vigilance of the besiegers, and
escape to Count Stephen of Blois at Alexandretta, to whom they related the
most exaggerated tales of the misery they had endured, and the utter
hopelessness of continuing the war. Stephen forthwith broke up his camp
and retreated towards Constantinople. On his way he was met by the Emperor
Alexius, at the head of a considerable force, hastening to take possession
of the conquests made by the Christians in Asia. As soon as he heard of
their woful plight, he turned back, and proceeded with the Count of Blois
to Constantinople, leaving the remnant of the Crusaders to shift for

The news of this defection increased the discouragement at Antioch. All
the useless horses of the army had been slain and eaten, and dogs, cats,
and rats were sold at enormous prices. Even vermin were becoming scarce.
With increasing famine came a pestilence, so that in a short time but
sixty thousand remained of the three hundred thousand that had originally
invested Antioch. But this bitter extremity, while it annihilated the
energy of the host, only served to knit the leaders more firmly together;
and Bohemund, Godfrey, and Tancred swore never to desert the cause as long
as life lasted. The former strove in vain to reanimate the courage of his
followers. They were weary and sick at heart, and his menaces and promises
were alike thrown away. Some of them had shut themselves up in the houses,
and refused to come forth. Bohemund, to drive them to their duty, set fire
to the whole quarter, and many of them perished in the flames, while the
rest of the army looked on with the utmost indifference. Bohemund,
animated himself by a worldly spirit, did not know the true character of
the Crusaders, nor understand the religious madness which had brought them
in such shoals from Europe. A priest, more clear-sighted, devised a scheme
which restored all their confidence, and inspired them with a courage so
wonderful as to make the poor sixty thousand emaciated, sick, and starving
zealots put to flight the well-fed and six times as numerous legions of
the Sultan of Persia.

This priest, a native of Provence, was named Peter Barthelemy, and whether
he were a knave or an enthusiast, or both; a principal, or a tool in the
hands of others, will ever remain a matter of doubt. Certain it is,
however, that he was the means of raising the siege of Antioch, and
causing the eventual triumph of the armies of the cross. When the strength
of the Crusaders was completely broken by their sufferings, and hope had
fled from every bosom, Peter came to Count Raymond of Toulouse, and
demanded an interview on matters of serious moment. He was immediately
admitted. He said that, some weeks previously, at the time the Christians
were besieging Antioch, he was reposing alone in his tent, when he was
startled by the shock of the earthquake, which had so alarmed the whole
host. Through violent terror of the shock he could only ejaculate, God
help me! when turning round he saw two men standing before him, whom he at
once recognised by the halo of glory around them as beings of another
world. One of them appeared to be an aged man, with reddish hair sprinkled
with grey, black eyes, and a long flowing grey beard. The other was
younger, larger, and handsomer, and had something more divine in his
aspect. The elderly man alone spoke, and informed him that he was the holy
apostle St. Andrew, and desired him to seek out the Count Raymond, the
Bishop of Puy, and Raymond of Altopulto, and ask them why the bishop did
not exhort the people, and sign them with the cross which he bore. The
apostle then took him, naked in his shirt as he was, and transported him
through the air into the heart of the city of Antioch, where he led him
into the church of St. Peter, at that time a Saracen mosque. The apostle
made him stop by the pillar close to the steps by which they ascend on the
south side to the altar, where hung two lamps, which gave out a light
brighter than that of the noonday sun; the younger man, whom he did not at
that time know, standing afar off, near the steps of the altar. The
apostle then descended into the ground and brought up a lance, which he
gave into his hand, telling him that it was the very lance that had opened
the side whence had flowed the salvation of the world. With tears of joy
he held the holy lance, and implored the apostle to allow him to take it
away and deliver it into the hands of Count Raymond. The apostle refused,
and buried the lance again in the ground, commanding him, when the city
was won from the infidels, to go with twelve chosen men, and dig it up
again in the same place. The apostle then transported him back to his
tent, and the two vanished from his sight. He had neglected, he said, to
deliver this message, afraid that his wonderful tale would not obtain
credence from men of such high rank. After some days he again saw the holy
vision, as he was gone out of the camp to look for food. This time the
divine eyes of the younger looked reproachfully upon him. He implored the
apostle to choose some one else more fitted for the mission, but the
apostle refused, and smote him with a disorder of the eyes, as a
punishment for his disobedience. With an obstinacy unaccountable even to
himself, he had still delayed. A third time the apostle and his companion
had appeared to him, as he was in a tent with his master William at St.
Simeon. On that occasion St. Andrew told him to bear his command to the
Count of Toulouse not to bathe in the waters of the Jordan when he came to
it, but to cross over in a boat, clad in a shirt and breeches of linen,
which he should sprinkle with the sacred waters of the river. These
clothes he was afterwards to preserve along with the holy lance. His
master William, although he could not see the saint, distinctly heard the
voice giving orders to that effect. Again he neglected to execute the
commission, and again the saints appeared to him, when he was at the port
of Mamistra, about to sail for Cyprus, and St. Andrew threatened him with
eternal perdition if he refused longer. Upon this he made up his mind to
divulge all that had been revealed to him.

The Count of Toulouse, who, in all probability, concocted this tale with
the priest, appeared struck with the recital, and sent immediately for the
Bishop of Puy and Raymond of Altapulto. The bishop at once expressed his
disbelief of the whole story, and refused to have any thing to do in the
matter. The Count of Toulouse, on the contrary, saw abundant motives, if
not for believing, for pretending to believe; and, in the end, he so
impressed upon the mind of the bishop the advantage that might be derived
from it, in working up the popular mind to its former excitement, that the
latter reluctantly agreed to make search in due form for the holy weapon.
The day after the morrow was fixed upon for the ceremony; and, in the mean
time, Peter was consigned to the care of Raymond, the count's chaplain, in
order that no profane curiosity might have an opportunity of
cross-examining him, and putting him to a nonplus.

Twelve devout men were forthwith chosen for the undertaking, among whom
were the Count of Toulouse and his chaplain. They began digging at
sunrise, and continued unwearied till near sunset, without finding the
lance; they might have dug till this day with no better success, had not
Peter himself sprung into the pit, praying to God to bring the lance to
light, for the strengthening and victory of his people. Those who hide
know where to find; and so it was with Peter, for both he and the lance
found their way into the hole at the same time. On a sudden, he and
Raymond the chaplain beheld its point in the earth, and Raymond, drawing
it forth, kissed it with tears of joy, in sight of the multitude which had
assembled in the church. It was immediately enveloped in a rich purple
cloth, already prepared to receive it, and exhibited in this state to the
faithful, who made the building resound with their shouts of gladness.

[Illustration: THE HOLY LANCE.]

Peter had another vision the same night, and became from that day forth
"dreamer of dreams" in general to the army. He stated on the following
day, that the Apostle Andrew and "the youth with the divine aspect"
appeared to him again, and directed that the Count of Toulouse, as a
reward for his persevering piety, should carry the Holy Lance at the head
of the army, and that the day on which it was found should be observed as
a solemn festival throughout Christendom. St. Andrew shewed him at the
same time the holes in the feet and hands of his benign companion; and he
became convinced that he stood in the awful presence of THE REDEEMER.

Peter gained so much credit by his visions that dreaming became
contagious. Other monks beside himself were visited by the saints, who
promised victory to the host if it would valiantly hold out to the last,
and crowns of eternal glory to those who fell in the fight. Two deserters,
wearied of the fatigues and privations of the war, who had stealthily left
the camp, suddenly returned, and seeking Bohemund, told him that they had
been met by two apparitions, who, with great anger, had commanded them to
return. The one of them said, that he recognised his brother, who had been
killed in battle some months before, and that he had a halo of glory
around his head. The other, still more hardy, asserted that the apparition
which had spoken to him was the Saviour himself, who had promised eternal
happiness as his reward if he returned to his duty, but the pains of
eternal fire if he rejected the cross. No one thought of disbelieving
these men. The courage of the army immediately revived; despondency gave
way to hope; every arm grew strong again, and the pangs of hunger were for
a time disregarded. The enthusiasm which had led them from Europe, burned
forth once more as brightly as ever, and they demanded, with loud cries,
to be led against the enemy. The leaders were not unwilling. In a battle
lay their only chance of salvation; and although Godfrey, Bohemund, and
Tancred received the story of the lance with much suspicion, they were too
wise to throw discredit upon an imposture which bade fair to open the
gates of victory.

Peter the Hermit was previously sent to the camp of Kerbogha to propose
that the quarrel between the two religions should be decided by a chosen
number of the bravest soldiers of each army. Kerbogha turned from him with
a look of contempt, and said he could agree to no proposals from a set of
such miserable beggars and robbers. With this uncourteous answer Peter
returned to Antioch. Preparations were immediately commenced for an attack
upon the enemy: the latter continued to be perfectly well informed of all
the proceedings of the Christian camp. The citadel of Antioch, which
remained in their possession, overlooked the town, and the commander of
the fortress could distinctly see all that was passing within. On the
morning of the 28th of June, 1098, a black flag, hoisted from its highest
tower, announced to the besieging army that the Christians were about to
sally forth.

The Moslem leaders knew the sad inroads that famine and disease had made
upon the numbers of the foe; they knew that not above two hundred of the
knights had horses to ride upon, and that the foot soldiers were sick and
emaciated; but they did not know the almost incredible valour which
superstition had infused into their hearts. The story of the lance they
treated with the most supreme contempt, and, secure of an easy victory,
they gave themselves no trouble in preparing for the onslaught. It is
related that Kerbogha was playing a game at chess, when the black flag on
the citadel gave warning of the enemy's approach, and that, with true
oriental coolness, he insisted upon finishing the game ere he bestowed any
of his attention upon a foe so unworthy. The defeat of his advanced post
of two thousand men aroused him from his apathy.

The Crusaders, after this first victory, advanced joyfully towards the
mountains, hoping to draw the Turks to a place where their cavalry would
be unable to manoeuvre. Their spirits were light and their courage high,
as, led on by the Duke of Normandy, Count Robert of Flanders, and Hugh of
Vermandois, they came within sight of the splendid camp of the enemy.
Godfrey of Bouillon and Adhemar Bishop of Puy, followed immediately after
these leaders, the latter clad in complete armour, and bearing the Holy
Lance within sight of the whole army: Bohemund and Tancred brought up the

Kerbogha, aware at last that his enemy was not so despicable, took
vigorous measures to remedy his mistake, and, preparing himself to meet
the Christians in front, he despatched the Sultan Soliman of Roum to
attack them in the rear. To conceal this movement, he set fire to the
dried weeds and grass with which the ground was covered, and Soliman,
taking a wide circuit with his cavalry, succeeded, under cover of the
smoke, in making good his position in the rear. The battle raged furiously
in front; the arrows of the Turks fell thick as hail, and their
well-trained squadrons trod the Crusaders under their hoofs like stubble.
Still the affray was doubtful; for the Christians had the advantage of the
ground, and were rapidly gaining upon the enemy, when the overwhelming
forces of Soliman arrived in the rear. Godfrey and Tancred flew to the
rescue of Bohemund, spreading dismay in the Turkish ranks by their fierce
impetuosity. The Bishop of Puy was left almost alone with the Provençals
to oppose the legions commanded by Kerbogha in person; but the presence of
the Holy Lance made a hero of the meanest soldier in his train. Still,
however, the numbers of the enemy seemed interminable. The Christians,
attacked on every side, began at last to give way, and the Turks made sure
of victory.

At this moment a cry was raised in the Christian host that the saints were
fighting on their side. The battle-field was clear of the smoke from the
burning weeds, which had curled away, and hung in white clouds of
fantastic shape on the brow of the distant mountains. Some imaginative
zealot, seeing this dimly through the dust of the battle, called out to
his fellows, to look at the army of saints, clothed in white, and riding
upon white horses, that were pouring over the hills to the rescue. All
eyes were immediately turned to the distant smoke; faith was in every
heart; and the old battle-cry, _God wills it! God wills it!_ resounded
through the field, as every soldier, believing that God was visibly
sending his armies to his aid, fought with an energy unfelt before. A
panic seized the Persian and Turkish hosts, and they gave way in all
directions. In vain Kerbogha tried to rally them. Fear is more contagious
than enthusiasm, and they fled over the mountains like deer pursued by the
hounds. The two leaders, seeing the uselessness of further efforts, fled
with the rest; and that immense army was scattered over Palestine, leaving
nearly seventy thousand of its dead upon the field of battle.

Their magnificent camp fell into the hands of the enemy, with its rich
stores of corn, and its droves of sheep and oxen. Jewels, gold, and rich
velvets in abundance were distributed among the army. Tancred followed the
fugitives over the hills, and reaped as much plunder as those who had
remained in the camp. The way, as they fled, was covered with valuables,
and horses of the finest breed of Arabia became so plentiful that every
knight of the Christians was provided with a steed. The Crusaders, in this
battle, acknowledge to have lost nearly ten thousand men.

Their return to Antioch was one of joy indeed: the citadel was surrendered
at once, and many of the Turkish garrison embraced the Christian faith,
and the rest were suffered to depart. A solemn thanksgiving was offered up
by the Bishop of Puy, in which the whole army joined, and the Holy Lance
was visited by every soldier.

The enthusiasm lasted for some days, and the army loudly demanded to be
led forward to Jerusalem, the grand goal of all their wishes: but none of
their leaders was anxious to move;--the more prudent among them, such as
Godfrey and Tancred, for reasons of expediency; and the more ambitious,
such as the Count of Toulouse and Bohemund, for reasons of self-interest.
Violent dissensions sprang up again between all the chiefs. Raymond of
Toulouse, who was left at Antioch to guard the town, had summoned the
citadel to surrender, as soon as he saw that there was no fear of any
attack upon the part of the Persians; and the other chiefs found, upon
their return, his banner waving on its walls. This had given great offence
to Bohemund, who had stipulated the principality of Antioch as his reward
for winning the town in the first instance. Godfrey and Tancred supported
his claim, and, after a great deal of bickering, the flag of Raymond was
lowered from the tower, and that of Bohemund hoisted in its stead, who
assumed from that time the title of Prince of Antioch. Raymond, however,
persisted in retaining possession of one of the city gates and its
adjacent towers, which he held for several months, to the great annoyance
of Bohemund and the scandal of the army. The count became in consequence
extremely unpopular, although his ambition was not a whit more
unreasonable than that of Bohemund himself, nor of Baldwin, who had taken
up his quarters at Edessa, where he exercised the functions of a petty

The fate of Peter Barthelemy deserves to be recorded. Honours and
consideration had come thick upon him after the affair of the lance, and
he consequently felt bound in conscience to continue the dreams which had
made him a personage of so much importance. The mischief of it was, that,
like many other liars, he had a very bad memory, and he contrived to make
his dreams contradict each other in the most palpable manner. St. John one
night appeared to him, and told one tale; while, a week after, St. Paul
told a totally different story, and held out hopes quite incompatible with
those of his apostolic brother. The credulity of that age had a wide maw,
and Peter's visions must have been absurd and outrageous indeed, when the
very men who had believed in the lance refused to swallow any more of his
wonders. Bohemund at last, for the purpose of annoying the Count of
Toulouse, challenged poor Peter to prove the truth of his story of the
lance by the fiery ordeal. Peter could not refuse a trial so common in
that age, and being besides encouraged by the count and his chaplain
Raymond, an early day was appointed for the ceremony. The previous night
was spent in prayer and fasting, according to custom, and Peter came forth
in the morning bearing the lance in his hand, and walked boldly up to the
fire. The whole army gathered round, impatient for the result, many
thousands still believing that the lance was genuine, and Peter a holy
man. Prayers having been said by Raymond d'Agilles, Peter walked into the
flames, and had got nearly through, when pain caused him to lose his
presence of mind: the heat too affected his eyes, and, in his anguish, he
turned round unwittingly, and passed through the fire again, instead of
stepping out of it, as he should have done. The result was, that he was
burned so severely that he never recovered, and, after lingering for some
days, he expired in great agony.

Most of the soldiers were suffering either from wounds, disease, or
weariness; and it was resolved by Godfrey,--the tacitly acknowledged chief
of the enterprise,--that the army should have time to refresh itself ere
they advanced upon Jerusalem. It was now July, and he proposed that they
should pass the hot months of August and September within the walls of
Antioch, and march forward in October with renewed vigour, and numbers
increased by fresh arrivals from Europe. This advice was finally adopted,
although the enthusiasts of the army continued to murmur at the delay. In
the mean time the Count of Vermandois was sent upon an embassy to the
Emperor Alexius at Constantinople, to reproach him for his base desertion
of the cause, and urge him to send the reinforcements he had promised. The
count faithfully executed his mission (of which, by the way, Alexius took
no notice whatever), and remained for some time at Constantinople, till
his zeal, never very violent, totally evaporated. He then returned to
France, sick of the Crusade, and determined to intermeddle with it no

The chiefs, though they had determined to stay at Antioch for two months,
could not remain quiet for so long a time. They would, in all probability,
have fallen upon each other, had there been no Turks in Palestine upon
whom they might vent their impetuosity. Godfrey proceeded to Edessa, to
aid his brother Baldwin in expelling the Saracens from his principality,
and the other leaders carried on separate hostilities against them as
caprice or ambition dictated. At length the impatience of the army to be
led against Jerusalem became so great that the chiefs could no longer
delay, and Raymond, Tancred, and Robert of Normandy marched forward with
their divisions, and laid siege to the small but strong town of Marah.
With their usual improvidence, they had not food enough to last a
beleaguering army for a week. They suffered great privations in
consequence, till Bohemund came to their aid and took the town by storm.
In connexion with this siege, the chronicler, Raymond d'Agilles (the same
Raymond the chaplain who figured in the affair of the Holy Lance), relates
a legend, in the truth of which he devoutly believed, and upon which Tasso
has founded one of the most beautiful passages of his poem. It is worth
preserving, as shewing the spirit of the age and the source of the
extraordinary courage manifested by the Crusaders on occasions of extreme
difficulty. "One day," says Raymond, "Anselme de Ribeaumont beheld young
Engelram, the son of the Count de St. Paul, who had been killed at Marah,
enter his tent. 'How is it,' said Anselme to him, 'that you, whom I saw
lying dead on the field of battle, are full or life?'--'You must know,'
replied Engelram, 'that those who fight for Jesus Christ never die.' 'But
whence,' resumed Anselme, 'comes that strange brightness that surrounds
you?' Upon this Engelram pointed to the sky, where Anselme saw a palace of
diamond and crystal. 'It is thence,' said he, 'that I derive the beauty
which surprises you. My dwelling is there; a still finer one is prepared
for you, and you shall soon come to inhabit it. Farewell! we shall meet
again to-morrow.' With these words Engelram returned to heaven. Anselme,
struck by the vision, sent the next morning for the priests, received the
sacrament, and although full of health, took a last farewell of all his
friends, telling them that he was about to leave this world. A few hours
afterwards, the enemy having made a sortie, Anselme went out against them
sword in hand, and was struck on the forehead by a stone from a Turkish
sling, which sent him to heaven, to the beautiful palace that was prepared
for him."


New disputes arose between the Prince of Antioch and the Count of Toulouse
with regard to the capture of this town, which were with the utmost
difficulty appeased by the other chiefs. Delays also took place in the
progress of the army, especially before Archas, and the soldiery were so
exasperated that they were on the point of choosing new leaders to conduct
them to Jerusalem. Godfrey, upon this, set fire to his camp at Archas, and
marched forward. He was immediately joined by hundreds of the Provençals
of the Count of Toulouse. The latter, seeing the turn affairs were taking,
hastened after them, and the whole host proceeded towards the holy city,
so long desired amid sorrow, and suffering, and danger. At Emmaus they
were met by a deputation from the Christians of Bethlehem, praying for
immediate aid against the oppression of the infidels. The very name of
Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Saviour, was music to their ears, and
many of them wept with joy to think they were approaching a spot so
hallowed. Albert of Aix informs us that their hearts were so touched that
sleep was banished from the camp, and that, instead of waiting till the
morning's dawn to recommence their march, they set out shortly after
midnight, full of hope and enthusiasm. For upwards of four hours the
mail-clad legions tramped stedfastly forward in the dark, and when the sun
arose in unclouded splendour, the towers and pinnacles of Jerusalem
gleamed upon their sight. All the tender feelings of their nature were
touched; no longer brutal fanatics, but meek and humble pilgrims, they
knelt down upon the sod, and with tears in their eyes, exclaimed to one
another "_Jerusalem! Jerusalem!_" Some of them kissed the holy ground,
others stretched themselves at full length upon it, in order that their
bodies might come in contact with the greatest possible extent of it, and
others prayed aloud. The women and children who had followed the camp from
Europe, and shared in all its dangers, fatigues, and privations, were more
boisterous in their joy; the former from long-nourished enthusiasm, and
the latter from mere imitation,[9] and prayed, and wept, and laughed till
they almost put the more sober to the blush.

    [9] Guibert de Nogent relates a curious instance of the
        imitativeness of these juvenile Crusaders. He says that,
        during the siege of Antioch, the Christian and Saracen boys
        used to issue forth every evening from the town and camp in
        great numbers, under the command of captains chosen from among
        themselves. Armed with sticks instead of swords, and stones
        instead of arrows, they ranged themselves in battle order,
        and, shouting each the war-cry of their country, fought with
        the utmost desperation. Some of them lost their eyes, and many
        became cripples for life from the injuries they received on
        these occasions.


The first ebullition of their gladness having subsided, the army marched
forward, and invested the city on all sides. The assault was almost
immediately begun; but after the Christians had lost some of their bravest
knights, that mode of attack was abandoned, and the army commenced its
preparations for a regular siege. Mangonels, moveable towers, and
battering-rams, together with a machine called a sow, made of wood, and
covered with raw hides, inside of which miners worked to undermine the
walls, were forthwith constructed; and to restore the courage and
discipline of the army, which had suffered from the unworthy dissensions
of the chiefs, the latter held out the hand of friendship to each other,
and Tancred and the Count of Toulouse embraced in sight of the whole camp.
The clergy aided the cause with their powerful voice, and preached union
and goodwill to the highest and the lowest. A solemn procession was also
ordered round the city, in which the entire army joined, prayers being
offered up at every spot which gospel records had taught them to consider
as peculiarly sacred.

The Saracens upon the ramparts beheld all these manifestations without
alarm. To incense the Christians, whom they despised, they constructed
rude crosses, and fixed them upon the walls, and spat upon and pelted them
with dirt and stones. This insult to the symbol of their faith raised the
wrath of the Crusaders to that height that bravery became ferocity, and
enthusiasm madness. When all the engines of war were completed, the attack
was recommenced, and every soldier of the Christian army fought with a
vigour which the sense of private wrong invariably inspires. Every man had
been personally outraged, and the knights worked at the battering-rams
with as much readiness as the meanest soldiers. The Saracen arrows and
balls of fire fell thick and fast among them, but the tremendous rams
still heaved against the walls, while the best marksmen of the host were
busily employed in the several floors of the moveable towers in dealing
death among the Turks upon the battlements. Godfrey, Raymond, Tancred, and
Robert of Normandy, each upon his tower, fought for hours with unwearied
energy, often repulsed, but ever ready to renew the struggle. The Turks,
no longer despising the enemy, defended themselves with the utmost skill
and bravery till darkness brought a cessation of hostilities. Short was
the sleep that night in the Christian camp. The priests offered up solemn
prayers in the midst of the attentive soldiery for the triumph of the
cross in this last great struggle; and as soon as morning dawned, every
one was in readiness for the affray. The women and children lent their
aid, the latter running unconcerned to and fro while the arrows fell fast
around them, bearing water to the thirsty combatants. The saints were
believed to be aiding their efforts, and the army, impressed with this
idea, surmounted difficulties under which a force thrice as numerous, but
without their faith, would have quailed and been defeated. Raymond of
Toulouse at last forced his way into the city by escalade, while at the
very same moment Tancred and Robert of Normandy succeeded in bursting open
one of the gates. The Turks flew to repair the mischief, and Godfrey of
Bouillon, seeing the battlements comparatively deserted, let down the
drawbridge of his moveable tower, and sprang forward, followed by all the
knights of his train. In an instant after, the banner of the cross floated
upon the walls of Jerusalem. The Crusaders, raising once more their
redoubtable war-cry, rushed on from every side, and the city was taken.
The battle raged in the streets for several hours, and the Christians,
remembering their insulted faith, gave no quarter to young or old, male or
female, sick or strong. Not one of the leaders thought himself at liberty
to issue orders for staying the carnage, and if he had, he would not have
been obeyed. The Saracens fled in great numbers to the mosque of Soliman,
but they had not time to fortify themselves within it ere the Christians
were upon them. Ten thousand persons are said to have perished in that
building alone.

Peter the Hermit, who had remained so long under the veil of neglect, was
repaid that day for all his zeal and all his sufferings. As soon as the
battle was over, the Christians of Jerusalem issued forth from their
hiding-places to welcome their deliverers. They instantly recognised the
Hermit as the pilgrim who, years before, had spoken to them so eloquently
of the wrongs and insults they had endured, and promised to stir up the
princes and people of Europe in their behalf. They clung to the skirts of
his garments in the fervour of their gratitude, and vowed to remember him
for ever in their prayers. Many of them shed tears about his neck, and
attributed the deliverance of Jerusalem solely to his courage and
perseverance. Peter afterwards held some ecclesiastical office in the holy
city, but what it was, or what was his ultimate fate, history has
forgotten to inform us. Some say that he returned to France and founded a
monastery, but the story does not rest upon sufficient authority.

[Illustration: SIEGE OF JERUSALEM.]

The grand object for which the popular swarms of Europe had forsaken their
homes was now accomplished. The Moslem mosques of Jerusalem were converted
into churches for a purer faith, and the mount of Calvary and the
sepulchre of Christ were profaned no longer by the presence or the power
of the infidel. Popular frenzy had fulfilled its mission, and, as a
natural consequence, it began to subside from that time forth. The news of
the capture of Jerusalem brought numbers of pilgrims from Europe, and,
among others, Stephen count of Chartres and Hugh of Vermandois, to atone
for their desertion; but nothing like the former enthusiasm existed among
the nations.

Thus then ends the history of the first Crusade. For the better
understanding of the second, it will be necessary to describe the interval
between them, and to enter into a slight sketch of the history of
Jerusalem under its Latin kings, the long and fruitless wars they
continued to wage with the unvanquished Saracens, and the poor and
miserable results which sprang from so vast an expenditure of zeal, and so
deplorable a waste of human life.

[Illustration: JERUSALEM.]

The necessity of having some recognised chief was soon felt by the
Crusaders, and Godfrey de Bouillon, less ambitious than Bohemund or
Raymond of Toulouse, gave his cold consent to wield a sceptre which the
latter chiefs would have clutched with eagerness. He was hardly invested
with the royal mantle before the Saracens menaced his capital. With much
vigour and judgment he exerted himself to follow up the advantages he had
gained, and marching out to meet the enemy before they had time to besiege
him in Jerusalem, he gave them battle at Ascalon, and defeated them with
great loss. He did not, however, live long to enjoy his new dignity, being
seized with a fatal illness when he had only reigned nine months. To him
succeeded his brother, Baldwin of Edessa. The latter monarch did much to
improve the condition of Jerusalem and to extend its territory, but was
not able to make a firm footing for his successors. For fifty years, in
which the history of Jerusalem is full of interest to the historical
student, the Crusaders were exposed to fierce and constant hostilities,
often gaining battles and territory, and as often losing them, but
becoming every day weaker and more divided, while the Saracens became
stronger and more united to harass and root them out. The battles of this
period were of the most chivalrous character, and deeds of heroism were
done by the handful of brave knights that remained in Syria, which have
hardly their parallel in the annals of war. In the course of time,
however, the Christians could not avoid feeling some respect for the
courage, and admiration for the polished manners and advanced civilisation
of the Saracens, so much superior to the rudeness and semi-barbarism of
Europe at that day. Difference of faith did not prevent them from forming
alliances with the dark-eyed maidens of the East. One of the first to set
the example of taking a Paynim spouse was King Baldwin himself, and these
connexions in time became not only frequent, but almost universal, among
such of the knights as had resolved to spend their lives in Palestine.
These Eastern ladies were obliged, however, to submit to the ceremony of
baptism before they could be received to the arms of a Christian lord.
These, and their offspring, naturally looked upon the Saracens with less
hatred than did the zealots who conquered Jerusalem, and who thought it a
sin deserving the wrath of God to spare an unbeliever. We find, in
consequence, that the most obstinate battles waged during the reigns of
the later kings of Jerusalem were fought by the new and raw levies who
from time to time arrived from Europe, lured by the hope of glory or
spurred by fanaticism. The latter broke without scruple the truces
established between the original settlers and the Saracens, and drew down
severe retaliation upon many thousands of their brethren in the faith,
whose prudence was stronger than their zeal, and whose chief desire was to
live in peace.


Things remained in this unsatisfactory state till the close of the year
1145, when Edessa, the strong frontier town of the Christian kingdom, fell
into the hands of the Saracens. The latter were commanded by Zenghi, a
powerful and enterprising monarch, and, after his death, by his son
Nourheddin, as powerful and enterprising as his father. An unsuccessful
attempt was made by the Count of Edessa to regain the fortress, but
Nourheddin with a large army came to the rescue, and after defeating the
count with great slaughter, marched into Edessa and caused its
fortifications to be razed to the ground, that the town might never more
be a bulwark of defence for the kingdom of Jerusalem. The road to the
capital was now open, and consternation seized the hearts of the
Christians. Nourheddin, it was known, was only waiting for a favourable
opportunity to advance upon Jerusalem, and the armies of the cross,
weakened and divided, were not in a condition to make any available
resistance. The clergy were filled with grief and alarm, and wrote
repeated letters to the Pope and the sovereigns of Europe, urging the
expediency of a new Crusade for the relief of Jerusalem. By far the
greater number of the priests of Palestine were natives of France, and
these naturally looked first to their own country. The solicitations they
sent to Louis VII. were urgent and oft repeated, and the chivalry of
France began to talk once more of arming in defence of the birthplace of
Jesus. The kings of Europe, whose interest it had not been to take any
part in the first Crusade, began to bestir themselves in this; and a man
appeared, eloquent as Peter the Hermit, to arouse the people as that
preacher had done.

We find, however, that the enthusiasm of the second did not equal that of
the first Crusade; in fact, the mania had reached its climax in the time
of Peter the Hermit, and decreased regularly from that period. The third
Crusade was less general than the second, and the fourth than the third,
and so on, until the public enthusiasm was quite extinct, and Jerusalem
returned at last to the dominion of its old masters without a convulsion
in Christendom. Various reasons have been assigned for this; and one very
generally put forward is, that Europe was wearied with continued
struggles, and had become sick of "precipitating itself upon Asia." M.
Guizot, in his admirable lectures upon European civilisation, successfully
combats this opinion, and offers one of his own, which is far more
satisfactory. He says, in his eighth lecture, "It has been often repeated
that Europe was tired of continually invading Asia. This expression
appears to me exceedingly incorrect. It is not possible that human beings
can be wearied with what they have not done--that the labours of their
forefathers can fatigue them. Weariness is a personal, not an inherited
feeling. The men of the thirteenth century were not fatigued by the
Crusades of the twelfth. They were influenced by another cause. A great
change had taken place in ideas, sentiments, and social conditions. The
same desires and the same wants were no longer felt. The same things were
no longer believed. The people refused to believe what their ancestors
were persuaded of."

This is, in fact, the secret of the change; and its truth becomes more
apparent as we advance in the history of the Crusades, and compare the
state of the public mind at the different periods when Godfrey of
Bouillon, Louis VII., and Richard I., were chiefs and leaders of the
movement. The Crusades themselves were the means of operating a great
change in national ideas, and advancing the civilisation of Europe. In the
time of Godfrey, the nobles were all-powerful and all-oppressive, and
equally obnoxious to kings and people. During their absence along with
that portion of the community the deepest sunk in ignorance and
superstition, both kings and people fortified themselves against the
renewal of aristocratic tyranny, and in proportion as they became free
became civilised. It was during this period that in France, the grand
centre of the crusading madness, the _communes_ began to acquire strength,
and the monarch to possess a practical and not a merely theoretic
authority. Order and comfort began to take root, and, when the second
Crusade was preached, men were in consequence much less willing to abandon
their homes than they had been during the first. Such pilgrims as had
returned from the Holy Land came back with minds more liberal and expanded
than when they set out. They had come in contact with a people more
civilised than themselves; they had seen something more of the world, and
had lost some portion, however small, of the prejudice and bigotry of
ignorance. The institution of chivalry had also exercised its humanising
influence, and coming bright and fresh through the ordeal of the Crusades,
had softened the character and improved the hearts of the aristocratic
order. The _Trouvères_ and _Troubadours_, singing of love and war in
strains pleasing to every class of society, helped to root out the gloomy
superstitions which, at the first Crusade, filled the minds of all those
who were able to think. Men became in consequence less exclusively under
the mental thraldom of the priesthood, and lost much of the credulity
which formerly distinguished them.

The Crusades appear never to have excited so much attention in England as
on the continent of Europe; not because the people were less fanatical
than their neighbours, but because they were occupied in matters of graver
interest. The English were suffering too severely from the recent
successful invasion of their soil, to have much sympathy to bestow upon
the distresses of people so far away as the Christians of Palestine; and
we find that they took no part in the first Crusade, and very little in
the second. Even then those who engaged in it were chiefly Norman knights
and their vassals, and not the Saxon franklins and population, who no
doubt thought, in their sorrow, as many wise men have thought since, that
charity should begin at home.

Germany was productive of more zeal in the cause, and her raw uncivilised
hordes continued to issue forth under the banners of the cross in numbers
apparently undiminished, when the enthusiasm had long been on the wane in
other countries. They were sunk at that time in a deeper slough of
barbarism than the livelier nations around them, and took, in consequence,
a longer period to free themselves from their prejudices. In fact the
second Crusade drew its chief supplies of men from that quarter, where
alone the expedition can be said to have retained any portion of

Such was the state of mind of Europe when Pope Eugenius, moved by the
reiterated entreaties of the Christians of Syria, commissioned St. Bernard
to preach a new Crusade. St. Bernard was a man eminently qualified for the
mission. He was endowed with an eloquence of the highest order, could move
an auditory to tears, or laughter, or fury, as it pleased him, and had led
a life of such rigid and self-denying virtue, that not even calumny could
lift her finger and point it at him. He had renounced high prospects in
the Church, and contented himself with the simple abbacy of Clairvaux, in
order that he might have the leisure he desired, to raise his powerful
voice against abuses wherever he found them. Vice met in him an austere
and uncompromising reprover; no man was too high for his reproach, and
none too low for his sympathy. He was just as well suited for his age as
Peter the Hermit had been for the age preceding. He appealed more to the
reason, his predecessor to the passions; Peter the Hermit collected a mob,
while St. Bernard collected an army. Both were endowed with equal zeal and
perseverance, springing in the one from impulse, and in the other from
conviction, and a desire to increase the influence of the Church, that
great body of which he was a pillar and an ornament.


One of the first converts he made was in himself a host. Louis VII. was
both superstitious and tyrannical, and, in a fit of remorse for the
infamous slaughter he had authorised at the sacking of Vitry, he made a
vow to undertake the journey to the Holy Land.[10] He was in this
disposition when St. Bernard began to preach, and wanted but little
persuasion to embark in the cause. His example had great influence upon
the nobility, who, impoverished as many of them were by the sacrifices
made by their fathers in the holy wars, were anxious to repair their
ruined fortunes by conquests on a foreign shore. These took the field with
such vassals as they could command, and in a very short time an army was
raised amounting to two hundred thousand men. At Vezelai the monarch
received the cross from the hands of St. Bernard, on a platform elevated
in sight of all the people. Several nobles, three bishops, and his queen,
Eleanor of Aquitaine, were present at this ceremony, and enrolled
themselves under the banner of the cross, St. Bernard cutting up his red
sacerdotal vestments, and making crosses of them, to be sewn on the
shoulders of the people. An exhortation from the Pope was read to the
multitude, granting remission of their sins to all who should join the
Crusade, and directing that no man on that holy pilgrimage should encumber
himself with heavy baggage and vain superfluities, and that the nobles
should not travel with dogs or falcons, to lead them from the direct road,
as had happened to so many during the first Crusade.

    [10] The sacking of Vitry reflects indelible disgrace upon Louis
         VII. His predecessors had been long engaged in resistance to
         the outrageous powers assumed by the Popes, and Louis
         continued the same policy. The ecclesiastical chapter of
         Bourges, having elected an archbishop without his consent, he
         proclaimed the election to be invalid, and took severe and
         prompt measures against the refractory clergy. Thibault count
         de Champagne took up arms in defence of the Papal authority,
         and entrenched himself in the town of Vitry. Louis
         immediately took the field to chastise the rebel, and he
         besieged the town with so much vigour that the count was
         forced to surrender. Upwards of thirteen hundred of the
         inhabitants, fully one half of whom were women and children,
         took refuge in the church; and, when the gates of the city
         were opened, and all resistance had ceased, Louis inhumanly
         gave orders to set fire to the sacred edifice, and a thousand
         persons perished in the flames.

The command of the army was offered to St. Bernard; but he wisely refused
to accept a station for which his habits had unqualified him. After
consecrating Louis with great solemnity, at St. Denis, as chief of the
expedition, he continued his course through the country, stirring up the
people wherever he went. So high an opinion was entertained of his
sanctity, that he was thought to be animated by the spirit of prophecy,
and to be gifted with the power of working miracles. Many women, excited
by his eloquence, and encouraged by his predictions, forsook their
husbands and children, and, clothing themselves in male attire, hastened
to the war. St. Bernard himself wrote a letter to the Pope detailing his
success, and stating, that in several towns there did not remain a single
male inhabitant capable of bearing arms, and that every where castles and
towns were to be seen filled with women weeping for their absent husbands.
But in spite of this apparent enthusiasm, the numbers who really took up
arms were inconsiderable, and not to be compared to the swarms of the
first Crusade. A levy of no more than two hundred thousand men, which was
the utmost the number amounted to, could hardly have depopulated a country
like France, to the extent mentioned by St. Bernard. His description of
the state of the country appears, therefore, to have been much more
poetical than true.

Suger, the able minister of Louis, endeavoured to dissuade him from
undertaking so long a journey at a time when his own dominions so much
needed his presence. But the king was pricked in his conscience by the
cruelties of Vitry, and was anxious to make the only reparation which the
religion of that day considered sufficient. He was desirous, moreover, of
testifying to the world, that though he could brave the temporal power of
the Church when it encroached upon his prerogatives, he could render all
due obedience to its spiritual decrees whenever it suited his interest or
tallied with his prejudices to do so. Suger, therefore, implored in vain,
and Louis received the pilgrim's staff at St. Denis, and made all
preparations for his pilgrimage.

In the mean time St. Bernard passed into Germany, where similar success
attended his preaching. The renown of his sanctity had gone before him,
and he found every where an admiring audience. Thousands of people, who
could not understand a word he said, flocked around him to catch a glimpse
of so holy a man; and the knights enrolled themselves in renumbers in the
service of the cross, each receiving from his hands the symbol of the
cause. But the people were not led away as in the days of Gottschalk. We
do not find that they rose in such tremendous masses of two and three
hundred thousand men, swarming over the country like a plague of locusts.
Still the enthusiasm was very great. The extraordinary tales that were
told and believed of the miracles worked by the preacher brought the
country people from far and near. Devils were said to vanish at his sight,
and diseases of the most malignant nature to be cured by his touch.[11]
The Emperor Conrad caught at last the contagion from his subjects, and
declared his intention to follow the cross.

    [11] Philip, Archdeacon of the cathedral of Liege, wrote a
         detailed account of all the miracles performed by St. Bernard
         during thirty-four days of his mission. They averaged about
         ten per day. The disciples of St. Bernard complained bitterly
         that the people flocked around their master in such numbers,
         that they could not see half the miracles he performed. But
         they willingly trusted the eyes of others, as far as faith in
         the miracles went, and seemed to vie with each other whose
         credulity should be greatest.

The preparations were carried on so vigorously under the orders of Conrad,
that in less than three months he found himself at the head of an army
containing at least one hundred and fifty thousand effective men, besides
a great number of women who followed their husbands and lovers to the war.
One troop of them rode in the attitude and armour of men: their chief wore
gilt spurs and buskins, and thence acquired the epithet of the
golden-footed lady. Conrad was ready to set out long before the French
monarch, and in the month of June 1147, he arrived before Constantinople,
having passed through Hungary and Bulgaria without offence to the

[Illustration: PILGRIM'S STAFF.]

Manuel Comnenus, the Greek emperor, successor not only to the throne but
to the policy of Alexius, looked with alarm upon the new levies who had
come to eat up his capital and imperil its tranquillity. Too weak to
refuse them a passage through his dominions, too distrustful of them to
make them welcome when they came, and too little assured of the advantages
likely to result to himself from the war, to feign a friendship which he
did not feel, the Greek emperor gave offence at the very outset. His
subjects, in the pride of superior civilisation, called the Germans
barbarians; while the latter, who, if semi-barbarous, were at least honest
and straightforward, retorted upon the Greeks by calling them double-faced
knaves and traitors. Disputes continually arose between them, and Conrad,
who had preserved so much good order among his followers during their
passage, was unable to restrain their indignation when they arrived at
Constantinople. For some offence or other which the Greeks had given them,
but which is rather hinted at than stated by the scanty historians of the
day, the Germans broke into the magnificent pleasure-garden of the
emperor, where he had a valuable collection of tame animals, for which the
grounds had been laid out in woods, caverns, groves, and streams, that
each might follow in captivity his natural habits. The enraged Germans,
meriting the name of barbarians that had been bestowed upon them, laid
waste this pleasant retreat, and killed or let loose the valuable animals
it contained. Manuel, who is said to have beheld the devastation from his
palace windows without power or courage to prevent it, was completely
disgusted with his guests, and resolved, like his predecessor Alexius, to
get rid of them on the first opportunity. He sent a message to Conrad
respectfully desiring an interview, but the German refused to trust
himself within the walls of Constantinople. The Greek emperor, on his
part, thought it compatible neither with his dignity nor his safety to
seek the German, and several days were spent in insincere negotiations.
Manuel at length agreed to furnish the crusading army with guides to
conduct it through Asia Minor; and Conrad passed over the Hellespont with
his forces, the advanced guard being commanded by himself, and the rear by
the warlike Bishop of Freysinghen.

Historians are almost unanimous in their belief that the wily Greek gave
instructions to his guides to lead the army of the German emperor into
dangers and difficulties. It is certain that, instead of guiding them
through such districts of Asia Minor as afforded water and provisions,
they led them into the wilds of Cappadocia, where neither was to be
procured, and where they were suddenly attacked by the sultan of the
Seljukian Turks, at the head of an immense force. The guides, whose
treachery is apparent from this fact alone, fled at the first sight of the
Turkish army, and the Christians were left to wage unequal warfare with
their enemy, entangled and bewildered in desert wilds. Toiling in their
heavy mail, the Germans could make but little effective resistance to the
attacks of the Turkish light horse, who were down upon them one instant,
and out of sight the next. Now in the front and now in the rear, the agile
foe showered his arrows upon them, enticing them into swamps and hollows,
from which they could only extricate themselves after long struggles and
great losses. The Germans, confounded by this mode of warfare, lost all
conception of the direction they were pursuing, and went back instead of
forward. Suffering at the same time for want of provisions, they fell an
easy prey to their pursuers. Count Bernhard, one of the bravest leaders of
the German expedition, was surrounded, with his whole division, not one of
whom escaped the Turkish arrows. The emperor himself had nearly fallen a
victim, and was twice severely wounded. So persevering was the enemy, and
so little able were the Germans to make even a shew of resistance, that
when Conrad at last reached the city of Nice, he found that, instead of
being at the head of an imposing force of one hundred thousand foot and
seventy thousand horse, he had but fifty or sixty thousand men, and these
in the most worn and wearied condition.

Totally ignorant of the treachery of the Greek emperor, although he had
been warned to beware of it, Louis VII. proceeded, at the head of his
army, through Worms and Ratisbon, towards Constantinople. At Ratisbon he
was met by a deputation from Manuel, bearing letters so full of hyperbole
and flattery, that Louis is reported to have blushed when they were read
to him by the Bishop of Langres. The object of the deputation was to
obtain from the French king a promise to pass through the Grecian
territories in a peaceable and friendly manner, and to yield to the Greek
emperor any conquest he might make in Asia Minor. The first part of the
proposition was immediately acceded to, but no notice was taken of the
second and more unreasonable. Louis marched on, and, passing through
Hungary, pitched his tents in the outskirts of Constantinople.

On his arrival, Manuel sent him a friendly invitation to enter the city at
the head of a small train. Louis at once accepted it, and was met by the
emperor at the porch of his palace. The fairest promises were made; every
art that flattery could suggest was resorted to, and every argument
employed, to induce him to yield his future conquests to the Greek. Louis
obstinately refused to pledge himself, and returned to his army convinced
that the emperor was a man not to be trusted. Negotiations were, however,
continued for several days, to the great dissatisfaction of the French
army. The news that arrived of a treaty entered into between Manuel and
the Turkish sultan changed their dissatisfaction into fury, and the
leaders demanded to be led against Constantinople, swearing that they
would raze the treacherous city to the ground. Louis did not feel inclined
to accede to this proposal, and, breaking up his camp, he crossed over
into Asia.

Here he heard, for the first time, of the mishaps of the German emperor,
whom he found in a woful plight under the walls of Nice. The two monarchs
united their forces, and marched together along the sea-coast to Ephesus;
but Conrad, jealous, it would appear, of the superior numbers of the
French, and not liking to sink into a vassal, for the time being, of his
rival, withdrew abruptly with the remnant of his legions, and returned to
Constantinople. Manuel was all smiles and courtesy. He condoled with the
German so feelingly upon his losses, and cursed the stupidity or treachery
of the guides with such apparent heartiness, that Conrad was half inclined
to believe in his sincerity.

Louis, marching onward in the direction of Jerusalem, came up with the
enemy on the banks of the Meander. The Turks contested the passage of the
river, but the French bribed a peasant to point out a ford lower down:
crossing the river without difficulty, they attacked the Turks with much
vigour, and put them to flight. Whether the Turks were really defeated, or
merely pretended to be so, is doubtful; but the latter supposition seems
to be the true one. It is probable that it was part of a concerted plan to
draw the invaders onwards to more unfavourable ground, where their
destruction might be more certain. If such were the scheme, it succeeded
to the heart's wish of its projectors. The Crusaders, on the third day
after their victory, arrived at a steep mountain-pass, on the summit of
which the Turkish host lay concealed so artfully, that not the slightest
vestige of their presence could be perceived. "With labouring steps and
slow," they toiled up the steep ascent, when suddenly a tremendous
fragment of rock came bounding down the precipices with an awful crash,
bearing dismay and death before it. At the same instant the Turkish
archers started from their hiding-places, and discharged a shower of
arrows upon the foot-soldiers, who fell by hundreds at a time. The arrows
rebounded harmlessly against the iron mail of the knights, which the Turks
observing, took aim at their steeds, and horse and rider fell down the
steep into the rapid torrent which rushed below. Louis, who commanded the
rear-guard, received the first intimation of the onslaught from the sight
of the wounded and flying soldiers, and, not knowing the numbers of the
enemy, he pushed vigorously forward to stay, by his presence, the panic
which had taken possession of his army. All his efforts were in vain.
Immense stones continued to be hurled upon them as they advanced, bearing
men and horse before them; and those who succeeded in forcing their way to
the top were met hand-to-hand by the Turks, and cast down headlong upon
their companions. Louis himself fought with the energy of desperation, but
had great difficulty to avoid falling into the enemy's hands. He escaped
at last under cover of the night, with the remnant of his forces, and took
up his position before Attalia. Here he restored the discipline and the
courage of his disorganised and disheartened followers, and debated with
his captains the plan that was to be pursued. After suffering severely
both from disease and famine, it was resolved that they should march to
Antioch, which still remained an independent principality under the
successors of Bohemund of Tarentum. At this time the sovereignty was
vested in the person of Raymond, the uncle of Eleanor of Aquitaine. This
prince, presuming upon his relationship to the French queen, endeavoured
to withdraw Louis from the grand object of the Crusade--the defence of the
kingdom of Jerusalem, and secure his co-operation in extending the limits
and the power of his principality of Antioch. The Prince of Tripoli formed
a similar design; but Louis rejected the offers of both, and marched,
after a short delay, to Jerusalem. The Emperor Conrad was there before
him, having left Constantinople with promises of assistance from Manuel
Comnenus--assistance which never arrived, and was never intended.

[Illustration: DAMASCUS.]

A great council of the Christian princes of Palestine, and the leaders of
the Crusade, was then summoned, to discuss the future operations of the
war. It was ultimately determined that it would further the cause of the
cross in a greater degree if the united armies, instead of proceeding to
Edessa, laid siege to the city of Damascus, and drove the Saracens from
that strong position. This was a bold scheme, and, had it been boldly
followed out, would have insured, in all probability, the success of the
war. But the Christian leaders never learned from experience the necessity
of union, that very soul of great enterprises. Though they all agreed upon
the policy of the plan, yet every one had his own notions as to the means
of executing it. The princes of Antioch and Tripoli were jealous of each
other, and of the king of Jerusalem. The Emperor Conrad was jealous of the
king of France, and the king of France was disgusted with them all. But he
had come out to Palestine in accordance with a solemn vow; his religion,
though it may be called bigotry, was sincere; and he determined to remain
to the very last moment that a chance was left of effecting any good for
the cause he had set his heart on.

The siege of Damascus was accordingly commenced, and with so much ability
and vigour that the Christians gained a considerable advantage at the very
outset. For weeks the siege was pressed, till the shattered fortifications
and diminishing resistance of the besieged gave evidence that the city
could not hold out much longer. At that moment the insane jealousy of the
leaders led to dissensions that soon caused the utter failure, not only of
the siege but of the Crusade. A modern cookery-book, in giving a recipe
for cooking a hare, says, "first catch your hare, and then kill it"--a
maxim of indisputable wisdom. The Christian chiefs, on this occasion, had
not so much sagacity, for they began a violent dispute among themselves
for the possession of a city which was still unconquered. There being
already a prince of Antioch and a prince of Tripoli, twenty claimants
started for the principality of Damascus; and a grand council of the
leaders was held to determine the individual on whom the honour should
devolve. Many valuable days were wasted in this discussion, the enemy in
the meanwhile gaining strength from their inactivity. It was at length,
after a stormy deliberation, agreed that Count Robert of Flanders, who had
twice visited the Holy Land, should be invested with the dignity. The
other claimants refused to recognise him or to co-operate in the siege
until a more equitable arrangement had been made. Suspicion filled the
camp; the most sinister rumours of intrigues and treachery were set
afloat; and the discontented candidates withdrew at last to the other side
of the city, and commenced operations on their own account without a
probability of success. They were soon joined by the rest of the army. The
consequence was that the weakest side of the city, and that on which they
had already made considerable progress in the work of demolition, was left
uncovered. The enemy was prompt to profit by the mistake, and received an
abundant supply of provisions, and refortified the walls, before the
Crusaders came to their senses again. When this desirable event happened,
it was too late. Saph Eddin, the powerful emir of Mousoul, was in the
neighbourhood, at the head of a large army, advancing by forced marches to
the relief of the city. The siege was abruptly abandoned, and the foolish
Crusaders returned to Jerusalem, having done nothing to weaken the enemy,
but every thing to weaken themselves.

The freshness of enthusiasm had now completely subsided; even the meanest
soldiers were sick at heart. Conrad, from whose fierce zeal at the outset
so much might have been expected, was wearied with reverses, and returned
to Europe with the poor remnant of his host. Louis lingered a short time
longer, for very shame, but the pressing solicitations of his minister
Suger induced him to return to France. Thus ended the second Crusade. Its
history is but a chronicle of defeats. It left the kingdom of Jerusalem in
a worse state than when it quitted Europe, and gained nothing but disgrace
for its leaders, and discouragement for all concerned.

St. Bernard, who had prophesied a result so different, fell after this
into some disrepute, and experienced, like many other prophets, the fate
of being without honour in his own country. What made the matter worse, he
could not obtain it in any other. Still, however, there were not wanting
zealous advocates to stand forward in his behalf, and stem the tide of
incredulity, which, unopposed, would have carried away his reputation. The
Bishop of Freysinghen declared that prophets were not always able to
prophesy, and that the vices of the Crusaders drew down the wrath of
heaven upon them. But the most ingenious excuse ever made for St. Bernard
is to be found in his life by Geoffroi de Clairvaux, where he
pertinaciously insists that the Crusade was not unfortunate. St. Bernard,
he says, had prophesied a happy result, and that result could not be
considered other than happy which had peopled heaven with so glorious an
army of martyrs. Geoffroi was a cunning pleader, and, no doubt, convinced
a few of the zealous; but plain people, who were not wanting even in those
days, retained their own opinion, or, what amounts to the same thing,
"were convinced against their will."

We now come to the consideration of the third Crusade, and of the causes
which rendered it necessary. The epidemic frenzy, which had been cooling
ever since the issue of the first expedition, was now extinct, or very
nearly so, and the nations of Europe looked with cold indifference upon
the armaments of their princes. But chivalry had flourished in its natural
element of war, and was now in all its glory. It continued to supply
armies for the Holy Land when the popular ranks refused to deliver up
their able-bodied swarms. Poetry, which, more than religion, inspired the
third Crusade, was then but "_caviare_ to the million," who had other
matters, of sterner import, to claim all their attention. But the knights
and their retainers listened with delight to the martial and amatory
strains of the minstrels, minnesängers, trouvères, and troubadours, and
burned to win favour in ladies' eyes by shewing prowess in the Holy Land.
The third was truly the romantic era of the Crusades. Men fought then, not
so much for the sepulchre of Jesus, and the maintenance of a Christian
kingdom in the East, as to gain glory for themselves in the best and
almost only field where glory could be obtained. They fought, not as
zealots, but as soldiers; not for religion, but for honour; not for the
crown of martyrdom, but for the favour of the lovely.

[Illustration: SEAL OF BARBAROSSA.]

It is not necessary to enter into a detail of the events by which Saladin
attained the sovereignty of the East, or how, after a succession of
engagements, he planted the Moslem banner once more upon the battlements
of Jerusalem. The Christian knights and population, including the grand
orders of St. John, the Hospitallers, and the Templars, were sunk in an
abyss of vice, and, torn by unworthy jealousies and dissensions, were
unable to resist the well-trained armies which the wise and mighty Saladin
brought forward to crush them. But the news of their fall created a
painful sensation among the chivalry of Europe, whose noblest members were
linked to the dwellers in Palestine by many ties, both of blood and
friendship. The news of the great battle of Tiberias, in which Saladin
defeated the Christian host with terrible slaughter, arrived first in
Europe, and was followed in quick succession by that of the capture of
Jerusalem, Antioch, Tripoli, and other cities. Dismay seized upon the
clergy. The Pope (Urban III.) was so affected by the news that he pined
away for grief, and was scarcely seen to smile again, until he sank into
the sleep of death.[12] His successor, Gregory VIII., felt the loss as
acutely, but had better strength to bear it, and instructed all the clergy
of the Christian world to stir up the people to arms for the recovery of
the Holy Sepulchre. William Archbishop of Tyre, a humble follower in the
path of Peter the Hermit, left Palestine to preach to the kings of Europe
the miseries he had witnessed, and to incite them to the rescue. The
renowned Frederick Barbarossa, the emperor of Germany, speedily collected
an army, and passing over into Syria with less delay than had ever before
awaited a crusading force, defeated the Saracens, and took possession of
the city of Iconium. He was unfortunately cut off in the middle of his
successful career, by imprudently bathing in the Cydnus[13] while he was
overheated, and the Duke of Suabia took the command of the expedition. The
latter did not prove so able a general, and met with nothing but reverses,
although he was enabled to maintain a footing at Antioch until assistance
arrived from Europe.

    [12] James of Vitry; William de Nangis.

    [13] The desire of comparing two great men has tempted many
         writers to drown Frederick in the river Cydnus, in which
         Alexander so imprudently bathed (Q. Curt. lib. iii. c. 4, 5);
         but, from the march of the emperor, I rather judge that his
         Saleph is the Calycadnus, a stream of less fame, but of a
         longer course.--_Gibbon_.

[Illustration: HENRY II. OF ENGLAND.]

[Illustration: CHATEAU OF GISORS.]

Henry II. of England and Philip Augustus of France, at the head of their
chivalry, supported the Crusade with all their influence, until wars and
dissensions nearer home estranged them from it for a time. The two kings
met at Gisors in Normandy in the month of January, 1188, accompanied by a
brilliant train of knights and warriors. William of Tyre was present, and
expounded the cause of the cross with considerable eloquence, and the
whole assembly bound themselves by oath to proceed to Jerusalem. It was
agreed at the same time that a tax, called Saladin's tithe, and consisting
of the tenth part of all possessions, whether landed or personal, should
be enforced over Christendom, upon every one who was either unable or
unwilling to assume the cross. The lord of every feof, whether lay or
ecclesiastical, was charged to raise the tithe within his own
jurisdiction; and any one who refused to pay his quota, became by that act
the bondsman and absolute property of his lord. At the same time the
greatest indulgence was shewn to those who assumed the cross; no man was
at liberty to stay them by process of any kind, whether for debt, or
robbery, or murder. The king of Prance, at the breaking up of the
conference, summoned a parliament at Paris, where these resolutions were
solemnly confirmed, while Henry II. did the same for his Norman
possessions at Rouen, and for England at Geddington, in Northamptonshire.
To use the words of an ancient chronicler,[14] "he held a parliament about
the voyage into the Holy Land, and troubled the whole land with the paying
of tithes towards it."

    [14] Stowe.

[Illustration: PHILIP AUGUSTUS.]

But it was not England alone that was "_troubled_" by the tax. The people
of France also looked upon it with no pleasant feelings, and appear from
that time forth to have changed their indifference for the Crusade into
aversion. Even the clergy, who were exceedingly willing that other people
should contribute half, or even all their goods in furtherance of their
favourite scheme, were not at all anxious to contribute a single sous
themselves. Millot[15] relates that several of them cried out against the
impost. Among the rest, the clergy of Rheims were called upon to pay their
quota, but sent a deputation to the king, begging him to be contented with
the aid of their prayers, as they were too poor to contribute in any other
shape. Philip Augustus knew better, and by way of giving them a lesson,
employed three nobles of the vicinity to lay waste the Church lands. The
clergy, informed of the outrage, applied to the king for redress. "I will
aid you with my prayers," said the monarch condescendingly, "and will
entreat those gentlemen to let the Church alone." He did as he had
promised, but in such a manner that the nobles, who appreciated the joke,
continued their devastations as before. Again the clergy applied to the
king. "What would you have of me?" he replied, in answer to their
remonstrances: "you gave me your prayers in my necessity, and I have given
you mine in yours." The clergy understood the argument, and thought it the
wiser course to pay their quota of Saladin's tithe without further parley.

    [15] _Elémens de l'Histoire de France_.

This anecdote shews the unpopularity of the Crusade. If the clergy
disliked to contribute, it is no wonder that the people felt still greater
antipathy. But the chivalry of Europe was eager for the affray: the tithe
was rigorously collected, and armies from England, France, Burgundy,
Italy, Flanders, and Germany, were soon in the field. The two kings who
were to have led it were, however, drawn into broils by an aggression of
Richard duke of Guienne, better known as Richard Coeur de Lion, upon the
territory of the Count of Toulouse, and the proposed journey to Palestine
was delayed. War continued to rage between France and England, and with so
little probability of a speedy termination, that many of the nobles, bound
to the Crusade, left the two monarchs to settle the differences at their
leisure, and proceeded to Palestine without them.

Death at last stepped in and removed Henry II. from the hostility of his
foes, and the treachery and ingratitude of his children. His son Richard
immediately concluded an alliance with Philip Augustus; and the two young,
valiant, and impetuous monarchs united all their energies to forward the
Crusade. They met with a numerous and brilliant retinue at Nonancourt in
Normandy, where, in sight of their assembled chivalry, they embraced as
brothers, and swore to live as friends and true allies, until a period of
forty days after their return from the Holy Land. With a view of purging
their camp from the follies and vices which had proved so ruinous to
preceding expeditions, they drew up a code of laws for the government of
the army. Gambling had been carried to a great extent, and proved the
fruitful source of quarrels and bloodshed; and one of their laws
prohibited any person in the army, beneath the degree of a knight, from
playing at any game for money.[16] Knights and clergymen might play for
money, but no one was permitted to lose or gain more than twenty shillings
in a day, under a penalty of one hundred shillings. The personal
attendants of the monarchs were also allowed to play to the same extent.
The penalty in their case for infraction was that they should be whipped
naked through the army for the space of three days. Any Crusader, who
struck another and drew blood, was ordered to have his hand cut off; and
whoever slew a brother Crusader was condemned to be tied alive to the
corpse of his victim, and buried with him. No young women were allowed to
follow the army, to the great sorrow of many vicious and of many virtuous
dames, who had not courage to elude the decree by dressing in male attire.
But many high-minded and affectionate maidens and matrons, bearing the
sword or the spear, followed their husbands and lovers to the war in spite
of King Richard, and in defiance of danger. The only women allowed to
accompany the army in their own habiliments were washerwomen of fifty
years complete, and any others of the fair sex who had reached the same

    [16] Strutt's _Sports and Pastimes_.

These rules having been promulgated, the two monarchs marched together to
Lyons, where they separated, agreeing to meet again at Messina. Philip
proceeded across the Alps to Genoa, where he took ship, and was conveyed
in safety to the place of rendezvous. Richard turned in the direction of
Marseilles, where he also took ship for Messina. His impetuous disposition
hurried him into many squabbles by the way, and his knights and followers,
for the most part as brave and as foolish as himself, imitated him very
zealously in this particular. At Messina the Sicilians charged the most
exorbitant prices for every necessary of life. Richard's army in vain
remonstrated. From words they came to blows, and, as a last resource,
plundered the Sicilians, since they could not trade with them. Continual
battles were the consequence, in one of which Lebrun, the favourite
attendant of Richard, lost his life. The peasantry from far and near came
flocking to the aid of the townspeople, and the battle soon became
general. Richard, irritated at the loss of his favourite, and incited by
report that Tancred, the king of Sicily, was fighting at the head of his
own people, joined the _mêlée_ with his boldest knights, and, beating back
the Sicilians, attacked the city sword in hand, stormed the battlements,
tore down the flag of Sicily, and planted his own in its stead. This
collision gave great offence to the king of France, who became from that
time jealous of Richard, and apprehensive that his design was not so much
to re-establish the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, as to make conquests
for himself. He, however, exerted his influence to restore peace between
the English and Sicilians, and shortly afterwards set sail for Acre, with
distrust of his ally germinating in his heart.

[Illustration: THE ISLAND OF RHODES.]

Richard remained behind for some weeks in a state of inactivity quite
unaccountable in one of his temperament. He appears to have had no more
squabbles with the Sicilians, but to have lived an easy, luxurious life,
forgetting, in the lap of pleasure, the objects for which he had quitted
his own dominions and the dangerous laxity he was introducing into his
army. The superstition of his soldiers recalled him at length to a sense
of his duty: a comet was seen for several successive nights, which was
thought to menace them with the vengeance of Heaven for their delay.
Shooting stars gave them similar warning; and a fanatic, of the name of
Joachim, with his drawn sword in his hand, and his long hair streaming
wildly over his shoulders, went through the camp, howling all night long,
and predicting plague, famine, and every other calamity, if they did not
set out immediately. Richard did not deem it prudent to neglect the
intimations; and, after doing humble penance for his remissness, he set
sail for Acre.

A violent storm dispersed his fleet, but he arrived safely at Rhodes with
the principal part of the armament. Here he learned that three of his
ships had been stranded on the rocky coasts of Cyprus, and that the ruler
of the island, Isaac Comnenus, had permitted his people to pillage the
unfortunate crews, and had refused shelter to his betrothed bride, the
Princess Berengaria, and his sister, who, in one of the vessels, had been
driven by stress of weather into the port of Limisso. The fiery monarch
swore to be revenged, and, collecting all his vessels, sailed back to
Limisso. Isaac Comnenus refused to apologise or explain, and Richard, in
no mood to be trifled with, landed on the island, routed with great loss
the forces sent to oppose him, and laid the whole country under


On his arrival at Acre he found the whole of the chivalry of Europe there
before him. Guy of Lusignan, the king of Jerusalem, had long before
collected the bold Knights of the Temple, the Hospital, and St. John, and
had laid siege to Acre, which was resolutely defended by the Sultan
Saladin, with an army magnificent both for its numbers and its discipline.
For nearly two years the Crusaders had pushed the siege, and made efforts
almost superhuman to dislodge the enemy. Various battles had taken place
in the open fields with no decisive advantage to either party, and Guy of
Lusignan had begun to despair of taking that strong position without aid
from Europe. His joy was extreme on the arrival of Philip with all his
chivalry, and he only awaited the coming of Coeur de Lion to make one last
decisive attack upon the town. When the fleet of England was first seen
approaching the shores of Syria, a universal shout arose from the
Christian camp; and when Richard landed with his train, one louder still
pierced to the very mountains of the south, where Saladin lay with all his

It may be remarked as characteristic of this Crusade, that the Christians
and the Moslems no longer looked upon each other as barbarians, to whom
mercy was a crime. Each host entertained the highest admiration for the
bravery and magnanimity of the other, and, in their occasional truces, met
upon the most friendly terms. The Moslem warriors were full of courtesy to
the Christian knights, and had no other regret than to think that such
fine fellows were not Mahomedans. The Christians, with a feeling precisely
similar, extolled to the skies the nobleness of the Saracens, and sighed
to think that such generosity and valour should be sullied by disbelief in
the Gospel of Jesus. But when the strife began, all these feelings
disappeared, and the struggle became mortal.

The jealousy excited in the mind of Philip by the events of Messina still
rankled, and the two monarchs refused to act in concert. Instead of making
a joint attack upon the town, the French monarch assailed it alone, and
was repulsed. Richard did the same, and with the same result. Philip tried
to seduce the soldiers of Richard from their allegiance by the offer of
three gold pieces per month to every knight who would forsake the banners
of England for those of France. Richard endeavoured to neutralise the
offer by a larger one, and promised four pieces to every French knight who
should join the Lion of England. In this unworthy rivalry their time was
wasted, to the great detriment of the discipline and efficiency of their
followers. Some good was nevertheless effected; for the mere presence of
two such armies prevented the besieged city from receiving supplies, and
the inhabitants were reduced by famine to the most woful straits. Saladin
did not deem it prudent to risk a general engagement by coming to their
relief, but preferred to wait till dissension had weakened his enemy, and
made him an easy prey. Perhaps if he had been aware of the real extent of
the extremity in Acre, he would have changed his plan; but, cut off from
the town, he did not know its misery till it was too late. After a short
truce the city capitulated upon terms so severe that Saladin afterwards
refused to ratify them. The chief conditions were, that the precious wood
of the true cross, captured by the Moslems in Jerusalem, should be
restored; that a sum of two hundred thousand gold pieces should be paid;
and that all the Christian prisoners in Acre should be released, together
with two hundred knights and a thousand soldiers detained in captivity by
Saladin. The eastern monarch, as may be well conceived, did not set much
store on the wood of the cross, but was nevertheless anxious to keep it,
as he knew its possession by the Christians would do more than a victory
to restore their courage. He refused, therefore, to deliver it up, or to
accede to any of the conditions; and Richard, as he had previously
threatened, barbarously ordered all the Saracen prisoners in his power to
be put to death.

The possession of the city only caused new and unhappy dissensions between
the Christian leaders. The Archduke of Austria unjustifiably hoisted his
flag on one of the towers of Acre, which Richard no sooner saw than he
tore it down with his own hands, and trampled it under his feet. Philip,
though he did not sympathise with the archduke, was piqued at the
assumption of Richard, and the breach between the two monarchs became
wider than ever. A foolish dispute arose at the same time between Guy of
Lusignan and Conrad of Montferrat for the crown of Jerusalem. The inferior
knights were not slow to imitate the pernicious example, and jealousy,
distrust, and ill-will reigned in the Christian camp. In the midst of this
confusion the king of France suddenly announced his intention to return to
his own country. Richard was filled with indignation, and exclaimed,
"Eternal shame light on him, and on all France, if, for any cause, he
leave this work unfinished!" But Philip was not to be stayed. His health
had suffered by his residence in the East; and, ambitious of playing a
first part, he preferred to play none at all than to play second to King
Richard. Leaving a small detachment of Burgundians behind, he returned to
France with the remainder of his army; and Coeur de Lion, without feeling,
in the multitude of his rivals, that he had lost the greatest, became
painfully convinced that the right arm of the enterprise was lopped off.

After his departure, Richard re-fortified Acre, restored the Christian
worship in the churches, and, leaving a Christian garrison to protect it,
marched along the sea-coast towards Ascalon. Saladin was on the alert, and
sent his light horse to attack the rear of the Christian army, while he
himself, miscalculating their weakness since the defection of Philip,
endeavoured to force them to a general engagement. The rival armies met
near Azotus. A fierce battle ensued, in which Saladin was defeated and put
to flight, and the road to Jerusalem left free for the Crusaders.

Again discord exerted its baleful influence, and prevented Richard from
following up his victory. His opinion was constantly opposed by the other
leaders, all jealous of his bravery and influence; and the army, instead
of marching to Jerusalem, or even to Ascalon, as was first intended,
proceeded to Jaffa, and remained in idleness until Saladin was again in a
condition to wage war against them.

[Illustration: BETHLEHEM.]

Many months were spent in fruitless hostilities and as fruitless
negotiations. Richard's wish was to recapture Jerusalem; but there were
difficulties in the way, which even his bold spirit could not conquer. His
own intolerable pride was not the least cause of the evil; for it
estranged many a generous spirit, who would have been willing to
co-operate with him in all cordiality. At length it was agreed to march to
the Holy City; but the progress made was so slow and painful, that the
soldiers murmured, and the leaders meditated retreat. The weather was hot
and dry, and there was little water to be procured. Saladin had choked up
the wells and cisterns on the route, and the army had not zeal enough to
push forward amid such privation. At Bethlehem a council was held, to
debate whether they should retreat or advance. Retreat was decided upon,
and immediately commenced. It is said, that Richard was first led to a
hill, whence he could obtain a sight of the towers of Jerusalem, and that
he was so affected at being so near it, and so unable to relieve it, that
he hid his face behind his shield, and sobbed aloud.

The army separated into two divisions, the smaller falling back upon
Jaffa, and the larger, commanded by Richard and the Duke of Burgundy,
returning to Acre. Before the English monarch had made all his
preparations for his return to Europe, a messenger reached Acre with the
intelligence that Jaffa was besieged by Saladin, and that, unless relieved
immediately, the city would be taken. The French, under the Duke of
Burgundy, were so wearied with the war, that they refused to aid their
brethren in Jaffa. Richard, blushing with shame at their pusillanimity,
called his English to the rescue, and arrived just in time to save the
city. His very name put the Saracens to flight, so great was their dread
of his prowess. Saladin regarded him with the warmest admiration, and when
Richard, after his victory, demanded peace, willingly acceded. A truce was
concluded for three years and eight months, during which Christian
pilgrims were to enjoy the liberty of visiting Jerusalem without hindrance
or payment of any tax. The Crusaders were allowed to retain the cities of
Tyre and Jaffa, with the country intervening. Saladin, with a princely
generosity, invited many of the Christians to visit Jerusalem; and several
of the leaders took advantage of his offer to feast their eyes upon a spot
which all considered so sacred. Many of them were entertained for days in
the sultan's own palace, from which they returned with their tongues laden
with the praises of the noble infidel. Richard and Saladin never met,
though the impression that they did will remain on many minds, who have
been dazzled by the glorious fiction of Sir Walter Scott. But each admired
the prowess and nobleness of soul of his rival, and agreed to terms far
less onerous than either would have accepted, had this mutual admiration
not existed.[17]

    [17] Richard left a high reputation in Palestine. So much terror
         did his name occasion, that the women of Syria used it to
         frighten their children for ages afterwards. Every
         disobedient child became still when told that King Richard
         was coming. Even men shared the panic that his name created;
         and a hundred years afterwards, whenever a horse shied at any
         object in the way, his rider would exclaim, "What! dost thou
         think King Richard is in the bush?"

The king of England no longer delayed his departure, for messengers from
his own country brought imperative news that his presence was required to
defeat the intrigues that were fomenting against his crown. His long
imprisonment in the Austrian dominions and final ransom are too well known
to be dwelt upon. And thus ended the third Crusade, less destructive of
human life than the two first, but quite as useless.

The flame of popular enthusiasm now burned pale indeed, and all the
efforts of popes and potentates were insufficient to rekindle it. At last,
after flickering unsteadily, like a lamp expiring in the socket, it burned
up brightly for one final instant, and was extinguished for ever.

The fourth Crusade, as connected with popular feeling, requires little or
no notice. At the death of Saladin, which happened a year after the
conclusion of his truce with Richard of England, his vast empire fell to
pieces. His brother Saif Eddin, or Saphaddin, seized upon Syria, in the
possession of which he was troubled by the sons of Saladin. When this
intelligence reached Europe, the Pope, Celestine III., judged the moment
favourable for preaching a new Crusade. But every nation in Europe was
unwilling and cold towards it. The people had no ardour, and kings were
occupied with more weighty matters at home. The only monarch of Europe who
encouraged it was the Emperor Henry of Germany, under whose auspices the
Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria took the field at the head of a considerable
force. They landed in Palestine, and found any thing but a welcome from
the Christian inhabitants. Under the mild sway of Saladin, they had
enjoyed repose and toleration, and both were endangered by the arrival of
the Germans. They looked upon them in consequence as over-officious
intruders, and gave them no encouragement in the warfare against
Saphaddin. The result of this Crusade was even more disastrous than the
last; for the Germans contrived not only to embitter the Saracens against
the Christians of Judea, but to lose the strong city of Jaffa, and cause
the destruction of nine-tenths of the army with which they had quitted
Europe. And so ended the fourth Crusade.

The fifth was more important, and had a result which its projectors never
dreamed of--no less than the sacking of Constantinople, and the placing of
a French dynasty upon the imperial throne of the eastern Cæsars. Each
succeeding pope, however much he may have differed from his predecessors
on other points, zealously agreed in one, that of maintaining by every
possible means the papal ascendency. No scheme was so likely to aid in
this endeavour as the Crusades. As long as they could persuade the kings
and nobles of Europe to fight and die in Syria, their own sway was secured
over the minds of men at home. Such being their object, they never
inquired whether a Crusade was or was not likely to be successful, whether
the time were well or ill chosen, or whether men and money could be
procured in sufficient abundance. Pope Innocent III. would have been proud
if he could have bent the refractory monarchs of England and France into
so much submission. But John and Philip Augustus were both engaged. Both
had deeply offended the Church, and had been laid under her ban, and both
were occupied in important reforms at home; Philip in bestowing immunities
upon his subjects, and John in having them forced from him. The emissaries
of the pope therefore plied them in vain; but as in the first and second
Crusades, the eloquence of a powerful preacher incited the nobility, and
through them a certain portion of the people; Foulque bishop of Neuilly,
an ambitious and enterprising prelate, entered fully into the views of the
court of Rome, and preached the Crusade wherever he could find an
audience. Chance favoured him to a degree he did not himself expect, for
he had in general found but few proselytes, and those few but cold in the
cause. Theobald count of Champagne had instituted a grand tournament, to
which he had invited all the nobles from far and near. Upwards of two
thousand knights were present with their retainers, besides a vast
concourse of people to witness the sports. In the midst of the festivities
Foulque arrived upon the spot, and conceiving the opportunity to be a
favourable one, he addressed the multitude in eloquent language, and
passionately called upon them to enrol themselves for the new Crusade. The
Count de Champagne, young, ardent, and easily excited, received the cross
at his hands. The enthusiasm spread rapidly. Charles count of Blois
followed the example, and of the two thousand knights present, scarcely
one hundred and fifty refused. The popular phrensy seemed on the point of
breaking out as in the days of yore. The Count of Flanders, the Count of
Bar, the Duke of Burgundy, and the Marquis of Montferrat, brought all
their vassals to swell the train, and in a very short space of time an
effective army was on foot and ready to march to Palestine.

The dangers of an overland journey were too well understood, and the
Crusaders endeavoured to make a contract with some of the Italian states
to convey them over in their vessels. Dandolo, the aged doge of Venice,
offered them the galleys of the Republic; but the Crusaders, on their
arrival in that city, found themselves too poor to pay even half the sum
demanded. Every means was tried to raise money; the Crusaders melted down
their plate, and ladies gave up their trinkets. Contributions were
solicited from the faithful, but came in so slowly as to make it evident
to all concerned, that the faithful of Europe were outnumbered by the
prudent. As a last resource, Dandolo offered to convey them to Palestine
at the expense of the Republic, if they would previously aid in the
recapture of the city of Zara, which had been seized from the Venetians a
short time previously by the king of Hungary. The Crusaders consented,
much to the displeasure of the pope, who threatened excommunication upon
all who should be turned aside from the voyage to Jerusalem. But
notwithstanding the fulminations of the Church, the expedition never
reached Palestine. The siege of Zara was speedily undertaken. After a long
and brave defence, the city surrendered at discretion, and the Crusaders
were free, if they had so chosen it, to use their swords against the
Saracens. But the ambition of the chiefs had been directed, by unforeseen
circumstances, elsewhere.

After the death of Manuel Comnenus, the Greek empire had fallen a prey to
intestine divisions. His son Alexius II. had succeeded him, but was
murdered after a short reign by his uncle Andronicus, who seized upon the
throne. His reign also was but of short duration. Isaac Angelus, a member
of the same family, took up arms against the usurper, and having defeated
and captured him in a pitched battle, had him put to death. He also
mounted the throne only to be cast down from it. His brother Alexius
deposed him, and to incapacitate him from reigning, put out his eyes, and
shut him up in a dungeon. Neither was Alexius III. allowed to remain in
peaceable possession of the throne; the son of the unhappy Isaac, whose
name also was Alexius, fled from Constantinople, and hearing that the
Crusaders had undertaken the siege of Zara, made them the most magnificent
offers if they would afterwards aid him in deposing his uncle. His offers
were, that if by their means he was re-established in his father's
dominions, he would place the Greek Church under the authority of the Pope
of Rome, lend the whole force of the Greek empire to the conquest of
Palestine, and distribute two hundred thousand marks of silver among the
crusading army. The offer was accepted, with a proviso on the part of some
of the leaders, that they should be free to abandon the design, if it met
with the disapproval of the pope. But this was not to be feared. The
submission of the schismatic Greeks to the See of Rome was a greater bribe
to the Pontiff than the utter annihilation of the Saracen power in
Palestine would have been.

The Crusaders were soon in movement for the imperial city. Their
operations were skilfully and courageously directed, and spread such
dismay as to paralyse the efforts of the usurper to retain possession of
his throne. After a vain resistance, he abandoned the city to its fate,
and fled no one knew whither. The aged and blind Isaac was taken from his
dungeon by his subjects, and placed upon the throne ere the Crusaders were
apprised of the flight of his rival. His son Alexius IV. was afterwards
associated with him in the sovereignty.

But the conditions of the treaty gave offence to the Grecian people, whose
prelates refused to place themselves under the dominion of the See of
Rome. Alexius at first endeavoured to persuade his subjects to admission,
and prayed the Crusaders to remain in Constantinople until they had
fortified him in the possession of a throne which was yet far from secure.
He soon became unpopular with his subjects; and breaking faith with regard
to the subsidies, he offended the Crusaders. War was at length declared
upon him by both parties; by his people for his tyranny, and by his former
friends for his treachery. He was seized in his palace by his own guards
and thrown into prison, while the Crusaders were making ready to besiege
his capital. The Greeks immediately proceeded to the election of a new
monarch; and looking about for a man of courage, energy, and perseverance,
they fixed upon Alexius Ducas, who, with almost every bad quality, was
possessed of the virtues they needed. He ascended the throne under the
name of Murzuphlis. One of his first acts was to rid himself of his
youngest predecessor--a broken heart had already removed the blind old
Isaac, no longer a stumbling-block in his way--and the young Alexius was
soon after put to death in his prison.

[Illustration: CONSTANTINOPLE.]

War to the knife was now declared between the Greeks and the Franks; and
early in the spring of the year 1204, preparations were commenced for an
assault upon Constantinople. The French and Venetians entered into a
treaty for the division of the spoils among their soldiery; for so
confident were they of success, that failure never once entered into their
calculations. This confidence led them on to victory; while the Greeks,
cowardly as treacherous people always are, were paralysed by a foreboding
of evil. It has been a matter of astonishment to all historians, that
Murzuphlis, with the reputation for courage which he had acquired, and the
immense resources at his disposal, took no better measures to repel the
onset of the Crusaders. Their numbers were as a mere handful in comparison
with those which he could have brought against them; and if they had the
hopes of plunder to lead them on, the Greeks had their homes to fight for,
and their very existence as a nation to protect. After an impetuous
assault, repulsed for one day, but renewed with double impetuosity on
another, the Crusaders lashed their vessels against the walls, slew every
man who opposed them, and, with little loss to themselves, entered the
city. Murzuphlis fled, and Constantinople was given over to be pillaged by
the victors. The wealth they found was enormous. In money alone there was
sufficient to distribute twenty marks of silver to each knight, ten to
each squire or servant at arms, and five to each archer. Jewels, velvets,
silks, and every luxury of attire, with rare wines and fruits, and
valuable merchandise of every description, also fell into their hands, and
were bought by the trading Venetians, and the proceeds distributed among
the army. Two thousand persons were put to the sword; but had there been
less plunder to take up the attention of the victors, the slaughter would
in all probability have been much greater.

In many of the bloody wars which defile the page of history, we find that
soldiers, utterly reckless of the works of God, will destroy his
masterpiece, man, with unsparing brutality, but linger with respect round
the beautiful works of art. They will slaughter women and children, but
spare a picture; will hew down the sick, the helpless, and the
hoary-headed, but refrain from injuring a fine piece of sculpture. The
Latins, on their entrance into Constantinople, respected neither the works
of God nor man, but vented their brutal ferocity upon the one, and
satisfied their avarice upon the other. Many beautiful bronze statues,
above all price as works of art, were broken into pieces to be sold as old
metal. The finely-chiselled marble, which could be put to no such vile
uses, was also destroyed with a recklessness, if possible, still more

    [18] The following is a list of some of the works of art thus
         destroyed, from Nicetas, a contemporary Greek author: 1st. A
         colossal Juno, from the forum of Constantine, the head of
         which was so large that four horses could scarcely draw it
         from the place where it stood to the palace. 2d. The statue
         of Paris, presenting the apple to Venus. 3d. An immense
         bronze pyramid, crowned by a female figure, which turned with
         the wind. 4th. The colossal statue of Bellerophon, in bronze,
         which was broken down and cast into the furnace. Under the
         inner nail of the horse's hind foot on the left side, was
         found a seal wrapped in a woollen cloth. 5th. A figure of
         Hercules, by Lysimachus, of such vast dimensions that the
         thumb was equal in circumference to the waist of a man. 6th.
         The Ass and his Driver, cast by order of Augustus after the
         battle of Actium, in commemoration of his having discovered
         the position of Anthony through the means of an ass-driver.
         7th. The Wolf suckling the Twins of Rome. 8th. The gladiator
         in combat with a lion. 9th. The Hippopotamus. 10th. The
         Sphinxes. 11th. An Eagle fighting with a Serpent. 12th. A
         beautiful statue of Helen. 13th. A group, with a monster
         somewhat resembling a bull, engaged in deadly conflict with a
         serpent; and many other works of art, too numerous to

The carnage being over, and the spoil distributed, six persons were chosen
from among the Franks and six from among the Venetians, who were to meet
and elect an emperor, previously binding themselves by oath to select the
individual best qualified among the candidates. The choice wavered between
Baldwin count of Flanders and Boniface marquis of Montferrat, but fell
eventually upon the former. He was straightway robed in the imperial
purple, and became the founder of a new dynasty. He did not live long to
enjoy his power, or to consolidate it for his successors, who, in their
turn, were soon swept away. In less than sixty years the rule of the
Franks at Constantinople was brought to as sudden and disastrous a
termination as the reign of Murzuphlis: and this was the grand result of
the fifth Crusade.

Pope Innocent III., although he had looked with no very unfavourable eye
upon these proceedings, regretted that nothing had been done for the
relief of the Holy Land; still, upon every convenient occasion, he
enforced the necessity of a new Crusade. Until the year 1213, his
exhortations had no other effect than to keep the subject in the mind of
Europe. Every spring and summer detachments of pilgrims continued to set
out for Palestine to the aid of their brethren, but not in sufficient
numbers to be of much service. These periodical passages were called the
_passagium Martii_, or the passage of March, and the _passagium Johannis_,
or the passage of the festival of St. John. These did not consist entirely
of soldiers, armed against the Saracen, but of pilgrims led by devotion,
and in performance of their vows, bearing nothing with them but their
staff and their wallet. Early in the spring of 1213 a more extraordinary
body of Crusaders was raised in France and Germany. An immense number of
boys and girls, amounting, according to some accounts, to thirty thousand,
were incited by the persuasion of two monks to undertake the journey to
Palestine. They were no doubt composed of the idle and deserted children
who generally swarm in great cities, nurtured in vice and daring, and
ready for any thing. The object of the monks seems to have been the
atrocious one of inveigling them into slave-ships, on pretence of sending
them to Syria, and selling them for slaves on the coast of Africa.[19]
Great numbers of these poor victims were shipped at Marseilles; but the
vessels, with the exception of two or three, were wrecked on the shores of
Italy, and every soul perished. The remainder arrived safely in Africa,
and were bought up as slaves, and sent off into the interior of the
country. Another detachment arrived at Genoa; but the accomplices in this
horrid plot having taken no measures at that port, expecting them all at
Marseilles, they were induced to return to their homes by the Genoese.

    [19] See Jacob de Voragine and Albericus.

Fuller, in his quaint history of the _Holy Warre_, says that this Crusade
was done by the instinct of the devil; and he adds a reason, which may
provoke mirth now, but which was put forth by the worthy historian in all
soberness and sincerity. He says, "the devil, being cloyed with the
murdering of men, desired a cordial of children's blood to comfort his
weak stomach;" as epicures, when tired of mutton, resort to lamb for a

It appears from other authors that the preaching of the vile monks had
such an effect upon these deluded children that they ran about the
country, exclaiming, "O Lord Jesus, restore thy cross to us!" and that
neither bolts nor bars, the fear of fathers, nor the love of mothers, was
sufficient to restrain them from journeying to Jerusalem.

The details of these strange proceedings are exceedingly meagre and
confused, and none of the contemporary writers who mention the subject
have thought it worth while to state the names of the monks who originated
the scheme, or the fate they met for their wickedness. Two merchants of
Marseilles, who were to have shared in the profits, were, it is said,
brought to justice for some other crime, and suffered death; but we are
not informed whether they divulged any circumstances relating to this

Pope Innocent III. does not seem to have been aware that the causes of
this juvenile Crusade were such as have been stated, for, upon being
informed that numbers of them had taken the cross, and were marching to
the Holy Land, he exclaimed, "These children are awake while we sleep!" He
imagined, apparently, that the mind of Europe was still bent on the
recovery of Palestine, and that the zeal of these children implied a sort
of reproach upon his own lukewarmness. Very soon afterwards, he bestirred
himself with more activity, and sent an encyclical letter to the clergy of
Christendom, urging them to preach a new Crusade. As usual, a number of
adventurous nobles, who had nothing else to do, enrolled themselves with
their retainers. At a Council of Lateran, which was held while these bands
were collecting, Innocent announced that he himself would take the Cross,
and lead the armies of Christ to the defence of his sepulchre. In all
probability he would have done so, for he was zealous enough; but death
stepped in, and destroyed his project ere it was ripe. His successor
encouraged the Crusade, though he refused to accompany it; and the
armament continued in France, England, and Germany. No leaders of any
importance joined it from the former countries. Andrew king of Hungary was
the only monarch who had leisure or inclination to leave his dominions.
The Dukes of Austria and Bavaria joined him with a considerable army of
Germans, and marching to Spalatro, took ship for Cyprus, and from thence
to Acre.

The whole conduct of the king of Hungary was marked by pusillanimity and
irresolution. He found himself in the Holy Land at the head of a very
efficient army; the Saracens were taken by surprise, and were for some
weeks unprepared to offer any resistance to his arms. He defeated the
first body sent to oppose him, and marched towards Mount Tabor with the
intention of seizing upon an important fortress which the Saracens had
recently constructed. He arrived without impediment at the mount, and
might have easily taken it; but a sudden fit of cowardice came over him,
and he returned to Acre without striking a blow. He very soon afterwards
abandoned the enterprise altogether, and returned to his own country.

Tardy reinforcements arrived at intervals from Europe; and the Duke of
Austria, now the chief leader of the expedition, had still sufficient
forces at his command to trouble the Saracens very seriously. It was
resolved by him, in council with the other chiefs, that the whole energy
of the Crusade should be directed upon Egypt, the seat of the Saracen
power in its relationship to Palestine, and from whence were drawn the
continual levies that were brought against them by the sultan. Damietta,
which commanded the river Nile, and was one of the most important cities
of Egypt, was chosen as the first point of attack. The siege was forthwith
commenced, and carried on with considerable energy, until the Crusaders
gained possession of a tower, which projected into the middle of the
stream, and was looked upon as the very key of the city.

While congratulating themselves upon this success, and wasting in revelry
the time which should have been employed in turning it to further
advantage, they received the news of the death of the wise Sultan
Saphaddin. His two sons, Camhel and Cohreddin, divided his empire between
them. Syria and Palestine fell to the share of Cohreddin, while Egypt was
consigned to the other brother, who had for some time exercised the
functions of lieutenant of that country. Being unpopular among the
Egyptians, they revolted against him, giving the Crusaders a finer
opportunity for making a conquest than they had ever enjoyed before. But,
quarrelsome and licentious as they had been from time immemorial, they did
not see that the favourable moment had come; or seeing, could not profit
by it. While they were revelling or fighting among themselves, under the
walls of Damietta, the revolt was suppressed, and Camhel firmly
established on the throne of Egypt. In conjunction with his brother
Cohreddin, his next care was to drive the Christians from Damietta, and
for upwards of three months they bent all their efforts to throw in
supplies to the besieged, or draw on the besiegers to a general
engagement. In neither were they successful; and the famine in Damietta
became so dreadful that vermin of every description were thought luxuries,
and sold for exorbitant prices. A dead dog became more valuable than a
live ox in time of prosperity. Unwholesome food brought on disease, and
the city could hold out no longer for absolute want of men to defend the

Cohreddin and Camhel were alike interested in the preservation of so
important a position, and, convinced of the certain fate of the city, they
opened a conference with the crusading chiefs, offering to yield the whole
of Palestine to the Christians upon the sole condition of the evacuation
of Egypt. With a blindness and wrong-headedness almost incredible, these
advantageous terms were refused, chiefly through the persuasion of
Cardinal Pelagius, an ignorant and obstinate fanatic, who urged upon the
Duke of Austria and the French and English leaders, that infidels never
kept their word; that their offers were deceptive, and merely intended to
betray. The conferences were brought to an abrupt termination by the
Crusaders, and a last attack made upon the walls of Damietta. The besieged
made but slight resistance, for they had no hope, and the Christians
entered the city, and found, out of seventy thousand people, but three
thousand remaining: so fearful had been the ravages of the twin fiends,
plague and famine.

Several months were spent in Damietta. The climate either weakened the
frames or obscured the understandings of the Christians; for, after their
conquest, they lost all energy, and abandoned themselves more
unscrupulously than ever to riot and debauchery. John of Brienne, who, by
right of his wife, was the nominal sovereign of Jerusalem, was so
disgusted with the pusillanimity, arrogance, and dissensions of the
chiefs, that he withdrew entirely from them and retired to Acre. Large
bodies also returned to Europe, and Cardinal Pelagius was left at liberty
to blast the whole enterprise whenever it pleased him. He managed to
conciliate John of Brienne, and marched forward with these combined forces
to attack Cairo. It was only when he had approached within a few hours'
march of that city that he discovered the inadequacy of his army. He
turned back immediately; but the Nile had risen since his departure; the
sluices were opened, and there was no means of reaching Damietta. In this
strait, he sued for the peace he had formerly spurned, and, happily for
himself, found the generous brothers Camhel and Cohreddin still willing to
grant it. Damietta was soon afterwards given up, and the cardinal returned
to Europe. John of Brienne retired to Acre, to mourn the loss of his
kingdom, embittered against the folly of his pretended friends, who had
ruined where they should have aided him. And thus ended the sixth Crusade.

The seventh was more successful. Frederic II., emperor of Germany, had
often vowed to lead his armies to the defence of Palestine, but was as
often deterred from the journey by matters of more pressing importance.
Cohreddin was a mild and enlightened monarch, and the Christians of Syria
enjoyed repose and toleration under his rule: but John of Brienne was not
willing to lose his kingdom without an effort; and the popes in Europe
were ever willing to embroil the nations for the sake of extending their
own power. No monarch of that age was capable of rendering more effective
assistance than Frederic of Germany. To inspire him with more zeal, it was
proposed that he should wed the young Princess Violante, daughter of John
of Brienne, and heiress of the kingdom of Jerusalem. Frederic consented
with joy and eagerness. The princess was brought from Acre to Rome without
delay, and her marriage celebrated on a scale of great magnificence. Her
father, John of Brienne, abdicated all his rights in favour of his
son-in-law, and Jerusalem had once more a king, who had not only the will,
but the power, to enforce his claims. Preparations for the new Crusade
were immediately commenced, and in the course of six months the emperor
was at the head of a well-disciplined army of sixty thousand men. Matthew
Paris informs us, that an army of the same amount was gathered in England;
and most of the writers upon the Crusades adopt his statement. When John
of Brienne was in England, before his daughter's marriage with the emperor
was thought of, praying for the aid of Henry III. and his nobles to
recover his lost kingdom, he did not meet with much encouragement.
Grafton, in his _Chronicle_, says, "he departed again without any great
comfort." But when a man of more influence in European politics appeared
upon the scene, the English nobles were as ready to sacrifice themselves
in the cause as they had been in the time of Coeur de Lion.

The army of Frederic encamped at Brundusium; but a pestilential disease
having made its appearance among them, their departure was delayed for
several months. In the mean time the Empress Violante died in childbed.
John of Brienne, who had already repented of his abdication, and was
besides incensed against Frederic for many acts of neglect and insult, no
sooner saw the only tie which bound them severed by the death of his
daughter, than he began to bestir himself, and make interest with the pope
to undo what he had done, and regain the honorary crown he had renounced.
Pope Gregory IX., a man of a proud, unconciliating, and revengeful
character, owed the emperor a grudge for many an act of disobedience to
his authority, and encouraged the overtures of John of Brienne more than
he should have done. Frederic, however, despised them both, and, as soon
as his army was convalescent, set sail for Acre. He had not been many days
at sea when he was himself attacked with the malady, and obliged to return
to Otranto, the nearest port. Gregory, who had by this time decided in the
interest of John of Brienne, excommunicated the emperor for returning from
so holy an expedition on any pretext whatever. Frederic at first treated
the excommunication with supreme contempt; but when he got well, he gave
his holiness to understand that he was not to be outraged with impunity,
and sent some of his troops to ravage the papal territories. This,
however, only made the matter worse, and Gregory despatched messengers to
Palestine forbidding the faithful, under severe pains and penalties, to
hold any intercourse with the excommunicated emperor. Thus between them
both, the scheme which they had so much at heart bade fair to be as
effectually ruined as even the Saracens could have wished. Frederic still
continued his zeal in the Crusade, for he was now king of Jerusalem, and
fought for himself, and not for Christendom, or its representative, Pope
Gregory. Hearing that John of Brienne was preparing to leave Europe, he
lost no time in taking his own departure, and arrived safely at Acre. It
was here that he first experienced the evil effects of excommunication.
The Christians of Palestine refused to aid him in any way, and looked with
distrust, if not with abhorrence, upon him. The Templars, Hospitallers,
and other knights, shared at first the general feeling; but they were not
men to yield a blind obedience to a distant potentate, especially when it
compromised their own interests. When, therefore, Frederic prepared to
march upon Jerusalem without them, they joined his banners to a man.


It is said that, previous to quitting Europe, the German emperor had
commenced a negotiation with the Sultan Camhel for the restoration of the
Holy Land, and that Camhel, who was jealous of the ambition of his brother
Cohreddin, was willing to stipulate to that effect, on condition of being
secured by Frederic in the possession of the more important territory of
Egypt. But before the Crusaders reached Palestine, Camhel was relieved
from all fears by the death of his brother. He nevertheless did not think
it worth while to contest with the Crusaders the barren corner of the
earth which had already been dyed with so much Christian and Saracen
blood, and proposed a truce of three years, only stipulating, in addition,
that the Moslems should be allowed to worship freely in the temple of
Jerusalem. This happy termination did not satisfy the bigoted Christians
of Palestine. The tolerance they sought for themselves, they were not
willing to extend to others, and they complained bitterly of the privilege
of free worship allowed to their opponents. Unmerited good fortune had
made them insolent, and they contested the right of the emperor to become
a party to any treaty, as long as he remained under the ecclesiastical
ban. Frederic was disgusted with his new subjects; but, as the Templars
and Hospitallers remained true to him, he marched to Jerusalem to be
crowned. All the churches were shut against him, and he could not even
find a priest to officiate at his coronation. He had despised the papal
authority too long to quail at it now, when it was so unjustifiably
exerted, and, as there was nobody to crown him, he very wisely crowned
himself. He took the royal diadem from the altar with his own hands, and
boldly and proudly placed it on his brow. No shouts of an applauding
populace made the welkin ring; no hymns of praise and triumph resounded
from the ministers of religion; but a thousand swords started from their
scabbards to testify that their owners would defend the new monarch to the

It was hardly to be expected that he would renounce for any long period
the dominion of his native land for the uneasy crown and barren soil of
Palestine. He had seen quite enough of his new subjects before he was six
months among them, and more important interests called him home. John of
Brienne, openly leagued with Pope Gregory against him, was actually
employed in ravaging his territories at the head of a papal army. This
intelligence decided his return. As a preliminary step, he made those who
had contemned his authority feel, to their sorrow, that he was their
master. He then set sail, loaded with the curses of Palestine. And thus
ended the seventh Crusade, which, in spite of every obstacle and
disadvantage, had been productive of more real service to the Holy Land
than any that had gone before; a result solely attributable to the bravery
of Frederic and the generosity of the Sultan Camhel.

Soon after the emperor's departure a new claimant started for the throne
of Jerusalem, in the person of Alice queen of Cyprus, and half-sister of
the Mary who, by her marriage, had transferred her right to John of
Brienne. The grand military orders, however, clung to Frederic, and Alice
was obliged to withdraw.

So peaceful a termination to the Crusade did not give unmixed pleasure in
Europe. The chivalry of France and England were unable to rest, and long
before the conclusion of the truce, were collecting their armies for an
eighth expedition. In Palestine also the contentment was far from
universal. Many petty Mahomedan states in the immediate vicinity were not
parties to the truce, and harassed the frontier towns incessantly. The
Templars, ever turbulent, waged bitter war with the sultan of Aleppo, and
in the end were almost exterminated. So great was the slaughter among them
that Europe resounded with the sad story of their fate, and many a noble
knight took arms to prevent the total destruction of an order associated
with so many high and inspiring remembrances. Camhel, seeing the
preparations that were making, thought that his generosity had been
sufficiently shewn, and the very day the truce was at an end assumed the
offensive, and marching forward to Jerusalem, took possession of it, after
routing the scanty forces of the Christians. Before this intelligence
reached Europe a large body of Crusaders was on the march, headed by the
king of Navarre, the Duke of Burgundy, the Count de Bretagne, and other
leaders. On their arrival, they learned that Jerusalem had been taken, but
that the sultan was dead, and his kingdom torn by rival claimants to the
supreme power. The dissensions of their foes ought to have made them
united, but as in all previous Crusades, each feudal chief was master of
his own host, and acted upon his own responsibility, and without reference
to any general plan. The consequence was that nothing could be done. A
temporary advantage was gained by one leader, who had no means of
improving it; while another was defeated, without means of retrieving
himself. Thus the war lingered till the battle of Gaza, when the king of
Navarre was defeated with great loss, and compelled to save himself from
total destruction by entering into a hard and oppressive treaty with the
emir of Karac.

At this crisis aid arrived from England, commanded by Richard earl of
Cornwall, the namesake of Coeur de Lion, and inheritor of his valour. His
army was strong and full of hope. They had confidence in themselves and in
their leader, and looked like men accustomed to victory. Their coming
changed the aspect of affairs. The new sultan of Egypt was at war with the
sultan of Damascus, and had not forces to oppose two enemies so powerful.
He therefore sent messengers to meet the English earl, offering an
exchange of prisoners and the complete cession of the Holy Land. Richard,
who had not come to fight for the mere sake of fighting, agreed at once to
terms so advantageous, and became the deliverer of Palestine without
striking a blow. The sultan of Egypt then turned his whole force against
his Moslem enemies, and the Earl of Cornwall returned to Europe. Thus
ended the eighth Crusade, the most beneficial of all. Christendom had no
further pretence for sending her fierce levies to the East. To all
appearance the holy wars were at an end: the Christians had entire
possession of Jerusalem, Tripoli, Antioch, Edessa, Acre, Jaffa, and, in
fact, of nearly all Judea; and, could they have been at peace among
themselves, they might have overcome, without great difficulty, the
jealousy and hostility of their neighbours. A circumstance, as unforeseen
as it was disastrous, blasted this fair prospect, and reillumed, for the
last time, the fervour and fury of the Crusades.

Gengis Khan and his successors had swept over Asia like a tropical storm,
overturning in their progress the landmarks of ages. Kingdom after kingdom
was cast down as they issued, innumerable, from the far recesses of the
North and East, and, among others, the empire of Korasmin was overrun by
these all-conquering hordes. The Korasmins, a fierce, uncivilised race,
thus driven from their homes, spread themselves, in their turn, over the
south of Asia with fire and sword, in search of a resting-place. In their
impetuous course they directed themselves towards Egypt, whose sultan,
unable to withstand the swarm that had cast their longing eyes on the
fertile valleys of the Nile, endeavoured to turn them from their course.
For this purpose, he sent emissaries to Barbaquan, their leader, inviting
them to settle in Palestine; and the offer being accepted by the wild
horde, they entered the country before the Christians received the
slightest intimation of their coming. It was as sudden as it was
overwhelming. Onwards, like the simoom, they came, burning and slaying,
and were at the walls of Jerusalem before the inhabitants had time to look
round them. They spared neither life nor property; they slew women and
children, and priests at the altar, and profaned even the graves of those
who had slept for ages. They tore down every vestige of the Christian
faith, and committed horrors unparalleled in the history of warfare. About
seven thousand of the inhabitants of Jerusalem sought safety in retreat;
but before they were out of sight, the banner of the cross was hoisted
upon the walls by the savage foe to decoy them back. The artifice was but
too successful. The poor fugitives imagined that help had arrived from
another direction, and turned back to regain their homes. Nearly the whole
of them were massacred, and the streets of Jerusalem ran with blood.

[Illustration: JAFFA.]

The Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic knights forgot their long and
bitter animosities, and joined hand in hand to rout out this desolating
foe. They entrenched themselves in Jaffa with all the chivalry of
Palestine that yet remained, and endeavoured to engage the sultans of
Emissa and Damascus to assist them against the common enemy. The aid
obtained from the Moslems amounted at first to only four thousand men, but
with these reinforcements Walter of Brienne, the lord of Jaffa, resolved
to give battle to the Korasmins. The conflict was as deadly as despair on
the one side, and unmitigated ferocity on the other, could make it. It
lasted with varying fortune for two days, when the sultan of Emissa fled
to his fortifications, and Walter of Brienne fell into the enemy's hands.
The brave knight was suspended by the arms to a cross in sight of the
walls of Jaffa, and the Korasminian leader declared that he should remain
in that position until the city surrendered. Walter raised his feeble
voice, not to advise surrender, but to command his soldiers to hold out to
the last. But his gallantry was unavailing. So great had been the
slaughter, that out of the grand array of knights, there now remained but
sixteen Hospitallers, thirty-three Templars, and three Teutonic cavaliers.
These with the sad remnant of the army fled to Acre, and the Korasmins
were masters of Palestine.

The sultans of Syria preferred the Christians to this fierce horde for
their neighbours. Even the sultan of Egypt began to regret the aid he had
given to such barbarous foes, and united with those of Emissa and Damascus
to root them from the land. The Korasmins amounted to but twenty thousand
men, and were unable to resist the determined hostility which encompassed
them on every side. The sultans defeated them in several engagements, and
the peasantry rose up in masses to take vengeance upon them. Gradually
their numbers were diminished. No mercy was shewn them in defeat.
Barbaquan their leader was slain; and after five years of desperate
struggles, they were finally extirpated, and Palestine became once more
the territory of the Mussulmans.

[Illustration: WILLIAM LONGSWORD.]

A short time previous to this devastating eruption, Louis IX. fell sick in
Paris, and dreamed in the delirium of his fever that he saw the Christian
and Moslem host fighting before Jerusalem, and the Christians defeated
with great slaughter. The dream made a great impression on his
superstitious mind, and he made a solemn vow, that if ever he recovered
his health, he would take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. When the news of
the misfortunes of Palestine, and the awful massacres at Jerusalem and
Jaffa, arrived in Europe, St. Louis remembered him of his dream. More
persuaded than ever that it was an intimation direct from heaven, he
prepared to take the cross at the head of his armies, and march to the
deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre. From that moment he doffed the royal
mantle of purple and ermine, and dressed in the sober serge becoming a
pilgrim. All his thoughts were directed to the fulfilment of his design,
and although his kingdom could but ill spare him, he made every
preparation to leave it. Pope Innocent IV. applauded his zeal and afforded
him every assistance. He wrote to Henry III. of England to forward the
cause in his dominions, and called upon the clergy and laity all over
Europe to contribute towards it. William Longsword, the celebrated Earl of
Salisbury, took the cross at the head of a great number of valiant knights
and soldiers. But the fanaticism of the people was not to be awakened
either in France or England. Great armies were raised, but the masses no
longer sympathised. Taxation had been the great cooler of zeal. It was no
longer a disgrace even to a knight if he refused to take the cross.
Rutebeuf, a French minstrel, who flourished about this time (1250),
composed a dialogue between a Crusader and a non-Crusader, which the
reader will find translated in Way's _Fabliaux_. The Crusader uses every
argument to persuade the non-Crusader to take up arms, and forsake every
thing, in the holy cause; but it is evident from the greater force of the
arguments used by the non-Crusader, that he was the favourite of the
minstrel. To a most urgent solicitation of his friend the Crusader, he

   "I read thee right, thou holdest good
      To this same land I straight should hie,
    And win it back with mickle blood,
      Nor gaine one foot of soil thereby;
    While here dejected and forlorn
      My wife and babes are left to mourn;
    My goodly mansion rudely marred,
      All trusted to my dogs to guard.
    But I, fair comrade, well I wot
      An ancient saw of pregnant wit
    Doth bid us keep what we have got;
      And troth I mean to follow it."

This being the general feeling, it is not to be wondered at that Louis IX.
was occupied fully three years in organising his forces, and in making the
necessary preparations for his departure. When all was ready he set sail
for Cyprus, accompanied by his queen, his two brothers, the Counts d'Anjou
and d'Artois, and a long train of the noblest chivalry of France. His
third brother, the Count de Poitiers, remained behind to collect another
corps of Crusaders, and followed him in a few months afterwards. The army
united at Cyprus, and amounted to fifty thousand men, exclusive of the
English Crusaders under William Longsword. Again, a pestilential disease
made its appearance, to which many hundreds fell victims. It was in
consequence found necessary to remain in Cyprus until the spring. Louis
then embarked for Egypt with his whole host; but a violent tempest
separated his fleet, and he arrived before Damietta with only a few
thousand men. They were, however, impetuous and full of hope; and although
the Sultan Melick Shah was drawn up on the shore with a force infinitely
superior, it was resolved to attempt a landing without waiting the arrival
of the rest of the army. Louis himself, in wild impatience, sprang from
his boat, and waded on shore; while his army, inspired by his enthusiastic
bravery, followed, shouting the old war-cry of the first Crusaders, _Dieu
le veut! Dieu le veut!_ A panic seized the Turks. A body of their cavalry
attempted to bear down upon the Crusaders, but the knights fixed their
large shields deep in the sands of the shore, and rested their lances upon
them, so that they projected above, and formed a barrier so imposing, that
the Turks, afraid to breast it, turned round and fairly took to flight. At
the moment of this panic, a false report was spread in the Saracen host,
that the sultan had been slain. The confusion immediately became
general--the _deroute_ was complete: Damietta itself was abandoned, and
the same night the victorious Crusaders fixed their head-quarters in that
city. The soldiers who had been separated from their chief by the tempest
arrived shortly afterwards; and Louis was in a position to justify the
hope, not only of the conquest of Palestine, but of Egypt itself.

But too much confidence proved the bane of his army. They thought, as they
had accomplished so much, that nothing more remained to be done, and gave
themselves up to ease and luxury. When, by the command of Louis, they
marched towards Cairo, they were no longer the same men; success, instead
of inspiring, had unnerved them; debauchery had brought on disease, and
disease was aggravated by the heat of a climate to which none of them were
accustomed. Their progress towards Massoura, on the road to Cairo, was
checked by the Thanisian canal, on the banks of which the Saracens were
drawn up to dispute the passage. Louis gave orders that a bridge should be
thrown across: and the operations commenced under cover of two
cat-castles, or high movable towers. The Saracens soon destroyed them by
throwing quantities of Greek fire, the artillery of that day, upon them,
and Louis was forced to think of some other means of effecting his design.
A peasant agreed, for a considerable bribe, to point out a ford where the
army might wade across, and the Count d'Artois was despatched with
fourteen hundred men to attempt it, while Louis remained to face the
Saracens with the main body of the army. The Count d'Artois got safely
over, and defeated the detachment that had been sent to oppose his
landing. Flushed with the victory, the brave count forgot the inferiority
of his numbers, and pursued the panic-stricken enemy into Massoura. He was
now completely cut off from the aid of his brother Crusaders, which the
Moslems perceiving, took courage and returned upon him, with a force
swollen by the garrison of Massoura, and by reinforcements from the
surrounding districts. The battle now became hand to hand. The Christians
fought with the energy of desperate men, but the continually increasing
numbers of the foe surrounded them completely, and cut off all hope,
either of victory or escape. The Count d'Artois was among the foremost of
the slain; and when Louis arrived to the rescue, the brave advanced-guard
was nearly cut to pieces. Of the fourteen hundred but three hundred
remained. The fury of the battle was now increased threefold. The French
king and his troops performed prodigies of valour, and the Saracens, under
the command of the Emir Ceccidun, fought as if they were determined to
exterminate, in one last decisive effort, the new European swarm that had
settled upon their coast. At the fall of the evening dews the Christians
were masters of the field of Massoura, and flattered themselves that they
were the victors. Self-love would not suffer them to confess that the
Saracens had withdrawn, and not retreated; but their leaders were too
wofully convinced that that fatal field had completed the disorganisation
of the Christian army, and that all hopes of future conquest were at an

Impressed with this truth, the Crusaders sued for peace. The sultan
insisted upon the immediate evacuation of Damietta, and that Louis himself
should be delivered as hostage for the fulfilment of the condition. His
army at once refused, and the negotiations were broken off. It was now
resolved to attempt a retreat; but the agile Saracens, now in the front
and now in the rear, rendered it a matter of extreme difficulty, and cut
off the stragglers in great numbers. Hundreds of them were drowned in the
Nile; and sickness and famine worked sad ravages upon those who escaped
all other casualties. Louis himself was so weakened by disease, fatigue,
and discouragement, that he was hardly able to sit upon his horse. In the
confusion of the flight he was separated from his attendants, and left a
total stranger upon the sands of Egypt, sick, weary, and almost
friendless. One knight, Geffry de Sergines, alone attended him, and led
him to a miserable hut in a small village, where for several days he lay
in the hourly expectation of death. He was at last discovered and taken
prisoner by the Saracens, who treated him with all the honour due to his
rank and all the pity due to his misfortunes. Under their care his health
rapidly improved, and the next consideration was that of his ransom.

The Saracens demanded, besides money, the cession of Acre, Tripoli, and
other cities of Palestine. Louis unhesitatingly refused, and conducted
himself with so much pride and courage that the sultan declared he was the
proudest infidel he had ever beheld. After a good deal of hagglin