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Title: Lives of the Necromancers
Author: Godwin, William, 1756-1836
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Transcriber's Note: Footnotes have been numbered sequentially and
moved to the end of the text.]








Frederick J Mason, 444, West Strand



The main purpose of this book is to exhibit a fair delineation of the
credulity of the human mind. Such an exhibition cannot fail to be
productive of the most salutary lessons.

One view of the subject will teach us a useful pride in the abundance
of our faculties. Without pride man is in reality of little value. It
is pride that stimulates us to all our great undertakings. Without
pride, and the secret persuasion of extraordinary talents, what man
would take up the pen with a view to produce an important work,
whether of imagination and poetry, or of profound science, or of acute
and subtle reasoning and intellectual anatomy? It is pride in this
sense that makes the great general and the consummate legislator, that
animates us to tasks the most laborious, and causes us to shrink from
no difficulty, and to be confounded and overwhelmed with no obstacle
that can be interposed in our path.

Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between man and the
inferior animals. The latter live only for the day, and see for the
most part only what is immediately before them. But man lives in the
past and the future. He reasons upon and improves by the past; he
records the acts of a long series of generations: and he looks into
future time, lays down plans which he shall be months and years in
bringing to maturity, and contrives machines and delineates systems
of education and government, which may gradually add to the
accommodations of all, and raise the species generally into a nobler
and more honourable character than our ancestors were capable of

Man looks through nature, and is able to reduce its parts into a great
whole. He classes the beings which are found in it, both animate and
inanimate, delineates and describes them, investigates their
properties, and records their capacities, their good and evil
qualities, their dangers and their uses.

Nor does he only see all that is; but he also images all that is not.
He takes to pieces the substances that are, and combines their parts
into new arrangements. He peoples all the elements from the world of
his imagination. It is here that he is most extraordinary and
wonderful. The record of what actually is, and has happened in the
series of human events, is perhaps the smallest part of human history.
If we would know man in all his subtleties, we must deviate into the
world of miracles and sorcery. To know the things that are not, and
cannot be, but have been imagined and believed, is the most curious
chapter in the annals of man. To observe the actual results of these
imaginary phenomena, and the crimes and cruelties they have caused us
to commit, is one of the most instructive studies in which we can
possibly be engaged. It is here that man is most astonishing, and that
we contemplate with most admiration the discursive and unbounded
nature of his faculties.

But, if a recollection of the examples of the credulity of the human
mind may in one view supply nourishment to our pride, it still more
obviously tends to teach us sobriety and humiliation. Man in his
genuine and direct sphere is the disciple of reason; it is by this
faculty that he draws inferences, exerts his prudence, and displays
the ingenuity of machinery, and the subtlety of system both in natural
and moral philosophy. Yet what so irrational as man? Not contented
with making use of the powers we possess, for the purpose of conducing
to our accommodation and well being, we with a daring spirit inquire
into the invisible causes of what we see, and people all nature with
Gods "of every shape and size" and angels, with principalities and
powers, with beneficent beings who "take charge concerning us lest at
any time we dash our foot against a stone," and with devils who are
perpetually on the watch to perplex us and do us injury. And, having
familiarised our minds with the conceptions of these beings, we
immediately aspire to hold communion with them. We represent to
ourselves God, as "walking in the garden with us in the cool of the
day," and teach ourselves "not to forget to entertain strangers, lest
by so doing we should repel angels unawares."

No sooner are we, even in a slight degree, acquainted with the laws of
nature, than we frame to ourselves the idea, by the aid of some
invisible ally, of suspending their operation, of calling out meteors
in the sky, of commanding storms and tempests, of arresting the motion
of the heavenly bodies, of producing miraculous cures upon the bodies
of our fellow-men, or afflicting them with disease and death, of
calling up the deceased from the silence of the grave, and compelling
them to disclose "the secrets of the world unknown."

But, what is most deplorable, we are not contented to endeavour to
secure the aid of God and good angels, but we also aspire to enter
into alliance with devils, and beings destined for their rebellion to
suffer eternally the pains of hell. As they are supposed to be of a
character perverted and depraved, we of course apply to them
principally for purposes of wantonness, or of malice and revenge. And,
in the instances which have occurred only a few centuries back, the
most common idea has been of a compact entered into by an unprincipled
and impious human being with the sworn enemy of God and man, in the
result of which the devil engages to serve the capricious will and
perform the behests of his blasphemous votary for a certain number of
years, while the deluded wretch in return engages to renounce his God
and Saviour, and surrender himself body and soul to the pains of hell
from the end of that term to all eternity. No sooner do we imagine
human beings invested with these wonderful powers, and conceive them
as called into action for the most malignant purposes, than we become
the passive and terrified slaves of the creatures of our own
imaginations, and fear to be assailed at every moment by beings to
whose power we can set no limit, and whose modes of hostility no human
sagacity can anticipate and provide against. But, what is still more
extraordinary, the human creatures that pretend to these powers have
often been found as completely the dupes of this supernatural
machinery, as the most timid wretch that stands in terror at its
expected operation; and no phenomenon has been more common than the
confession of these allies of hell, that they have verily and indeed
held commerce and formed plots and conspiracies with Satan.

The consequence of this state of things has been, that criminal
jurisprudence and the last severities of the law have been called
forth to an amazing extent to exterminate witches and witchcraft. More
especially in the sixteenth century hundreds and thousands were burned
alive within the compass of a small territory; and judges, the
directors of the scene, a Nicholas Remi, a De Lancre, and many others,
have published copious volumes, entering into a minute detail of the
system and fashion of the witchcraft of the professors, whom they sent
in multitudes to expiate their depravity at the gallows and the stake.

One useful lesson which we may derive from the detail of these
particulars, is the folly in most cases of imputing pure and unmingled
hypocrisy to man. The human mind is of so ductile a character that,
like what is affirmed of charity by the apostle, it "believeth all
things, and endureth all things." We are not at liberty to trifle with
the sacredness of truth. While we persuade others, we begin to deceive
ourselves. Human life is a drama of that sort, that, while we act our
part, and endeavour to do justice to the sentiments which are put down
for us, we begin to believe we are the thing we would represent.

To shew however the modes in which the delusion acts upon the person
through whom it operates, is not properly the scope of this book. Here
and there I have suggested hints to this purpose, which the curious
reader may follow to their furthest extent, and discover how with
perfect good faith the artist may bring himself to swallow the
grossest impossibilities. But the work I have written is not a
treatise of natural magic. It rather proposes to display the immense
wealth of the faculty of imagination, and to shew the extravagances of
which the man may be guilty who surrenders himself to its guidance.

It is fit however that the reader should bear in mind, that what is
put down in this book is but a small part and scantling of the acts of
sorcery and witchcraft which have existed in human society. They have
been found in all ages and countries. The torrid zone and the frozen
north have neither of them escaped from a fruitful harvest of this
sort of offspring. In ages of ignorance they have been especially at
home; and the races of men that have left no records behind them to
tell almost that they existed, have been most of all rife in deeds of
darkness, and those marvellous incidents which especially astonish the
spectator, and throw back the infant reason of man into those shades
and that obscurity from which it had so recently endeavoured to

I wind up for the present my literary labours with the production of
this book. Nor let any reader imagine that I here put into his hands a
mere work of idle recreation. It will be found pregnant with deeper
uses. The wildest extravagances of human fancy, the most deplorable
perversion of human faculties, and the most horrible distortions of
jurisprudence, may occasionally afford us a salutary lesson. I love in
the foremost place to contemplate man in all his honours and in all
the exaltation of wisdom and virtue; but it will also be occasionally
of service to us to look into his obliquities, and distinctly to
remark how great and portentous have been his absurdities and his

_May_ 29, 1834.















The improvements that have been effected in natural philosophy have by
degrees convinced the enlightened part of mankind that the material
universe is every where subject to laws, fixed in their weight,
measure and duration, capable of the most exact calculation, and which
in no case admit of variation and exception. Whatever is not thus to
be accounted for is of mind, and springs from the volition of some
being, of which the material form is subjected to our senses, and the
action of which is in like manner regulated by the laws of matter.
Beside this, mind, as well as matter, is subject to fixed laws; and
thus every phenomenon and occurrence around us is rendered a topic for
the speculations of sagacity and foresight. Such is the creed which
science has universally prescribed to the judicious and reflecting
among us.

It was otherwise in the infancy and less mature state of human
knowledge. The chain of causes and consequences was yet unrecognized;
and events perpetually occurred, for which no sagacity that was then
in being was able to assign an original. Hence men felt themselves
habitually disposed to refer many of the appearances with which they
were conversant to the agency of invisible intelligences; sometimes
under the influence of a benignant disposition, sometimes of malice,
and sometimes perhaps from an inclination to make themselves sport of
the wonder and astonishment of ignorant mortals. Omens and portents
told these men of some piece of good or ill fortune speedily to befal
them. The flight of birds was watched by them, as foretokening
somewhat important. Thunder excited in them a feeling of supernatural
terror. Eclipses with fear of change perplexed the nations. The
phenomena of the heavens, regular and irregular, were anxiously
remarked from the same principle. During the hours of darkness men
were apt to see a supernatural being in every bush; and they could not
cross a receptacle for the dead, without expecting to encounter some
one of the departed uneasily wandering among graves, or commissioned
to reveal somewhat momentous and deeply affecting to the survivors.
Fairies danced in the moonlight glade; and something preternatural
perpetually occurred to fill the living with admiration and awe.

All this gradually reduced itself into a system. Mankind, particularly
in the dark and ignorant ages, were divided into the strong and the
weak; the strong and weak of animal frame, when corporeal strength
more decidedly bore sway than in a period of greater cultivation; and
the strong and weak in reference to intellect; those who were bold,
audacious and enterprising in acquiring an ascendancy over their
fellow-men, and those who truckled, submitted, and were acted upon,
from an innate consciousness of inferiority, and a superstitious
looking up to such as were of greater natural or acquired endowments
than themselves. The strong in intellect were eager to avail
themselves of their superiority, by means that escaped the penetration
of the multitude, and had recourse to various artifices to effect
their ends. Beside this, they became the dupes of their own practices.
They set out at first in their conception of things from the level of
the vulgar. They applied themselves diligently to the unravelling of
what was unknown; wonder mingled with their contemplation; they
abstracted their minds from things of ordinary occurrence, and, as we
may denominate it, of real life, till at length they lost their true
balance amidst the astonishment they sought to produce in their
inferiors. They felt a vocation to things extraordinary; and they
willingly gave scope and line without limit to that which engendered
in themselves the most gratifying sensations, at the same time that it
answered the purposes of their ambition.

As these principles in the two parties, the more refined and the
vulgar, are universal, and derive their origin from the nature of man,
it has necessarily happened that this faith in extraordinary events,
and superstitious fear of what is supernatural, has diffused itself
through every climate of the world, in a certain stage of human
intellect, and while refinement had not yet got the better of
barbarism. The Celts of antiquity had their Druids, a branch of whose
special profession was the exercise of magic. The Chaldeans and
Egyptians had their wise men, their magicians and their sorcerers. The
negroes have their foretellers of events, their amulets, and their
reporters and believers of miraculous occurrences. A similar race of
men was found by Columbus and the other discoverers of the New World
in America; and facts of a parallel nature are attested to us in the
islands of the South Seas. And, as phenomena of this sort were
universal in their nature, without distinction of climate, whether
torrid or frozen, and independently of the discordant manners and
customs of different countries, so have they been very slow and recent
in their disappearing. Queen Elizabeth sent to consult Dr. John Dee,
the astrologer, respecting a lucky day for her coronation; King James
the First employed much of his learned leisure upon questions of
witchcraft and demonology, in which he fully believed and sir Matthew
Hale in the year 1664 caused two old women to be hanged upon a charge
of unlawful communion with infernal agents.

The history of mankind therefore will be very imperfect, and our
knowledge of the operations and eccentricities of the mind lamentably
deficient, unless we take into our view what has occurred under this
head. The supernatural appearances with which our ancestors conceived
themselves perpetually surrounded must have had a strong tendency to
cherish and keep alive the powers of the imagination, and to penetrate
those who witnessed or expected such things with an extraordinary
sensitiveness. As the course of events appears to us at present, there
is much, though abstractedly within the compass of human sagacity to
foresee, which yet the actors on the scene do not foresee: but the
blindness and perplexity of short-sighted mortals must have been
wonderfully increased, when ghosts and extraordinary appearances were
conceived liable to cross the steps and confound the projects of men
at every turn, and a malicious wizard or a powerful enchanter might
involve his unfortunate victim in a chain of calamities, which no
prudence could disarm, and no virtue could deliver him from. They were
the slaves of an uncontrolable destiny, and must therefore have been
eminently deficient in the perseverance and moral courage, which may
justly be required of us in a more enlightened age. And the men (but
these were few compared with the great majority of mankind), who
believed themselves gifted with supernatural endowments, must have
felt exempt and privileged from common rules, somewhat in the same way
as the persons whom fiction has delighted to pourtray as endowed with
immeasurable wealth, or with the power of rendering themselves
impassive or invisible. But, whatever were their advantages or
disadvantages, at any rate it is good for us to call up in review
things, which are now passed away, but which once occupied so large a
share of the thoughts and attention of mankind, and in a great degree
tended to modify their characters and dictate their resolutions.

As has already been said, numbers of those who were endowed with the
highest powers of human intellect, such as, if they had lived in these
times, would have aspired to eminence in the exact sciences, to the
loftiest flights of imagination, or to the discovery of means by which
the institutions of men in society might be rendered more beneficial
and faultless, at that time wasted the midnight oil in endeavouring to
trace the occult qualities and virtues of things, to render invisible
spirits subject to their command, and to effect those wonders, of
which they deemed themselves to have a dim conception, but which more
rational views of nature have taught us to regard as beyond our power
to effect. These sublime wanderings of the mind are well entitled to
our labour to trace and investigate. The errors of man are worthy to
be recorded, not only as beacons to warn us from the shelves where our
ancestors have made shipwreck, but even as something honourable to our
nature, to show how high a generous ambition could sour, though in
forbidden paths, and in things too wonderful for us.

Nor only is this subject inexpressibly interesting, as setting before
us how the loftiest and most enterprising minds of ancient days
formerly busied themselves. It is also of the highest importance to an
ingenuous curiosity, inasmuch as it vitally affected the fortunes of
so considerable a portion of the mass of mankind. The legislatures of
remote ages bent all their severity at different periods against what
they deemed the unhallowed arts of the sons and daughters of
reprobation. Multitudes of human creatures have been sacrificed in
different ages and countries, upon the accusation of having exercised
arts of the most immoral and sacrilegious character. They were
supposed to have formed a contract with a mighty and invisible spirit,
the great enemy of man, and to have sold themselves, body and soul, to
everlasting perdition, for the sake of gratifying, for a short term of
years, their malignant passions against those who had been so
unfortunate as to give them cause of offence. If there were any
persons who imagined they had entered into such a contract, however
erroneous was their belief, they must of necessity have been greatly
depraved. And it was but natural that such as believed in this crime,
must have considered it as atrocious beyond all others, and have
regarded those who were supposed guilty of it with inexpressible
abhorrence. There are many instances on record, where the persons
accused of it, either from the depth of their delusion, or, which is
more probable, harassed by persecution, by the hatred of their
fellow-creatures directed against them, or by torture, actually
confessed themselves guilty. These instances are too numerous, not to
constitute an important chapter in the legislation of past ages. And,
now that the illusion has in a manner passed away from the face of the
earth, we are on that account the better qualified to investigate this
error in its causes and consequences, and to look back on the tempest
and hurricane from which we have escaped, with chastened feelings, and
a sounder estimate of its nature, its reign, and its effects.


Man is a creature of boundless ambition.

It is probably our natural wants that first awaken us from that
lethargy and indifference in which man may be supposed to be plunged
previously to the impulse of any motive, or the accession of any
uneasiness. One of our earliest wants may be conceived to be hunger,
or the desire of food.

From this simple beginning the history of man in all its complex
varieties may be regarded as proceeding.

Man in a state of society, more especially where there is an
inequality of condition and rank, is very often the creature of
leisure. He finds in himself, either from internal or external
impulse, a certain activity. He finds himself at one time engaged in
the accomplishment of his obvious and immediate desires, and at
another in a state in which these desires have for the present been
fulfilled, and he has no present occasion to repeat those exertions
which led to their fulfilment. This is the period of contemplation.
This is the state which most eminently distinguishes us from the
brutes. Here it is that the history of man, in its exclusive sense,
may be considered as taking its beginning.

Here it is that he specially recognises in himself the sense of power.
Power in its simplest acceptation, may be exerted in either of two
ways, either in his procuring for himself an ample field for more
refined accommodations, or in the exercise of compulsion and authority
over other living creatures. In the pursuit of either of these, and
especially the first, he is led to the attainment of skill and
superior adroitness in the use of his faculties.

No sooner has man reached to this degree of improvement, than now, if
not indeed earlier, he is induced to remark the extreme limitedness of
his faculties in respect to the future; and he is led, first earnestly
to desire a clearer insight into the future, and next a power of
commanding those external causes upon which the events of the future
depend. The first of these desires is the parent of divination, augury,
chiromancy, astrology, and the consultation of oracles; and the second
has been the prolific source of enchantment, witchcraft, sorcery,
magic, necromancy, and alchemy, in its two branches, the unlimited
prolongation of human life, and the art of converting less precious
metals into gold.


Nothing can suggest to us a more striking and stupendous idea of the
faculties of the human mind, than the consideration of the various
arts by which men have endeavoured to penetrate into the future, and
to command the events of the future, in ways that in sobriety and
truth are entirely out of our competence. We spurn impatiently against
the narrow limits which the constitution of things has fixed to our
aspirings, and endeavour by a multiplicity of ways to accomplish that
which it is totally beyond the power of man to effect.


Divination has been principally employed in inspecting the entrails of
beasts offered for sacrifice, and from their appearance drawing omens
of the good or ill success of the enterprises in which we are about to

What the divination by the cup was which Joseph practised, or
pretended to practise, we do not perhaps exactly understand. We all of
us know somewhat of the predictions, to this day resorted to by
maid-servants and others, from the appearance of the sediment to be
found at the bottom of a tea-cup. Predictions of a similar sort are
formed from the unpremeditated way in which we get out of bed in a
morning, or put on our garments, from the persons or things we shall
encounter when we first leave our chamber or go forth in the air, or
any of the indifferent accidents of life.


Augury has its foundation in observing the flight of birds, the sounds
they utter, their motions whether sluggish or animated, and the
avidity or otherwise with which they appear to take their food. The
college of augurs was one of the most solemn institutions of ancient


Chiromancy, or the art of predicting the various fortunes of the
individual, from an inspection of the minuter variations of the lines
to be found in the palm of the human hand, has been used perhaps at
one time or other in all the nations of the world.


Physiognomy is not so properly a prediction of future events, as an
attempt to explain the present and inherent qualities of a man. By
unfolding his propensities however, it virtually gave the world to
understand the sort of proceedings in which he was most likely to
engage. The story of Socrates and the physiognomist is sufficiently
known. The physiognomist having inspected the countenance of the
philosopher, pronounced that he was given to intemperance, sensuality,
and violent bursts of passion, all of which was so contrary to his
character as universally known, that his disciples derided the
physiognomist as a vain-glorious pretender. Socrates however presently
put them to silence, by declaring that he had had an original
propensity to all the vices imputed to him, and had only conquered the
propensity by dint of a severe and unremitted self-discipline.


Oneirocriticism, or the art of interpreting dreams, seems of all the
modes of prediction the most inseparable from the nature of man. A
considerable portion of every twenty-four hours of our lives is spent
in sleep; and in sleep nothing is at least more usual, than for the
mind to be occupied in a thousand imaginary scenes, which for the time
are as realities, and often excite the passions of the mind of the
sleeper in no ordinary degree. Many of them are wild and rambling; but
many also have a portentous sobriety. Many seem to have a strict
connection with the incidents of our actual lives; and some appear as
if they came for the very purpose to warn us of danger, or prepare us
for coming events. It is therefore no wonder that these occasionally
fill our waking thoughts with a deep interest, and impress upon us an
anxiety of which we feel it difficult to rid ourselves. Accordingly,
in ages when men were more prone to superstition, than at present,
they sometimes constituted a subject of earnest anxiety and
inquisitiveness; and we find among the earliest exercises of the art
of prediction, the interpretation of dreams to have occupied a
principal place, and to have been as it were reduced into a science.


The casting of lots seems scarcely to come within the enumeration here
given. It was intended as an appeal to heaven upon a question involved
in uncertainty, with the idea that the supreme Ruler of the skies,
thus appealed to, would from his omniscience supply the defect of
human knowledge. Two examples, among others sufficiently remarkable,
occur in the Bible. One of Achan, who secreted part of the spoil taken
in Jericho, which was consecrated to the service of God, and who,
being taken by lot, confessed, and was stoned to death. [1] The other
of Jonah, upon whom the lot fell in a mighty tempest, the crew of the
ship enquiring by this means what was the cause of the calamity that
had overtaken them, and Jonah being in consequence cast into the sea.


Astrology was one of the modes most anciently and universally resorted
to for discovering the fortunes of men and nations. Astronomy and
astrology went hand in hand, particularly among the people of the
East. The idea of fate was most especially bound up in this branch of
prophecy. If the fortune of a man was intimately connected with the
position of the heavenly bodies, it became evident that little was
left to the province of his free will. The stars overruled him in all
his determinations; and it was in vain for him to resist them. There
was something flattering to the human imagination in conceiving that
the planets and the orbs on high were concerned in the conduct we
should pursue, and the events that should befal us. Man resigned
himself to his fate with a solemn, yet a lofty feeling, that the
remotest portions of the universe were concerned in the catastrophe
that awaited him. Beside which, there was something peculiarly
seducing in the apparently profound investigation of the professors of
astrology. They busied themselves with the actual position of the
heavenly bodies, their conjunctions and oppositions; and of
consequence there was a great apparatus of diagrams and calculation to
which they were prompted to apply themselves, and which addressed
itself to the eyes and imaginations of those who consulted them.


But that which seems to have had the greatest vogue in times of
antiquity, relative to the prediction of future events, is what is
recorded of oracles. Finding the insatiable curiosity of mankind as to
what was to happen hereafter, and the general desire they felt to be
guided in their conduct by an anticipation of things to come, the
priests pretty generally took advantage of this passion, to increase
their emoluments and offerings, and the more effectually to inspire
the rest of their species with veneration and a willing submission to
their authority. The oracle was delivered in a temple, or some sacred
place; and in this particular we plainly discover that mixture of
nature and art, of genuine enthusiasm and contriving craft, which is
so frequently exemplified in the character of man.


The oracle of Apollo at Delphi is the most remarkable; and respecting
it we are furnished with the greatest body of particulars. The
locality of this oracle is said to have been occasioned by the
following circumstance. A goat-herd fed his flocks on the acclivity of
mount Parnassus. As the animals wandered here and there in pursuit of
food, they happened to approach a deep and long chasm which appeared
in the rock. From this chasm a vapour issued; and the goats had no
sooner inhaled a portion of the vapour, than they began to play and
frisk about with singular agility. The goat-herd, observing this, and
curious to discover the cause, held his head over the chasm; when, in
a short time, the fumes having ascended to his brain, he threw himself
into a variety of strange attitudes, and uttered words, which probably
he did not understand himself, but which were supposed to convey a
prophetic meaning.

This phenomenon was taken advantage of, and a temple to Apollo was
erected on the spot. The credulous many believed that here was
obviously a centre and focus of divine inspiration. On this mountain
Apollo was said to have slain the serpent Python. The apartment of the
oracle was immediately over the chasm from which the vapour issued. A
priestess delivered the responses, who was called Pythia, probably in
commemoration of the exploit which had been performed by Apollo. She
sat upon a tripod, or three-legged stool, perforated with holes, over
the seat of the vapours. After a time, her figure enlarged itself, her
hair stood on end, her complexion and features became altered, her
heart panted and her bosom swelled, and her voice grew more than
human. In this condition she uttered a number of wild and incoherent
phrases, which were supposed to be dictated by the God. The questions
which were offered by those who came to consult the oracle were then
proposed to her, and her answers taken down by the priest, whose
office was to arrange and methodize them, and put them into hexameter
verse, after which they were delivered to the votaries. The priestess
could only be consulted on one day in every month.

Great ingenuity and contrivance were no doubt required to uphold the
credit of the oracle; and no less boldness and self-collectedness on
the part of those by whom the machinery was conducted. Like the
conjurors of modern times, they took care to be extensively informed
as to all such matters respecting which the oracle was likely to be
consulted. They listened probably to the Pythia with a superstitious
reverence for the incoherent sentences she uttered. She, like them,
spent her life in being trained for the office to which she was
devoted. All that was rambling and inapplicable in her wild
declamation they consigned to oblivion. Whatever seemed to bear on the
question proposed they preserved. The persons by whom the responses
were digested into hexameter verse, had of course a commission
attended with great discretionary power. They, as Horace remarks on
another occasion, [2] divided what it was judicious to say, from what
it was prudent to omit, dwelt upon one thing, and slurred over and
accommodated another, just as would best suit the purpose they had in
hand. Beside this, for the most part they clothed the apparent meaning
of the oracle in obscurity, and often devised sentences of ambiguous
interpretation, that might suit with opposite issues, whichever might
happen to fall out. This was perfectly consistent with a high degree
of enthusiasm on the part of the priest. However confident he might be
in some things, he could not but of necessity feel that his
prognostics were surrounded with uncertainty. Whatever decisions of
the oracle were frustrated by the event, and we know that there were
many of this sort, were speedily forgotten; while those which
succeeded, were conveyed from shore to shore, and repeated by every
echo. Nor is it surprising that the transmitters of the sentences of
the God should in time arrive at an extraordinary degree of sagacity
and skill. The oracles accordingly reached to so high a degree of
reputation, that, as Cicero observes, no expedition for a long time
was undertaken, no colony sent out, and often no affair of any
distinguished family or individual entered on, without the previously
obtaining their judgment and sanction. Their authority in a word was
so high, that the first fathers of the Christian church could no
otherwise account for a reputation thus universally received, than by
supposing that the devils were permitted by God Almighty to inform the
oracles with a more than human prescience, that all the world might be
concluded in idolatry and unbelief, [3] and the necessity of a Saviour
be made more apparent. The gullibility of man is one of the most
prominent features of our nature. Various periods and times, when
whole nations have as it were with one consent run into the most
incredible and the grossest absurdities, perpetually offer themselves
in the page of history; and in the records of remote antiquity it
plainly appears that such delusions continued through successive


Next to the consideration of those measures by which men have sought
to dive into the secrets of future time, the question presents itself
of those more daring undertakings, the object of which has been by
some supernatural power to control the future, and place it in
subjection to the will of the unlicensed adventurer. Men have always,
especially in ages of ignorance, and when they most felt their
individual weakness, figured to themselves an invisible strength
greater than their own; and, in proportion to their impatience, and
the fervour of their desires, have sought to enter into a league with
those beings whose mightier force might supply that in which their
weakness failed.


It is an essential feature of different ages and countries to vary
exceedingly in the good or ill construction, the fame or dishonour,
which shall attend upon the same conduct or mode of behaviour. In
Egypt and throughout the East, especially in the early periods of
history, the supposed commerce with invisible powers was openly
professed, which, under other circumstances, and during the reign of
different prejudices, was afterwards carefully concealed, and
barbarously hunted out of the pale of allowed and authorised practice.
The Magi of old, who claimed a power of producing miraculous
appearances, and boasted a familiar intercourse with the world of
spirits, were regarded by  their countrymen with peculiar reverence,
and considered as the first and chiefest men in the state. For this
mitigated view of such dark and mysterious proceedings the ancients
were in a great degree indebted to their polytheism. The Romans are
computed to have acknowledged thirty thousand divinities, to all of
whom was rendered a legitimate homage; and other countries in a
similar proportion.


In Asia, however, the Gods were divided into two parties, under
Oromasdes, the principle of good, and Arimanius, the principle of
evil. These powers were in perpetual contention with each other,
sometimes the one, and sometimes the other gaining the superiority.
Arimanius and his legions were therefore scarcely considered as
entitled to the homage of mankind. Those who were actuated by
benevolence, and who desired to draw down blessings upon their
fellow-creatures, addressed themselves to the principle of good; while
such unhappy beings, with whom spite and ill-will had the
predominance, may be supposed often to have invoked in preference the
principle of evil. Hence seems to have originated the idea of sorcery,
or an appeal by incantations and wicked arts to the demons who
delighted in mischief.

These beings rejoiced in the opportunity of inflicting calamity and
misery on mankind. But by what we read of them we might be induced to
suppose that they were in some way restrained from gratifying their
malignant intentions, and waited in eager hope, till some mortal
reprobate should call out their dormant activity, and demand their

Various enchantments were therefore employed by those unhappy mortals
whose special desire was to bring down calamity and plagues upon the
individuals or tribes of men against whom their animosity was
directed. Unlawful and detested words and mysteries were called into
action to conjure up demons who should yield their powerful and
tremendous assistance. Songs of a wild and maniacal character were
chaunted. Noisome scents and the burning of all unhallowed and odious
things were resorted to. In later times books and formulas of a
terrific character were commonly employed, upon the reading or recital
of which the prodigies resorted to began to display themselves. The
heavens were darkened; the thunder rolled; and fierce and blinding
lightnings flashed from one corner of the heavens to the other. The
earth quaked and rocked from side to side. All monstrous and deformed
things shewed themselves, "Gorgons, and Hydras, and Chimeras dire,"
enough to cause the stoutest heart to quail. Lastly, devils, whose
name was legion, and to whose forms and distorted and menacing
countenances superstition had annexed the most frightful ideas,
crowded in countless multitudes upon the spectator, whose breath was
flame, whose dances were full of terror, and whose strength infinitely
exceeded every thing human. Such were the appalling conceptions which
ages of bigotry and ignorance annexed to the notion of sorcery, and
with these they scared the unhappy beings over whom this notion had
usurped an ascendancy into lunacy, and prepared them for the
perpetrating flagitious and unheard-of deeds.

The result of these horrible incantations was not less tremendous,
than the preparations might have led us to expect. The demons
possessed all the powers of the air, and produced tempests and
shipwrecks at their pleasure. "Castles toppled on their warder's
heads, and palaces and pyramids sloped their summits to their
foundations;" forests and mountains were torn from their roots, and
cast into the sea. They inflamed the passions of men, and caused them
to commit the most unheard-of excesses. They laid their ban on those
who enjoyed the most prosperous health, condemned them to peak and
pine, wasted them into a melancholy atrophy, and finally consigned
them to a premature grave. They breathed a new and unblest life into
beings in whom existence had long been extinct, and by their hateful
and resistless power caused the sepulchres to give up their dead.


Next to sorcery we may recollect the case of witchcraft, which occurs
oftener, particularly in modern times, than any other alleged mode of
changing by supernatural means the future course of events. The
sorcerer, as we shall see hereafter, was frequently a man of learning
and intellectual abilities, sometimes of comparative opulence and
respectable situation in society. But the witch or wizard was almost
uniformly old, decrepid, and nearly or altogether in a state of
penury. The functions however of the witch and the sorcerer were in a
great degree the same. The earliest account of a witch, attended with
any degree of detail, is that of the witch of Endor in the Bible, who
among other things, professed the power of calling up the dead upon
occasion from the peace of the sepulchre. Witches also claimed the
faculty of raising storms, and in various ways disturbing the course
of nature. They appear in most cases to have been brought into action
by the impulse of private malice. They occasioned mortality of greater
or less extent in man and beast. They blighted the opening prospect of
a plentiful harvest. They covered the heavens with clouds, and sent
abroad withering and malignant blasts. They undermined the health of
those who were so unfortunate as to incur their animosity, and caused
them to waste away gradually with incurable disease. They were
notorious two or three centuries ago for the power of the "evil eye."
The vulgar, both great and small, dreaded their displeasure, and
sought, by small gifts, and fair speeches, but insincere, and the
offspring of terror only, to avert the pernicious consequences of
their malice. They were famed for fabricating small images of wax, to
represent the object of their persecution; and, as these by gradual
and often studiously protracted degrees wasted before the fire, so the
unfortunate butts of their resentment perished with a lingering, but
inevitable death.


The power of these witches, as we find in their earliest records,
originated in their intercourse with "familiar spirits," invisible
beings who must be supposed to be enlisted in the armies of the prince
of darkness. We do not read in these ancient memorials of any league
of mutual benefit entered into between the merely human party, and his
or her supernatural assistant. But modern times have amply supplied
this defect. The witch or sorcerer could not secure the assistance of
the demon but by a sure and faithful compact, by which the human party
obtained the industrious and vigilant service of his familiar for a
certain term of years, only on condition that, when the term was
expired, the demon of undoubted right was to obtain possession of the
indentured party, and to convey him irremissibly and for ever to the
regions of the damned. The contract was drawn out in authentic form,
signed by the sorcerer, and attested with his blood, and was then
carried away by the demon, to be produced again at the appointed time.


These familiar spirits often assumed the form of animals, and a black
dog or cat was considered as a figure in which the attendant devil was
secretly hidden. These subordinate devils were called Imps. Impure and
carnal ideas were mingled with these theories. The witches were said
to have preternatural teats from which their familiars sucked their
blood. The devil also engaged in sexual intercourse with the witch or
wizard, being denominated _incubus_, if his favourite were a
woman, and _succubus_, if a man. In short, every frightful and
loathsome idea was carefully heaped up together, to render the
unfortunate beings to whom the crime of witchcraft was imputed the
horror and execration of their species.


As according to the doctrine of witchcraft, there were certain
compounds, and matters prepared by rules of art, that proved baleful
and deadly to the persons against whom their activity was directed, so
there were also preservatives, talismans, amulets and charms, for the
most [Errata: _read_ for the most part] to be worn about the
person, which rendered him superior to injury, not only from the
operations of witchcraft, but in some cases from the sword or any
other mortal weapon. As the poet says, he that had this,

  Might trace huge forests and unhallowed heaths,--
  Yea there, where very desolation dwells,
  By grots and caverns shagged with horrid shades,

nay, in the midst of every tremendous assailant, "might pass on with
unblenched majesty," uninjured and invulnerable.


Last of all we may speak of necromancy, which has something in it that
so strongly takes hold of the imagination, that, though it is one only
of the various modes which have been enumerated for the exorcise of
magical power, we have selected it to give a title to the present

There is something sacred to common apprehension in the repose of the
dead. They seem placed beyond our power to disturb. "There is no work,
nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave."

  After life's fitful fever they sleep well:
  Nor steel, nor poison,
  Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing,
  Can touch them further.

Their remains moulder in the earth. Neither form nor feature is long
continued to them. We shrink from their touch, and their sight. To
violate the sepulchre therefore for the purpose of unholy spells and
operations, as we read of in the annals of witchcraft, cannot fail to
be exceedingly shocking. To call up the spirits of the departed, after
they have fulfilled the task of life, and are consigned to their final
sleep, is sacrilegious. Well may they exclaim, like the ghost of
Samuel in the sacred story, "Why hast thou disquieted me?"

There is a further circumstance in the case, which causes us
additionally to revolt from the very idea of necromancy, strictly so
called. Man is a mortal, or an immortal being. His frame either wholly
"returns to the earth as it was, or his spirit," the thinking
principle within him, "to God who gave it." The latter is the
prevailing sentiment of mankind in modern times. Man is placed upon
earth in a state of probation, to be dealt with hereafter according to
the deeds done in the flesh. "Some shall go away into everlasting
punishment; and others into life eternal." In this case there is
something blasphemous in the idea of intermedding with the state of
the dead. We must leave them in the hands of God. Even on the idea of
an interval, the "sleep of the soul" from death to the general
resurrection, which is the creed of no contemptible sect of
Christians, it is surely a terrific notion that we should disturb the
pause, which upon that hypothesis, the laws of nature have assigned to
the departed soul, and come to awake, or to "torment him before the


To make our catalogue of supernatural doings, and the lawless
imaginations of man, the more complete, it may be further necessary to
refer to the craft, so eagerly cultivated in successive ages of the
world of converting the inferior metals into gold, to which was
usually joined the _elixir vitae_, or universal medicine, having
the quality of renewing the youth of man, and causing him to live for
ever. The first authentic record on this subject is an edict of
Dioclesian about three hundred years after Christ, ordering a diligent
search to be made in Egypt for all the ancient books which treated of
the art of making gold and silver, that they might without distinction
be consigned to the flames. This edict however necessarily presumes a
certain antiquity to the pursuit; and fabulous history has recorded
Solomon, Pythagoras and Hermes among its distinguished votaries. From
this period the study seems to have slept, till it was revived among
the Arabians after a lapse of five or six hundred years.

It is well known however how eagerly it was cultivated in various
countries of the world for many centuries after it was divulged by
Geber. Men of the most wonderful talents devoted their lives to the
investigation; and in multiplied instances the discovery was said to
have been completed. Vast sums of money were consumed in the fruitless
endeavour; and in a later period it seems to have furnished an
excellent handle to vain and specious projectors, to extort money from
those more amply provided with the goods of fortune than themselves.

The art no doubt is in itself sufficiently mystical, having been
pursued by multitudes, who seemed to themselves ever on the eve of
consummation, but as constantly baffled when to their own apprehension
most on the verge of success. The discovery indeed appears upon the
face of it to be of the most delicate nature, as the benefit must
wholly depend upon its being reserved to one or a very few, the object
being unbounded wealth, which is nothing unless confined. If the power
of creating gold is diffused, wealth by such diffusion becomes
poverty, and every thing after a short time would but return to what
it had been. Add to which, that the nature of discovery has ordinarily
been, that, when once the clue has been found, it reveals itself to
several about the same period of time.

The art, as we have said, is in its own nature sufficiently mystical,
depending on nice combinations and proportions of ingredients, and
upon the addition of each ingredient being made exactly in the
critical moment, and in the precise degree of heat, indicated by the
colour of the vapour arising from the crucible or retort. This was
watched by the operator with inexhaustible patience; and it was often
found or supposed, that the minutest error in this respect caused the
most promising appearances to fail of the expected success. This
circumstance no doubt occasionally gave an opportunity to an artful
impostor to account for his miscarriage, and thus to prevail upon his
credulous dupe to enable him to begin his tedious experiment again.

But, beside this, it appears that those whose object was the
transmutation of metals, very frequently joined to this pursuit the
study of astrology, and even the practice of sorcery. So much delicacy
and nicety were supposed to be required in the process for the
transmutation of metals, that it could not hope to succeed but under a
favourable conjunction of the planets; and the most flourishing
pretenders to the art boasted that they had also a familiar
intercourse with certain spirits of supernatural power, which assisted
them in their undertakings, and enabled them to penetrate into things
undiscoverable to mere human sagacity, and to predict future events.


Another mode in which the wild and erratic imagination of our
ancestors manifested itself, was in the creation of a world of
visionary beings of a less terrific character, but which did not fail
to annoy their thoughts, and perplex their determinations, known by
the name of Fairies.

There are few things more worthy of contemplation, and that at the
same time tend to place the dispositions of our ancestors in a more
amiable point of view, than the creation of this airy and fantastic
race. They were so diminutive as almost to elude the organs of human
sight. They were at large, even though confined to the smallest
dimensions. They "could be bounded in a nutshell, and count themselves
kings of infinite space."

  Their midnight revels, by a forest-side
  Or fountain, the belated peasant saw,
  Or dreamed he saw, while overhead the moon
  Sat arbitress, and nearer to the earth
  Wheeled her pale course--they, on their mirth and dance
  Intent, with jocund music charmed his ear;
  At once with joy and fear his heart rebounds.

Small circles marked the grass in solitary places, the trace of their
little feet, which, though narrow, were ample enough to afford every
accommodation to their pastime.

The fairy tribes appear to have been every where distinguished for
their patronage of truth, simplicity and industry, and their
abhorrence of sensuality and prevarication. They left little rewards
in secret, as tokens of their approbation of the virtues they loved,
and by their supernatural power afforded a supplement to pure and
excellent intentions, when the corporeal powers of the virtuous sank
under the pressure of human infirmity. Where they conceived
displeasure, the punishments they inflicted were for the most part
such as served moderately to vex and harass the offending party,
rather than to inflict upon him permanent and irremediable evils.

  Their airy tongues would syllable men's names
  On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.

They were supposed to guide the wandering lights, that in the
obscurity of the night beguiled the weary traveller "through bog,
through bush, through brake, through briar." But their power of evil
only extended, or was only employed, to vex those who by a certain
obliquity of conduct gave occasion for their reproofs. They besides
pinched and otherwise tormented the objects of their displeasure; and,
though the mischiefs they executed were not of the most vital kind,
yet, coming from a supernatural enemy, and being inflicted by
invisible hands, they could not fail greatly to disturb and disorder
those who suffered from them.

There is at first sight a great inconsistency in the representations
of these imaginary people. For the most part they are described to us
as of a stature and appearance, almost too slight to be marked by our
grosser human organs. At other times however, and especially in the
extremely popular tales digested by M. Perrault, they shew themselves
in indiscriminate assemblies, brought together for some solemn
festivity or otherwise, and join the human frequenters of the scene,
without occasioning enquiry or surprise. They are particularly
concerned in the business of summarily and without appeal bestowing
miraculous gifts, sometimes as a mark of special friendship and
favour, and sometimes with a malicious and hostile intention.--But we
are to consider that spirits

  Can every form assume; so soft
  And uncompounded is their essence pure;
  Not tied or manacled with joint or limb,
  Like cumbrous flesh; but, in what shape they choose,
  Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,
  Can execute their airy purposes,
  And works of love or enmity fulfil.

And then again, as their bounties were shadowy, so were they specially
apt to disappear in a moment, the most splendid palaces and
magnificent exhibitions vanishing away, and leaving their disconcerted
dupe with his robes converted into the poorest rags, and, instead of
glittering state, finding himself suddenly in the midst of desolation,
and removed no man knew whither.

One of the mischiefs that were most frequently imputed to them, was
the changing the beautiful child of some doating parents, for a babe
marked with ugliness and deformity. But this idea seems fraught with
inconsistency. The natural stature of the fairy is of the smallest
dimensions; and, though they could occasionally dilate their figure so
as to imitate humanity, yet it is to be presumed that this was only
for a special purpose, and, that purpose obtained, that they shrank
again habitually into their characteristic littleness. The change
therefore can only be supposed to have been of one human child for


Nothing very distinct has been ascertained respecting a sect, calling
itself Rosicrucians. It is said to have originated in the East from
one of the crusaders in the fourteenth century; but it attracted at
least no public notice till the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Its adherents appear to have imbibed their notions from the Arabians,
and claimed the possession of the philosopher's stone, the art of
transmuting metals, and the _elixir vitae_.


But that for which they principally excited public attention, was
their creed respecting certain elementary beings, which to grosser
eyes are invisible, but were familiarly known to the initiated. To be
admitted to their acquaintance it was previously necessary that the
organs of human sight should be purged by the universal medicine, and
that certain glass globes should be chemically prepared with one or
other of the four elements, and for one month exposed to the beams of
the sun. These preliminary steps being taken, the initiated
immediately had a sight of innumerable beings of a luminous substance,
but of thin and evanescent structure, that people the elements on all
sides of us. Those who inhabited the air were called Sylphs; and those
who dwelt in the earth bore the name of Gnomes; such as peopled the
fire were Salamanders; and those who made their home in the waters
were Undines. Each class appears to have had an extensive power in the
elements to which they belonged. They could raise tempests in the air,
and storms at sea, shake the earth, and alarm the inhabitants of the
globe with the sight of devouring flames. These appear however to have
been more formidable in appearance than in reality. And the whole race
was subordinate to man, and particularly subject to the initiated. The
gnomes, inhabitants of the earth and the mines, liberally supplied to
the human beings with whom they conversed, the hidden treasures over
which they presided. The four classes were some of them male, and some
female; but the female sex seems to have preponderated in all.

These elementary beings, we are told, were by their constitution more
long-lived than man, but with this essential disadvantage, that at
death they wholly ceased to exist. In the mean time they were inspired
with an earnest desire for immortality; and there was one way left for
them, by which this desire might be gratified. If they were so happy
as to awaken in any of the initiated a passion the end of which was
marriage, then the sylph who became the bride of a virtuous man,
followed his nature, and became immortal; while on the other hand, if
she united herself to an immoral being and a profligate, the husband
followed the law of the wife, and was rendered entirely mortal. The
initiated however were required, as a condition to their being
admitted into the secrets of the order, to engage themselves in a vow
of perpetual chastity as to women. And they were abundantly rewarded
by the probability of being united to a sylph, a gnome, a salamander,
or an undine, any one of whom was inexpressibly more enchanting than
the most beautiful woman, in addition to which her charms were in a
manner perpetual, while a wife of our own nature is in a short time
destined to wrinkles, and all the other disadvantages of old age. The
initiated of course enjoyed a beatitude infinitely greater than that
which falls to the lot of ordinary mortals, being conscious of a
perpetual commerce with these wonderful beings from whose society the
vulgar are debarred, and having such associates unintermittedly
anxious to perform their behests, and anticipate their desires. [4]

We should have taken but an imperfect survey of the lawless
extravagancies of human imagination, if we had not included a survey
of this sect. There is something particularly soothing to the fancy of
an erratic mind, in the conception of being conversant with a race of
beings the very existence of which is unperceived by ordinary mortals,
and thus entering into an infinitely numerous and variegated society,
even when we are apparently swallowed up in entire solitude.

The Rosicrucians are further entitled to our special notice, as their
tenets have had the good fortune to furnish Pope with the beautiful
machinery with which he has adorned the Rape of the Lock. There is
also, of much later date, a wild and poetical fiction for which we are
indebted to the same source, called Undine, from the pen of Lamotte


The oldest and most authentic record from which we can derive our
ideas on the subject of necromancy and witchcraft, unquestionably is
the Bible. The Egyptians and Chaldeans were early distinguished for
their supposed proficiency in magic, in the production of supernatural
phenomena, and in penetrating into the secrets of future time. The
first appearance of men thus extraordinarily gifted, or advancing
pretensions of this sort, recorded in Scripture, is on occasion of
Pharoah's dream of the seven years of plenty, and seven years of
famine. At that period the king "sent and called for all the magicians
of Egypt and all the wise men; but they could not interpret the
dream," [5] which Joseph afterwards expounded.

Their second appearance was upon a most memorable occasion, when Moses
and Aaron, armed with miraculous powers, came to a subsequent king of
Egypt, to demand from him that their countrymen might be permitted to
depart to another tract of the world. They produced a miracle as the
evidence of their divine mission: and the king, who was also named
Pharoah, "called before him the wise men and the sorcerers of Egypt,
who with their enchantments did in like manner" as Moses had done;
till, after some experiments in which they were apparently successful,
they at length were compelled to allow themselves overcome, and fairly
to confess to their master, "This is the finger of God!" [6]

The spirit of the Jewish history loudly affirms, that the Creator of
heaven and earth had adopted this nation for his chosen people, and
therefore demanded their exclusive homage, and that they should
acknowledge no other God. It is on this principle that it is made one
of his early commands to them, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to
live." [7] And elsewhere the meaning of this prohibition is more fully
explained: "There shall not be found among you any one that useth
divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a
charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a
necromancer: [8] these shall surely be put to death; they shall stone
them with stones." [9]

The character of an enchanter is elsewhere more fully illustrated in
the case of Balaam, the soothsayer, who was sent for by Balak, the
king of Moab, that he might "curse the people of Israel. The
messengers of the king came to Balaam with the rewards of divination
in their hand;" [10] but the soothsayer was restrained from his
purpose by the God of the Jews, and, where he came to curse, was
compelled to bless. He therefore "did not go, as at other times, to
seek for enchantments," [11] but took up his discourse, and began,
saying, "Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is
there any divination against Israel!" [12]

Another example of necromantic power or pretension is to be found in
the story of Saul and the witch of Endor. Saul, the first king of the
Jews, being rejected by God, and obtaining "no answer to his
enquiries, either by dreams, or by prophets, said to his servants,
seek me a woman that has a familiar spirit. And his servants, said,
Lo, there is a woman that has a familiar spirit at Endor." Saul
accordingly had recourse to her. But, previously to this time, in
conformity to the law of God, he "had cut off those that had familiar
spirits, and the wizards out of the land;" and the woman therefore was
terrified at his present application. Saul re-assured her; and in
consequence the woman consented to call up the person he should name.
Saul demanded of her to bring up the ghost of Samuel. The ghost,
whether by her enchantments or through divine interposition we are not
told, appeared, and prophesied to Saul, that he and his son should
fall in battle on the succeeding day, [13] which accordingly came to

Manasseh, a subsequent king in Jerusalem, "observed times, and used
enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards, and so
provoked God to anger." [14]

It appears plainly from the same authority, that there were good
spirits and evil spirits, "The Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab,
that he may go up, and fall before Ramoth Gilead? And there came a
spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him: I
will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.
And the Lord said, Thou shall persuade him." [15]

In like manner, we are told, "Satan stood up against Israel, and
provoked David to number the people; and God was displeased with the
thing, and smote Israel, so that there fell of the people seventy
thousand men." [16]

Satan also, in the Book of Job, presented himself before the Lord
among the Sons of God, and asked and obtained leave to try the
faithfulness of Job by "putting forth his hand," and despoiling the
patriarch of "all that he had."

Taking these things into consideration, there can be no reasonable
doubt, though the devil and Satan are not mentioned in the story, that
the serpent who in so crafty a way beguiled Eve, was in reality no
other than the malevolent enemy of mankind under that disguise.

We are in the same manner informed of the oracles of the false Gods;
and an example occurs of a king of Samaria, who fell sick, and who
"sent messengers, and said to them, Go, and enquire of Baalzebub, the
God of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease." At which
proceeding the God of the Jews was displeased, and sent Elijah to the
messengers to say, "Is it because there is not a God in Israel, that
you go to enquire of Baalzebub, the God of Ekron? Because the king has
done this, he shall not recover; he shall surely die." [17]

The appearance of the Wise Men of the East again occurs in considerable
detail in the Prophecy of Daniel, though they are only brought forward
there, as discoverers of hidden things, and interpreters of dreams.
Twice, on occasion of dreams that troubled him, Nebuchadnezzar, king
of Babylon, "commanded to be called to him the magicians, and the
astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans" of his kingdom, and
each time with similar success. They confessed their incapacity; and
Daniel, the prophet of the Jews, expounded to the king that in which
they had failed. Nebuchadnezzar in consequence promoted Daniel to be
master of the magicians. A similar scene occurred in the court of
Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, in the case of the hand-writing
on the wall.

It is probable that the Jews considered the Gods of the nations around
them as so many of the fallen angels, or spirits of hell, since, among
other arguments, the coincidence of the name of Beelzebub, the prince
of devils, [18] with Baalzebub, the God of Ekron, could scarcely have
fallen out by chance.

It seemed necessary to enter into these particulars, as they occur in
the oldest and most authentic records from which we can derive our
ideas on the subject of necromancy, witchcraft, and the claims that
were set up in ancient times to the exercise of magcial power. Among
these examples there is only one, that of the contention for
superiority between Moses and the Wise Men of Egypt in which we are
presented with their pretensions to a visible exhibition of
supernatural effects.


The Magi, or Wise Men of the East, extended their ramifications over
Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, India, and probably, though with a different
name, over China, and indeed the whole known world. Their profession
was of a mysterious nature. They laid claim to a familiar intercourse
with the Gods. They placed themselves as mediators between heaven and
earth, assumed the prerogative of revealing the will of beings of a
nature superior to man, and pretended to show wonders and prodigies
that surpassed any power which was merely human.

To understand this, we must bear in mind the state of knowledge in
ancient times, where for the most part the cultivation of the mind,
and an acquaintance with either science or art, were confined to a
very small part of the population. In each of the nations we have
mentioned, there was a particular caste or tribe of men, who, by the
prerogative of their birth, were entitled to the advantages of science
and a superior education, while the rest of their countrymen were
destined to subsist by manual labour. This of necessity gave birth in
the privileged few to an overweening sense of their own importance.
They scarcely regarded the rest of their countrymen as beings of the
same species with themselves; and, finding a strong line of distinction
cutting them off from the herd, they had recourse to every practicable
method for making that distinction still stronger. Wonder is one of
the most obvious means of generating deference; and, by keeping to
themselves the grounds and process of their skill, and presenting the
results only, they were sure to excite the admiration and reverence of
their contemporaries. This mode of proceeding further produced a
re-action upon themselves. That which supplied and promised to supply
to them so large a harvest of honour and fame, unavoidably became
precious in their eyes. They pursued their discoveries with avidity,
because few had access to their opportunities in that respect, and
because, the profounder were their researches, the more sure they were
of being looked up to by the public as having that in them which was
sacred and inviolable. They spent their days and nights in these
investigations. They shrank from no privation and labour. At the same
time that in these labours they had at all times an eye to their
darling object, an ascendancy over the minds of their countrymen at
large, and the extorting from them a blind and implicit deference to
their oracular decrees. They however loved their pursuits for the
pursuits themselves. They felt their abstraction and their unlimited
nature, and on that account contemplated them with admiration. They
valued them (for such is the indestructible character of the human
mind) for the pains they had bestowed on them. The sweat of their brow
grew into a part as it were of the intrinsic merit of the articles;
and that which had with so much pains been attained by them, they
could not but regard as of inestimable worth.


The Egyptians took the lead in early antiquity, with respect to
civilisation and the stupendous productions of human labour and art,
of all other known nations of the world. The pyramids stand by
themselves as a monument of the industry of mankind. Thebes, with her
hundred gates, at each of which we are told she could send out at once
two hundred chariots and ten thousand warriors completely accoutred,
was one of the noblest cities on record. The whole country of Lower
Egypt was intersected with canals giving a beneficent direction to the
periodical inundations of the Nile; and the artificial lake Moeris was
dug of a vast extent, that it might draw off the occasional excesses
of the overflowings of the river. The Egyptians had an extraordinary
custom of preserving their dead, so that the country was peopled
almost as numerously with mummies prepared by extreme assiduity and
skill, as with the living.

And, in proportion to their edifices and labours of this durable sort,
was their unwearied application to all the learning that was then
known. Geometry is said to have owed its existence to the necessity
under which they were placed of every man recognising his own property
in land, as soon as the overflowings of the Nile had ceased. They were
not less assiduous in their application to astronomy. The hieroglyphics
of Egypt are of universal notoriety. Their mythology was of the most
complicated nature. Their Gods were infinitely varied in their kind;
and the modes of their worship not less endlessly diversified. All
these particulars still contributed to the abstraction of their
studies, and the loftiness of their pretensions to knowledge. They
perpetually conversed with the invisible world, and laid claim to the
faculty of revealing things hidden, of foretelling future events, and
displaying wonders that exceeded human power to produce.

A striking illustration of the state of Egypt in that respect in early
times, occurs incidentally in the history of Joseph in the Bible. Jacob
had twelve sons, among whom his partiality for Joseph was so notorious,
that his brethren out of envy sold him as a slave to the wandering
Midianites. Thus it was his fortune to be placed in Egypt, where in
the process of events he became the second man in the country, and
chief minister of the king. A severe famine having visited these
climates, Jacob sent his sons into Egypt to buy corn, where only it
was to be found. As soon as Joseph saw them, he knew them, though they
knew not him in his exalted situation; and he set himself to devise
expedients to settle them permanently in the country in which he
ruled. Among the rest he caused a precious cup from his stores to be
privily conveyed into the corn-sack of Benjamin, his only brother by
the same mother. The brothers were no sooner departed, than Joseph
sent in pursuit of them; and the messengers accosted them with the
words, "Is not this the cup in which my lord drinketh, and whereby
also he divineth? Ye have done evil in taking it away." [19] They
brought the strangers again into the presence of Joseph, who addressed
them with severity, saying, "What is this deed that ye have done? Wot
ye not that such a man as I could certainly divine?" [20]

From this story it plainly appears, that the art of divination was
extensively exercised in Egypt, that the practice was held in honour,
and that such was the state of the country, that it was to be presumed
as a thing of course, that a man of the high rank and distinction of
Joseph should professedly be an adept in it.

In the great contention for supernatural power between Moses and the
magicians of Egypt, it is plain that they came forward with confidence,
and did not shrink from the debate. Moses's rod was turned into a
serpent; so were their rods: Moses changed the waters of Egypt into
blood; and the magicians did the like with their enchantments: Moses
caused frogs to come up, and cover the land of Egypt; and the magicians
also brought frogs upon the country. Without its being in any way
necessary to enquire how they effected these wonders, it is evident
from the whole train of the narrative, that they must have been much
in the practice of astonishing their countrymen with their feats in
such a kind, and, whether it were delusion, or to whatever else we may
attribute their success, that they were universally looked up to for
the extraordinariness of their performances.

While we are on this subject of illustrations from the Bible, it may
be worth while to revert more particularly to the story of Balaam.
Balak the king of Moab, sent for Balaam that he might come and curse
the invaders of his country; and in the sequel we are told, when the
prophet changed his curses into a blessing, that he did not "go forth,
as at other times, to seek for enchantments." It is plain therefore
that Balak did not rely singly upon the eloquence and fervour of
Balaam to pour out vituperations upon the people of Israel, but that
it was expected that the prophet should use incantations and certain
mystical rites, upon which the efficacy of his foretelling disaster
to the enemy principally depended.


The Magi of Egypt looked round in every quarter for phenomena that
might produce astonishment among their countrymen, and induce them to
believe that they dwelt in a land which overflowed with the testimonies
and presence of a divine power. Among others the statue of Memnon,
erected over his tomb near Thebes, is recorded by many authors. Memnon
is said to have been the son of Aurora, the Goddess of the morning;
and his statue is related to have had the peculiar faculty of uttering
a melodious sound every morning when touched by the first beams of
day, as if to salute his mother; and every night at sunset to have
imparted another sound, low and mournful, as lamenting the departure
of the day. This prodigy is spoken of by Tacitus, Strabo, Juvenal and
Philostratus. The statue uttered these sounds, while perfect; and,
when it was mutilated by human violence, or by a convulsion of nature,
it still retained the property with which it had been originally
endowed. Modern travellers, for the same phenomenon has still been
observed, have asserted that it does not owe its existence to any
prodigy, but to a property of the granite, of which the statue or its
pedestal is formed, which, being hollow, is found in various parts of
the world to exhibit this quality. It has therefore been suggested,
that the priests, having ascertained its peculiarity, expressly formed
the statue of that material, for the purpose of impressing on it a
supernatural character, and thus being enabled to extend their
influence with a credulous people. [21]


Another of what may be considered as the wonders of Egypt, is the
temple of Jupiter Ammon in the midst of the Great Desert. This temple
was situated at a distance of no less than twelve days' journey from
Memphis, the capital of the Lower Egypt. The principal part of this
space consisted of one immense tract of moving sand, so hot as to be
intolerable to the sole of the foot, while the air was pregnant with
fire, so that it was almost impossible to breathe in it. Not a drop of
water, not a tree, not a blade of grass, was to be found through this
vast surface. It was here that Cambyses, engaged in an impious
expedition to demolish the temple, is said to have lost an army of
fifty thousand men, buried in the sands. When you arrived however,
you were presented with a wood of great circumference, the foliage of
which was so thick that the beams of the sun could not pierce it. The
atmosphere of the place was of a delicious temperature; the scene was
every where interspersed with fountains; and all the fruits of the
earth were found in the highest perfection. In the midst was the
temple and oracle of the God, who was worshipped in the likeness of a
ram. The Egyptian priests chose this site as furnishing a test of the
zeal of their votaries; the journey being like the pilgrimage to
Jerusalem or Mecca, if not from so great a distance, yet attended in
many respects with perils more formidable. It was not safe to attempt
the passage but with moderate numbers, and those expressly equipped
for expedition.

Bacchus is said to have visited this spot in his great expedition to
the East, when Jupiter appeared to him in the form of a ram, having
struck his foot upon the soil, and for the first time occasioned that
supply of water, with which the place was ever after plentifully
supplied. Alexander the Great in a subsequent age undertook the same
journey with his army, that he might cause himself to be acknowledged
for the son of the God, under which character he was in all due form
recognised. The priests no doubt had heard of the successful battles
of the Granicus and of Issus, of the capture of Tyre after a seven
months' siege, and of the march of the great conqueror in Egypt, where
he carried every thing before him.

Here we are presented with a striking specimen of the mode and spirit
in which the oracles of old were accustomed to be conducted. It may be
said that the priests were corrupted by the rich presents which
Alexander bestowed on them with a liberal hand. But this was not the
prime impulse in the business. They were astonished at the daring with
which Alexander with a comparative handful of men set out from Greece,
having meditated the overthrow of the great Persian empire. They were
astonished with his perpetual success, and his victorious progress
from the Hellespont to mount Taurus, from mount Taurus to Pelusium,
and from Pelusium quite across the ancient kingdom of Egypt to the
Palus Mareotis. Accustomed to the practice of adulation, and to the
belief that mortal power and true intellectual greatness were the
same, they with a genuine enthusiastic fervour regarded Alexander as
the son of their God, and acknowledged him as such.--Nothing can be
more memorable than the way in which belief and unbelief hold a
divided empire over the human mind, our passions hurrying us into
belief, at the same time that our intervals of sobriety suggest to
us that it is all pure imposition.


The history of the Babylonish monarchy not having been handed down to
us, except incidentally as it is touched upon by the historians of
other countries, we know little of those anecdotes respecting it which
are best calculated to illustrate the habits and manners of a people.
We know that they in probability preceded all other nations in the
accuracy of their observations on the phenomena of the heavenly
bodies. We know that the Magi were highly respected among them as an
order in the state; and that, when questions occurred exciting great
alarm in the rulers, "the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers,
and the Chaldeans," were called together, to see whether by their arts
they could throw light upon questions so mysterious and perplexing,
and we find sufficient reason, both from analogy, and from the very
circumstance that sorcerers are specifically named among the classes
of which their Wise Men consisted, to believe that the Babylonian Magi
advanced no dubious pretensions to the exercise of magical power.


Among the Chaldeans the most famous name is that of Zoroaster, who is
held to have been the author of their religion, their civil policy,
their sciences, and their magic. He taught the doctrine of two great
principles, the one the author of good, the other of evil. He
prohibited the use of images in the ceremonies of religion, and
pronounced that nothing deserved homage but fire, and the sun, the
centre and the source of fire, and these perhaps to be venerated not
for themselves, but as emblematical of the principle of all good
things. He taught astronomy and astrology. We may with sufficient
probability infer his doctrines from those of the Magi, who were his
followers. He practised enchantments, by means of which he would send
a panic among the forces that were brought to make war against him,
rendering the conflict by force of arms unnecessary. He prescribed the
use of certain herbs as all-powerful for the production of supernatural
effects. He pretended to the faculty of working miracles, and of
superseding and altering the ordinary course of nature.--There was,
beside the Chaldean Zoroaster, a Persian known by the same name, who
is said to have been a contemporary of Darius Hystaspes.


Thus obscure and general is our information respecting the
Babylonians. But it was far otherwise with the Greeks. Long before
the period, when, by their successful resistance to the Persian
invasion, they had rendered themselves of paramount importance in the
history of the civilised world, they had their poets and annalists,
who preserved to future time the memory of their tastes, their manners
and superstitions, their strength, and their weakness. Homer in
particular had already composed his two great poems, rendering the
peculiarities of his countrymen familiar to the latest posterity. The
consequence of this is, that the wonderful things of early Greece are
even more frequent than the record of its sober facts. As men advance
in observation and experience, they are compelled more and more to
perceive that all the phenomena of nature are one vast chain of
uninterrupted causes and consequences: but to the eye of uninstructed
ignorance every thing is astonishing, every thing is unexpected. The
remote generations of mankind are in all cases full of prodigies: but
it is the fortune of Greece to have preserved its early adventures, so
as to render the beginning pages of its history one mass of impossible


The Gods of the Greeks appear all of them once to have been men. Their
real or supposed adventures therefore make a part of what is recorded
respecting them. Jupiter was born in Crete, and being secreted by his
mother in a cave, was suckled by a goat. Being come to man's estate,
he warred with the giants, one of whom had an hundred hands, and two
others brethren, grew nine inches every month, and, when nine years
old, were fully qualified to engage in all exploits of corporeal
strength. The war was finished, by the giants being overwhelmed with
the thunderbolts of heaven, and buried under mountains.

Minerva was born from the head of her father, without a mother; and
Bacchus, coming into the world after the death of his female parent,
was inclosed in the thigh of Jupiter, and was thus produced at the
proper time in full vigour and strength. Minerva had a shield, in
which was preserved the real head of Medusa, that had the property of
turning every one that looked on it into stone. Bacchus, when a child,
was seized on by pirates with the intention to sell him for a slave:
but he waved a spear, and the oars of the sailors were turned into
vines, which climbed the masts, and spread their clusters over the
sails; and tigers, lynxes and panthers, appeared to swim round the
ship, so terrifying the crew that they leaped overboard, and were
changed into dolphins. Bacchus, in his maturity, is described as
having been the conqueror of India. He did not set out on this
expedition like other conquerors, at the head of an army. He rode in
an open chariot, which was drawn by tame lions. His attendants were
men and women in great multitudes, eminently accomplished in the arts
of rural industry. Wherever he came, he taught men the science of
husbandry, and the cultivation of the vine. Wherever he came, he was
received, not with hostility, but with festivity and welcome. On his
return however, Lycurgus, king of Thrace, and Pentheus, king of
Thebes, set themselves in opposition to the improvements which the
East had received with the most lively gratitude; and Bacchus, to
punish them, caused Lycurgus to be torn to pieces by wild horses, and
spread a delusion among the family of Pentheus, so that they mistook
him for a wild boar which had broken into their vineyards, and of
consequence fell upon him, and he expired amidst a thousand wounds.

Apollo was the author of plagues and contagious diseases; at the same
time that, when he pleased, he could restore salubrity to a climate,
and health and vigour to the sons of men. He was the father of poetry,
and possessed in an eminent degree the gift of foretelling future
events. Hecate, which was one of the names of Diana, was distinguished
as the Goddess of magic and enchantments. Venus was the Goddess of
love, the most  irresistible and omnipotent impulse of which the heart
of man is susceptible. The wand of Mercury was endowed with such
virtues, that whoever it touched, if asleep, would start up into life
and alacrity, and, if awake, would immediately fall into a profound
sleep. When it touched the dying, their souls gently parted from their
mortal frame; and, when it was applied to the dead, the dead returned
to life. Neptune had the attribute of raising and appeasing tempests:
and Vulcan, the artificer of heaven and earth, not only produced the
most exquisite specimens of skill, but also constructed furniture that
was endowed with a self-moving principle, and would present itself for
use or recede at the will of its proprietor. Pluto, in perpetrating
the rape of Proserpine, started up in his chariot through a cleft of
the earth in the vale of Enna in Sicily, and, having seized his prize,
disappeared again by the way that he came.

Ceres, the mother of Proserpine, in her search after her lost daughter,
was received with peculiar hospitality by Celeus, king of Eleusis. She
became desirous of remunerating his liberality by some special favour.
She saw his only child laid in a cradle, and labouring under a fatal
distemper. She took him under her protection. She fed him with milk
from her own breast, and at night covered him with coals of fire.
Under this treatment he not only recovered his strength, but shot up
miraculously into manhood, so that what in other men is the effect of
years, was accomplished in Triptolemus in as many hours. She gave him
for a gift the art of agriculture, so that he is said to have been the
first to teach mankind to sow and to reap corn, and to make bread of
the produce.

Prometheus, one of the race of the giants, was peculiarly distinguished
for his proficiency in the arts. Among other extraordinary productions
he formed a man of clay, of such exquisite workmanship, as to have
wanted nothing but a living soul to cause him to be acknowledged as
the paragon of the world. Minerva beheld the performance of Prometheus
with approbation, and offered him her assistance. She conducted him to
heaven, where he watched his opportunity to carry off on the tip of
his wand a portion of celestial fire from the chariot of the sun. With
this he animated his image; and the man of Prometheus moved, and
thought, and spoke, and became every thing that the fondest wishes of
his creator could ask. Jupiter ordered Vulcan to make a woman, that
should surpass this man. All the Gods gave her each one a several
gift: Venus gave her the power to charm; the Graces bestowed on her
symmetry of limb, and elegance of motion; Apollo the accomplishments
of vocal and instrumental music; Mercury the art of persuasive speech;
Juno a multitude of rich and gorgeous ornaments; and Minerva the
management of the loom and the needle. Last of all, Jupiter presented
her with a sealed box, of which the lid was no sooner unclosed, than a
multitude of calamities and evils of all imaginable sorts flew out,
only Hope remaining at the bottom.

Deucalion was the son of Prometheus and Pyrrha, his niece. They
married. In their time a flood occurred, which as they imagined
destroyed the whole human race; they were the only survivors. By the
direction of an oracle they cast stones over their shoulders; when, by
the divine interposition, the stones cast by Deucalion became men, and
those cast by Pyrrha women. Thus the earth was re-peopled.

I have put down a few of these particulars, as containing in several
instances the qualities of what is called magic, and thus furnishing
examples of some of the earliest occasions upon which supernatural
powers have been alleged to mix with human affairs.


The early history of mortals in Greece is scarcely separated from that
of the Gods. The first adventurer that it is perhaps proper to notice,
as his exploits have I know not what of magic in them, is Perseus, the
founder of the metropolis and kingdom of Mycenae. By way of rendering
his birth illustrious, he is said to have been the son of Jupiter, by
Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos. The king, being
forewarned by an oracle that his daughter should bear a son, by whose
hand her father should be deprived of life, thought proper to shut her
up in a tower of brass. Jupiter, having metamorphosed himself into a
shower of gold, found his way into her place of confinement, and
became the father of Perseus. On the discovery of this circumstance,
Acrisius caused both mother and child to be inclosed in a chest, and
committed to the waves. The chest however drifted upon the lands of a
person of royal descent in the island of Seriphos, who extended his
care and hospitality to both. When Perseus grew to man's estate, he
was commissioned by the king of Seriphos to bring him the head of
Medusa, one of the Gorgons. Medusa had the wonderful faculty, that
whoever met her eyes was immediately turned into stone; and the king,
who had conceived a passion for Danae, sent her son on this enterprise,
with the hope that he would never come back alive. He was however
favoured by the Gods; Mercury gave him wings to fly, Pluto an invisible
helmet, and Minerva a mirror-shield, by looking in which he could
discover how his enemy was disposed, without the danger of meeting her
eyes. Thus equipped, he accomplished his undertaking, cut off the head
of the Gorgon, and pursed it in a bag. From this exploit he proceeded
to visit Atlas, king of Mauritania, who refused him hospitality, and
in revenge Perseus turned him into stone. He next rescued Andromeda,
daughter of the king of Ethiopia, from a monster sent by Neptune to
devour her. And, lastly, returning to his mother, and finding the king
of Seriphos still incredulous and obstinate, he turned him likewise
into a stone.

The labours of Hercules, the most celebrated of the Greeks of the
heroic age, appear to have had little of magic in them, but to have
been indebted for their success to a corporal strength, superior to
that of all other mortals, united with an invincible energy of mind,
which disdained to yield to any obstacle that could be opposed to him.
His achievements are characteristic of the rude and barbarous age in
which he lived: he strangled serpents, and killed the Erymanthian
boar, the Nemaean lion, and the Hydra.


Nearly contemporary with the labours of Hercules is the history of
Pasiphae and the Minotaur; and this brings us again within the sphere
of magic. Pasiphae was the wife of Minos, king of Crete, who conceived
an unnatural passion for a beautiful white bull, which Neptune had
presented to the king. Having found the means of gratifying her
passion, she became the mother of a monster, half-man and half-bull,
called the Minotaur. Minos was desirous of hiding this monster from
the observation of mankind, and for this purpose applied to Daedalus,
an Athenian, the most skilful artist of his time, who is said to have
invented the axe, the wedge, and the plummet, and to have found out
the use of glue. He first contrived masts and sails for ships, and
carved statues so admirably, that they not only looked as if they were
alive, but had actually the power of self-motion, and would have
escaped from the custody of their possessor, if they had not been
chained to the wall.

Daedalus contrived for Minos a labyrinth, a wonderful structure, that
covered many acres of ground. The passages in this edifice met and
crossed each other with such intricacy, that a stranger who had once
entered the building, would have been starved to death before he could
find his way out. In this labyrinth Minos shut up the Minotaur. Having
conceived a deep resentment against the people of Athens, where his
only son had been killed in a riot, he imposed upon them an annual
tribute of seven noble youths, and as many virgins to be devoured by
the Minotaur. Theseus, son of the king of Athens, put an end to this
disgrace. He was taught by Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, how to
destroy the monster, and furnished with a clue by which afterwards to
find his way out of the labyrinth.

Daedalus for some reason having incurred the displeasure of Minos, was
made a prisoner by him in his own labyrinth. But the artist being
never at an end of his inventions, contrived with feathers and wax to
make a pair of wings for himself, and escaped. Icarus, his son, who
was prisoner along with him, was provided by his father with a similar
equipment. But the son, who was inexperienced and heedless, approached
too near to the sun in his flight; and, the wax of his wings being
melted with the heat, he fell into the sea and was drowned.


Contemporary with the reign of Minos occurred the expedition of the
Argonauts. Jason, the son of the king of Iolchos in Thessaly, was at
the head of this expedition. Its object was to fetch the golden
fleece, which was hung up in a grove sacred to Mars, in the kingdom
of Colchis, at the eastern extremity of the Euxine sea. He enlisted in
this enterprise all the most gallant spirits existing in the country,
and among the rest Hercules, Theseus, Orpheus and Amphion. After having
passed through a multitude of perils, one of which was occasioned by
the Cyanean rocks at the entrance of the Euxine, that had the quality
of closing upon every vessel which attempted to make its way between
them and crushing it to pieces, a danger that could only be avoided by
sending a dove before as their harbinger, they at length arrived.


The golden fleece was defended by bulls, whose hoofs were brass, and
whose breath was fire, and by a never-sleeping dragon that planted
itself at the foot of the tree upon which the fleece was suspended.
Jason was prepared for his undertaking by Medea, the daughter of the
king of the country, herself an accomplished magician, and furnished
with philtres, drugs and enchantments. Thus equipped, he tamed the
bulls, put a yoke on their necks, and caused them to plough two acres
of the stiffest land. He killed the dragon, and, to complete the
adventure, drew the monster's teeth, sowed them in the ground, and saw
an army of soldiers spring from the seed. The army hastened forward to
attack him; but he threw a large stone into the midst of their ranks,
when they immediately turned from him, and, falling on each other,
were all killed with their mutual weapons.

The adventure being accomplished, Medea set out with Jason on his
return to Thessaly. On their arrival, they found Aeson, the father of
Jason, and Pelias, his uncle, who had usurped the throne, both old and
decrepid. Jason applied to Medea, and asked her whether among her
charms she had none to make an old man young again. She replied she
had: she drew the impoverished and watery blood from the body of Aeson;
she infused the juice of certain potent herbs into his veins; and he
rose from the operation as fresh and vigorous a man as his son.

The daughters of Pelias professed a perfect willingness to abdicate
the throne of Iolchos; but, before they retired, they requested Medea
to do the same kindness for their father which she had already done
for Aeson. She said she would. She told them the method was to cut the
old man in pieces, and boil him in a kettle with an infusion of
certain herbs, and he would come out as smooth and active as a child.

The daughters of Pelias a little scrupled the operation. Medea, seeing
this, begged they would not think she was deceiving them. If however
they doubted, she desired they would bring her the oldest ram from
their flocks, and they should see the experiment. Medea cut up the
ram, cast in certain herbs, and the old bell-wether came out as
beautiful and innocent a he-lamb as was ever beheld. The daughters of
Pelias were satisfied. They divided their father in pieces; but he was
never restored either to health or life.

From Iolchos, upon some insurrection of the people, Medea and Jason
fled to Corinth. Here they lived ten years in much harmony. At the end
of that time Jason grew tired of his wife, and fell in love with
Glauce, daughter of the king of Corinth. Medea was greatly exasperated
with his infidelity, and, among other enormities, slew with her own
hand the two children she had borne him before his face, Jason
hastened to punish her barbarity; but Medea mounted a chariot drawn by
fiery dragons, fled through the air to Athens, and escaped.

At Athens she married Aegeus, king of that city. Aegeus by a former wife
had a son, named Theseus, who for some reason had been brought up
obscure, unknown and in exile. At a suitable time he returned home to
his father with the intention to avow his parentage. But Medea was
beforehand with him. She put a poisoned goblet into the hands of Aegeus
at an entertainment he gave to Theseus, with the intent that he should
deliver it to his son. At the critical moment Aegeus cast his eyes on
the sword of Theseus, which he recognised as that which he had
delivered with his son, when a child, and had directed that it should
be brought by him, when a man, as a token of the mystery of his birth.
The goblet was cast away; the father and son rushed into each other's
arms; and Medea fled from Athens in her chariot drawn by dragons
through the air, as she had years before fled from Corinth.


Circe was the sister of Aeetes and Pasiphae, and was, like Medea, her
niece, skilful in sorcery. She had besides the gift of immortality.
She was exquisitely beautiful; but she employed the charms of her
person, and the seducing grace of her manners to a bad purpose. She
presented to every stranger who landed in her territory an enchanted
cup, of which she intreated him to drink. He no sooner tasted it, than
he was turned into a hog, and was driven by the magician to her sty.
The unfortunate stranger retained under this loathsome appearance the
consciousness of what he had been, and mourned for ever the criminal
compliance by which  he was brought to so melancholy a pass.


Cicero [22] quotes Aristotle as affirming that there was no such man
as Orpheus. But Aristotle is at least single in that opinion. And
there are too many circumstances known respecting Orpheus, and which
have obtained the consenting voice of all antiquity, to allow us to
call in question his existence. He was a native of Thrace, and from
that country migrated into Greece. He travelled into Egypt for the
purpose of collecting there the information necessary to the
accomplishment of his ends. He died a violent death; and, as is almost
universally affirmed, fell a sacrifice to the resentment and fury of
the women of his native soil. [23]

Orpheus was doubtless a poet; though it is not probable that any of
his genuine productions have been handed down to us. He was, as all
the poets of so remote a period were, extremely accomplished in all
the arts of vocal and instrumental music. He civilised the rude
inhabitants of Greece, and subjected them to order and law. He formed
them into communities. He is said by Aristophanes [24] and Horace [25]
to have reclaimed the savage man, from slaughter, and an indulgence in
food that was loathsome and foul. And this has with sufficient
probability been interpreted to mean, that he found the race of men
among whom he lived cannibals, and that, to cure them the more
completely of this horrible practice, he taught them to be contented
to subsist upon the fruits of the earth. [26] Music and poetry are
understood to have been made specially instrumental by him to the
effecting this purpose. He is said to have made the hungry lion and
the famished tiger obedient to his bidding, and to put off their wild
and furious natures.

This is interpreted by Horace [27] and other recent expositors to mean
no more than that he reduced the race of savages as he found them, to
order and civilisation. But it was at first perhaps understood more
literally. We shall not do justice to the traditions of these remote
times, if we do not in imagination transport ourselves among them, and
teach ourselves to feel their feelings, and conceive their conceptions.
Orpheus lived in a time when all was enchantment and prodigy. Gifted
and extraordinary persons in those ages believed that they were endowed
with marvellous prerogatives, and acted upon that belief. We may
occasionally observe, even in these days of the dull and the literal,
how great is the ascendancy of the man over the beast, when he feels a
full and entire confidence in that ascendancy. The eye and the gesture
of man cannot fail to produce effects, incredible till they are seen.
Magic was the order of the day; and the enthusiasm of its heroes was
raised to the highest pitch, and attended with no secret misgivings.
We are also to consider that, in all operations of a magical nature,
there is a wonderful mixture of frankness and _bonhommie_ with a
strong vein of cunning and craft. Man in every age is full of
incongruous and incompatible principles; and, when we shall cease to
be inconsistent, we shall cease to be men.

It is difficult fully to explain what is meant by the story of Orpheus
and Eurydice; but in its circumstances it bears a striking resemblance
to what has been a thousand times recorded respecting the calling up
of the ghosts of the dead by means of sorcery. The disconsolate
husband has in the first place recourse to the resistless aid of
music. [28] After many preparatives he appears to have effected his
purpose, and prevailed upon the powers of darkness to allow him the
presence of his beloved. She appears in the sequel however to have
been a thin and a fleeting shadow. He is forbidden to cast his eyes on
her; and, if he had obeyed this injunction, it is uncertain how the
experiment would have ended. He proceeds however, as he is commanded,
towards the light of day. He is led to believe that his consort is
following his steps. He is beset with a multitude of unearthly
phenomena. He advances for some time with confidence. At length he is
assailed with doubts. He has recourse to the auricular sense, to know
if she is following him. He can hear nothing. Finally he can endure
this uncertainty no longer; and, in defiance of the prohibition he has
received, cannot refrain from turning his head to ascertain whether he
is baffled, and has spent all his labour in vain. He sees her; but no
sooner he sees her, than she becomes evanescent and impalpable;
farther and farther she retreats before him; she utters a shrill cry,
and endeavours to articulate; but she grows more and more
imperceptible; and in the conclusion he is left with the scene around
him in all respects the same as it had been before his incantations.
The result of the whole that is known of Orpheus, is, that he was an
eminently great and virtuous man, but was the victim of singular

We have not yet done with the history of Orpheus. As has been said, he
fell a sacrifice to the resentment and fury of the women of his native
soil. They are affirmed to have torn him limb from limb. His head,
divided from his body, floated down the waters of the Hebrus, and
miraculously, as it passed along to the sea, it was still heard to
exclaim in mournful accents, Eurydice, Eurydice! [29] At length it was
carried ashore on the island of Lesbos. [30] Here, by some
extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, it found a resting-place
in a fissure of a rock over-arched by a cave, and, thus domiciliated,
is said to have retained the power of speech, and to have uttered
oracles. Not only the people of Lesbos resorted to it for guidance in
difficult questions, but also the Asiatic Greeks from Ionia and Aetolia;
and its fame and character for predicting future events even extended
to Babylon. [31]


The story of Amphion is more perplexing than that of the living
Orpheus. Both of them turn in a great degree upon the miraculous
effects of music. Amphion was of the royal family of Thebes, and
ultimately became ruler of the territory. He is said, by the potency
of his lyre, or his skill in the magic art, to have caused the stones
to follow him, to arrange themselves in the way he proposed, and
without the intervention of a human hand to have raised a wall about
his metropolis. [32] It is certainly less difficult to conceive the
savage man to be rendered placable, and to conform to the dictates of
civilisation, or even wild beasts to be made tame, than to imagine
stones to obey the voice and the will of a human being. The example
however is not singular; and hereafter we shall find related that
Merlin, the British enchanter, by the power of magic caused the rocks
of Stonehenge, though of such vast dimensions, to be carried through
the air from Ireland to the place where we at present find them.--Homer
mentions that Amphion, and his brother Zethus built the walls of
Thebes, but does not describe it as having been done by miracle. [33]


Tiresias was one of the most celebrated soothsayers of the early ages
of Greece. He lived in the times of Oedipus, and the war of the seven
chiefs against Thebes. He was afflicted by the Gods with blindness, in
consequence of some displeasure they conceived against him; but in
compensation they endowed him beyond all other mortals with the gift
of prophecy. He is said to have understood the language of birds. He
possessed the art of divining future events from the various
indications that manifest themselves in fire, in smoke, and in other
ways, [34] but to have set the highest value upon the communications
of the dead, whom by spells and incantations he constrained to appear
and answer his enquiries; [35] and he is represented as pouring out
tremendous menaces against them, when they shewed themselves tardy to
attend upon his commands. [36]


Abaris, the Scythian, known to us for his visit to Greece, was by all
accounts a great magician. Herodotus says [37] that he is reported to
have travelled over the world with an arrow, eating nothing during his
journey. Other authors relate that this arrow was given to him by
Apollo, and that he rode upon it through the air, over lands, and
seas, and all inaccessible places. [38] The time in which he flourished
is very uncertain, some having represented him as having constructed
the Palladium, which, as long as it was preserved, kept Troy from
being taken by an enemy, [39] and others affirming that he was
familiar with Pythagoras, who lived six hundred years later, and that
he was admitted into his special confidence. [40] He is said to have
possessed the faculty of foretelling earthquakes, allaying storms, and
driving away pestilence; he gave out predictions wherever he went; and
is described as an enchanter, professing to cure diseases by virtue of
certain words which he pronounced over those who were afflicted with
them. [41]


The name of Pythagoras is one of the most memorable in the records of
the human species; and his character is well worthy of the minutest
investigation. By this name we are brought at once within the limits
of history properly so called. He lived in the time of Cyrus and
Darius Hystaspes, of Croesus, of Pisistratus, of Polycrates, tyrant of
Samos, and Amasis, king of Egypt. Many hypotheses have been laid down
respecting the precise period of his birth and death; but, as it is
not to our purpose to enter into any lengthened discussions of that
sort, we will adopt at once the statement that appears to be the most
probable, which is that of Lloyd, [42] who fixes his birth about the
year before Christ 586, and his death about the year 506.

Pythagoras was a man of the most various accomplishments, and appears
to have penetrated in different directions into the depths of human
knowledge. He sought wisdom in its retreats of fairest promise, in
Egypt and other distant countries. [43] In this investigation he
employed the earlier period of his life, probably till he was forty,
and devoted the remainder to such modes of proceeding, as appeared to
him the most likely to secure the advantage of what he had acquired to
a late posterity. [44]

He founded a school, and delivered his acquisitions by oral
communication to a numerous body of followers. He divided his pupils
into two classes, the one neophytes, to whom was explained only the
most obvious and general truths, the other who were admitted into the
entire confidence of the master. These last he caused to throw their
property into a common stock, and to live together in the same place
of resort. [45] He appears to have spent the latter half of his life
in that part of Italy, called Magna Graecia, so denominated in some
degree from the numerous colonies of Grecians by whom it was planted,
and partly perhaps from the memory of the illustrious things which
Pythagoras achieved there. [46] He is said to have spread the seeds of
political liberty in Crotona, Sybaris, Metapontum, and Rhegium, and
from thence in Sicily to Tauromenium, Catana, Agrigentum and Himera.
[47] Charondas and Zaleucus, themselves famous legislators, derived
the rudiments of their political wisdom from the instructions of
Pythagoras. [48]

But this marvellous man in some way, whether from the knowlege he
received, or from his own proper discoveries, has secured to his
species benefits of a more permanent nature, and which shall outlive
the revolutions of ages, and the instability of political institutions.
He was a profound geometrician. The two theorems, that the internal
angles of every right-line triangle are equal to two right angles, [49]
and that the square of the hypothenuse of every right angled triangle
is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, [50] are
ascribed to him. In memory of the latter of these discoveries he is
said to have offered a public sacrifice to the Gods; and the theorem
is still known by the name of the Pythagorean theorem. He ascertained
from the length of the Olympic course, which was understood to have
measured six hundred of Hercules's feet, the precise stature of that
hero. [51] Lastly, Pythagoras is the first person, who is known to
have taught the spherical figure of the earth, and that we have
antipodes; [52] and he propagated the doctrine that the earth is a
planet, and that the sun is the centre round which the earth and the
other planets move, now known by the name of the Copernican
system. [53]

To inculcate a pure and a simple mode of subsistence was also an
express object of pursuit to Pythagoras. He taught a total abstinence
from every thing having had the property of animal life. It has been
affirmed, as we have seen, [54] that Orpheus before him taught the
same thing. But the claim of Orpheus to this distinction is ambiguous;
while the theories and dogmas of the Samian sage, as he has frequently
been styled, were more methodically digested, and produced more
lasting and unequivocal effects. He taught temperance in all its
branches, and a resolute subjection of the appetites of the body to
contemplation and the exercises of the mind; and, by the unremitted
discipline and authority he exerted over his followers, he caused his
lessons to be constantly observed. There was therefore an edifying and
an exemplary simplicity that prevailed as far as the influence of
Pythagoras extended, that won golden opinions to his adherents at all
times that they appeared, and in all places. [55]

One revolution that Pythagoras worked, was that, whereas, immediately
before, those who were most conspicuous among the Greeks as instructors
of mankind in understanding and virtue, styled themselves sophists,
professors of wisdom, this illustrious man desired to be known only by
the appellation of a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. [56] The sophists
had previously brought their denomination into discredit and reproach,
by the arrogance of their pretensions, and the imperious way in which
they attempted to lay down the law to the world.

The modesty of this appellation however did not altogether suit with
the deep designs of Pythagoras, the ascendancy he resolved to acquire,
and the oracular subjection in which he deemed it necessary to hold
those who placed themselves under his instruction. This wonderful man
set out with making himself a model of the passive and unscrupulous
docility which he afterwards required from others. He did not begin to
teach till he was forty years of age, and from eighteen to that period
he studied in foreign countries, with the resolution to submit to all
his teachers enjoined, and to make himself master of their least
communicated and most secret wisdom. In Egypt in particular, we are
told that, though he brought a letter of recommendation from
Polycrates, his native sovereign, to Amasis, king of that country, who
fully concurred with the views of the writer, the priests, jealous of
admitting a foreigner into their secrets, baffled him as long as they
could, referring him from one college to another, and prescribing to
him the most rigorous preparatives, not excluding the rite of
circumcision. [57] But Pythagoras endured and underwent every thing,
till at length their unwillingness was conquered, and his perseverance
received its suitable reward.

When in the end Pythagoras thought himself fully qualified for the
task he had all along had in view, he was no less strict in prescribing
ample preliminaries to his own scholars. At the time that a pupil was
proposed to him, the master, we are told, examined him with multiplied
questions as to his principles, his habits and intentions, observed
minutely his voice and manner of speaking, his walk and his gestures,
the lines of his countenance, and the expression and management of his
eye, and, when he was satisfied with these, then and not till then
admitted him as a probationer. [58] It is to be supposed that all this
must have been personal. As soon however as this was over, the master
was withdrawn from the sight of the pupil; and a noviciate of three
and five, in all eight years, [59] was prescribed to the scholar,
during which time he was only to hear his instructor from behind a
curtain, and the strictest silence was enjoined him through the whole
period. As the instructions Pythagoras received in Egypt and the East
admitted of no dispute, so in his turn he required an unreserved
submission from those who heard him: autos iphae "the master has said
it," was deemed a sufficient solution to all doubt and uncertainty. [60]

To give the greater authority and effect to his communications
Pythagoras hid himself during the day at least from the great body of
his pupils, and was only seen by them at night. Indeed there is no
reason to suppose that any one was admitted into his entire
familiarity. When he came forth, he appeared in a long garment of the
purest white, with a flowing beard, and a garland upon his head. He is
said to have been of the finest symmetrical form, with a majestic
carriage, and a grave and awful countenance. [61] He suffered his
followers to believe that he was one of the Gods, the Hyperborean
Apollo, [62] and is said to have told Abaris that he assumed the human
form, that he might the better invite men to an easiness of approach
and to confidence in him. [63] What however seems to be agreed in by
all his biographers, is that he professed to have already in different
ages appeared in the likeness of man: first as Aethalides, the son of
Mercury; and, when his father expressed himself ready to invest him
with any gift short of immortality, he prayed that, as the human soul
is destined successively to dwell in various forms, he might have the
privilege in each to remember his former state of being, which was
granted him. From, Aethalides he became Euphorbus, who slew Patroclus
at the siege of Troy. He then appeared as Hermotimus, then Pyrrhus, a
fisherman of Delos, and finally Pythagoras. He said that a period of
time was interposed between each transmigration, during which he
visited the seat of departed souls; and he professed to relate a part
of the wonders he had seen. [64] He is said to have eaten sparingly
and in secret, and in all respects to have given himself out for a
being not subject to the ordinary laws of nature. [65]

Pythagoras therefore pretended to miraculous endowments. Happening to
be on the sea-shore when certain fishermen drew to land an enormous
multitude of fishes, he desired them to allow him to dispose of the
capture, which they consented to, provided he would name the precise
number they had caught. He did so, and required that they should throw
their prize into the sea again, at the same time paying them the value
of the fish. [66] He tamed a Daunian bear by whispering in his ear,
and prevailed on him henceforth to refrain from the flesh of animals,
and to feed on vegetables. By the same means he induced an ox not to
eat beans, which was a diet specially prohibited by Pythagoras; and he
called down an eagle from his flight, causing him to sit on his hand,
and submit to be stroked down by the philosopher. [67] In Greece, when
he passed the river Nessus in Macedon, the stream was heard to salute
him with the words "Hail, Pythagoras!" [68] When Abaris addressed him
as one of the heavenly host, he took the stranger aside, and convinced
him that he was under no mistake, by exhibiting to him his thigh of
gold: or, according to another account, he used the same sort of
evidence at a certain time, to satisfy his pupils of his celestial
descent. [69] He is said to have been seen on the same day at
Metapontum in Italy, and at Taurominium in Sicily, though these places
are divided by the sea, so that it was conceived that it would cost
several days to pass from one to the other. [70] In one instance he
absented himself from his associates in Italy for a whole year; and
when he appeared again, related that he had passed that time in the
infernal regions, describing likewise the marvellous things he had
seen. [71] Diogenes Laertius, speaking of this circumstance affirms
however that he remained during this period in a cave, where his
mother conveyed to him intelligence and necessaries, and that, when
he came once more into light and air, he appeared so emaciated and
colourless, that he might well be believed to have come out of Hades.

The close of the life of Pythagoras was, according to every statement,
in the midst of misfortune and violence. Some particulars are related
by Iamblichus, [72] which, though he is not an authority beyond all
exception, are so characteristic as seem to entitle them to the being
transcribed. This author is more circumstantial than any other in
stating the elaborate steps by which the pupils of Pythagoras came to
be finally admitted into the full confidence of the master. He says,
that they passed three years in the first place in a state of
probation, carefully watched by their seniors, and exposed to their
occasional taunts and ironies, by way of experiment to ascertain
whether they were of a temper sufficiently philosophical and firm. At
the expiration of that period they were admitted to a noviciate, in
which they were bound to uninterrupted silence, and heard the lectures
of the master, while he was himself concealed from their view by a
curtain. They were then received to initiation, and required to
deliver over their property to the common stock. They were admitted to
intercourse with the master. They were invited to a participation of
the most obscure theories, and the abstrusest problems. If however in
this stage of their progress they were discovered to be too weak of
intellectual penetration, or any other fundamental objection were
established against them, they were expelled the community; the double
of the property they had contributed to the common stock was paid down
to them; a head-stone and a monument inscribed with their names were
set up in the place of meeting of the community; they were considered
as dead; and, if afterwards they met by chance any of those who were
of the privileged few, they were treated by them as entirely strangers.

Cylon, the richest man, or, as he is in one place styled, the prince,
of Crotona, had manifested the greatest partiality to Pythagoras. He
was at the same time a man of rude, impatient and boisterous character.
He, together with Perialus of Thurium, submitted to all the severities
of the Pythagorean school. They passed the three years of probation,
and the five years of silence. They were received into the familiarity
of the master. They were then initiated, and delivered all their
wealth into the common stock. They were however ultimately pronounced
deficient in intellectual power, or for some other reason were not
judged worthy to continue among the confidential pupils of Pythagoras.
They were expelled. The double of the property they had contributed
was paid back to them. A monument was set up in memory of what they
had been; and they were pronounced dead to the school.

It will easily be conceived in what temper Cylon sustained this
degradation. Of Perialus we hear nothing further. But Cylon, from
feelings of the deepest reverence and awe for Pythagoras, which he had
cherished for years, was filled even to bursting with inextinguishable
hatred and revenge. The unparalleled merits, the venerable age of the
master whom he had so long followed, had no power to control his
violence. His paramount influence in the city insured him the command
of a great body of followers. He excited them to a frame of turbulence
and riot. He represented to them how intolerable was the despotism of
this pretended philosopher. They surrounded the school in which the
pupils were accustomed to assemble, and set it on fire. Forty persons
perished in the flames. [73] According to some accounts Pythagoras was
absent at the time. According to others he and two of his pupils
escaped. He retired from Crotona to Metapontum. But the hostility
which had broken out in the former city, followed him there. He took
refuge in the Temple of the Muses. But he was held so closely besieged
that no provisions could be conveyed to him; and he finally perished
with hunger, after, according to Laertius, forty days' abstinence. [74]

It is difficult to imagine any thing more instructive, and more
pregnant with matter for salutary reflection, than the contrast
presented to us by the character and system of action of Pythagoras
on the one hand, and those of the great enquirers of the last two
centuries, for example, Bacon, Newton and Locke, on the other.
Pythagoras probably does not yield to any one of these in the
evidences of true intellectual greatness. In his school, in the
followers he trained resembling himself, and in the salutary effects
he produced on the institutions of the various republics of Magna
Graecia and Sicily, he must be allowed greatly to have excelled them.
His discoveries of various propositions in geometry, of the earth as
a planet, and of the solar system as now universally recognised,
clearly stamp him a genius of the highest order.

Yet this man, thus enlightened and philanthropical, established his
system of proceeding upon narrow and exclusive principles, and
conducted it by methods of artifice, quackery and delusion. One of his
leading maxims was, that the great and fundamental truths to the
establishment of which he devoted himself, were studiously to be
concealed from the vulgar, and only to be imparted to a select few,
and after years of the severest noviciate and trial. He learned his
earliest lessons of wisdom in Egypt after this method, and he
conformed through life to the example which had thus been delivered to
him. The severe examination that he made of the candidates previously
to their being admitted into his school, and the years of silence that
were then prescribed to them, testify this. He instructed them by
symbols, obscure and enigmatical propositions, which they were first
to exercise their ingenuity to expound. The authority and dogmatical
assertions of the master were to remain unquestioned; and the pupils
were to fashion themselves to obsequious and implicit submission, and
were the furthest in the world from being encouraged to the independent
exercise of their own understandings. There was nothing that Pythagoras
was more fixed to discountenance, than the communication of the truths
upon which he placed the highest value, to the uninitiated. It is not
probable therefore that he wrote any thing: all was communicated
orally, by such gradations, and with such discretion, as he might
think fit to adopt and to exercise.

Delusion and falsehood were main features of his instruction. With
what respect therefore can we consider, and what manliness worthy of
his high character and endowments can we impute to, his discourses
delivered from behind a curtain, his hiding himself during the day,
and only appearing by night in a garb assumed for the purpose of
exciting awe and veneration? What shall we say to the story of his
various transmigrations? At first sight it appears in the light of the
most audacious and unblushing imposition. And, if we were to yield so
far as to admit that by a high-wrought enthusiasm, by a long train of
maceration and visionary reveries, he succeeded in imposing on himself,
this, though in a different way, would scarcely less detract from the
high stage of eminence upon which the nobler parts of his character
would induce us to place him.

Such were some of the main causes that have made his efforts
perishable, and the lustre which should have attended his genius in a
great degree transitory and fugitive. He was probably much under the
influence of a contemptible jealousy, and must be considered as
desirous that none of his contemporaries or followers should eclipse
their master. All was oracular and dogmatic in the school of
Pythagoras. He prized and justly prized the greatness of his
attainments and discoveries, and had no conception that any thing
could go beyond them. He did not encourage, nay, he resolutely opposed,
all true independence of mind, and that undaunted spirit of enterprise
which is the atmosphere in which the sublimest thoughts are most
naturally generated. He therefore did not throw open the gates of
science and wisdom, and invite every comer; but on the contrary
narrowed the entrance, and carefully reduced the number of aspirants.
He thought not of the most likely methods to give strength and
permanence and an extensive sphere to the progress of the human mind.
For these reasons he wrote nothing; but consigned all to the frail and
uncertain custody of tradition. And distant posterity has amply
avenged itself upon the narrowness of his policy; and the name of
Pythagoras, which would otherwise have been ranked with the first
luminaries of mankind, and consigned to everlasting gratitude, has in
consequence of a few radical and fatal mistakes, been often loaded
with obloquy, and the hero who bore it been indiscriminately classed
among the votaries of imposture and artifice.


Epimenides has been mentioned among the disciples of Pythagoras; but
he probably lived at an earlier period. He was a native of Crete. The
first extraordinary circumstance that is recorded of him is, that,
being very young, he was sent by his father in search of a stray
sheep, when, being overcome by the heat of the weather, he retired
into a cave, and slept fifty-seven years. Supposing that he had slept
only a few hours, he repaired first to his father's country-house,
which he found in possession of a new tenant, and then to the city,
where he encountered his younger brother, now grown an old man, who
with difficulty was brought to acknowledge him. [75] It was probably
this circumstance that originally brought Epimenides into repute as a
prophet, and a favourite of the Gods.

Epimenides appears to have been one of those persons, who make it
their whole study to delude their fellow-men, and to obtain for
themselves the reputation of possessing supernatural gifts. Such
persons, almost universally, and particularly in ages of ignorance and
wonder, become themselves the dupes of their own pretensions. He gave
out that he was secretly subsisted by food brought to him by the
nymphs; and he is said to have taken nourishment in so small
quantities, as to be exempted from the ordinary necessities of nature.
[76] He boasted that he could send his soul out of his body, and recal
it, when he pleased; and alternately appeared an inanimate corpse, and
then again his life would return to him, and he appear capable of
every human function as before. [77] He is said to have practised the
ceremony of exorcising houses and fields, and thus rendering them
fruitful and blessed. [78] He frequently uttered prophecies of events
with such forms of ceremony and such sagacious judgment, that they
seemed to come to pass as he predicted.

One of the most memorable acts of his life happened in this manner.
Cylon, the head of one of the principal families in Athens, set on
foot a rebellion against the government, and surprised the citadel.
His power however was of short duration. Siege was laid to the place,
and Cylon found his safety in flight. His partisans forsook their
arms, and took refuge at the altars. Seduced from this security by
fallacious promises, they were brought to judgment and all of them put
to death. The Gods were said to be offended with this violation of the
sanctions of religion, and sent a plague upon the city. All things
were in confusion, and sadness possessed the whole community.
Prodigies were perpetually seen; the spectres of the dead walked the
streets; and terror universally prevailed. The sacrifices offered to
the gods exhibited the most unfavourable symptoms. [79] In this
emergency the Athenian senate resolved to send for Epimenides to come
to their relief. His reputation was great. He was held for a holy and
devout man, and wise in celestial things by inspiration from above. A
vessel was fitted out under the command of one of the first citizens
of the state to fetch Epimenides from Crete. He performed various
rites and purifications. He took a certain number of sheep, black and
white, and led them to the Areopagus, where he caused them to be let
loose to go wherever they would. He directed certain persons to follow
them, and mark the place where they lay down. He enquired to what
particular deity the spot was consecrated, and sacrificed the sheep to
that deity; and in the result of these ceremonies the plague was
stayed. According to others he put an end to the plague by the
sacrifice of two human victims. The Athenian senate, full of gratitude
to their benefactor, tendered him the gift of a talent. But Epimenides
refused all compensation, and only required, as an acknowledgment of
what he had done, that there should be perpetual peace between the
Athenians and the people of Gnossus, his native city. [80] He is said
to have died shortly after his return to his country, being of the age
of one hundred and fifty-seven years. [81]


Empedocles has also been mentioned as a disciple of Pythagoras. But he
probably lived too late for that to have been the case. His principles
were in a great degree similar to those of that illustrious personage;
and he might have studied under one of the immediate successors of
Pythagoras. He was a citizen of Agrigentum in Sicily; and, having
inherited considerable wealth, exercised great authority in his native
place. [82] He was a distinguished orator and poet. He was greatly
conversant in the study of nature, and was eminent for his skill in
medicine. [83] In addition to these accomplishments, he appears to
have been a devoted adherent to the principles of liberty. He effected
the dissolution of the ruling council of Agrigentum, and substituted
in their room a triennial magistracy, by means of which the public
authority became not solely in the hands of the rich as before, but
was shared by them with expert and intelligent men of an inferior
class. [84] He opposed all arbitrary exercises of rule. He gave
dowries from his own stores to many young maidens of impoverished
families, and settled them in eligible marriages. [85] He performed
many cures upon his fellow-citizens; and is especially celebrated for
having restored a woman to life, who had been apparently dead,
according to one account for seven days, but according to others for
thirty. [86]

But the most memorable things known of Empedocles, are contained in
the fragments of his verses that have been preserved to us. In one of
them he says of himself, "I well remember the time before I was
Empedocles, that I once was a boy, then a girl, a plant, a glittering
fish, a bird that cut the air." [87] Addressing those who resorted to
him for improvement and wisdom, he says, "By my instructions you shall
learn medicines that are powerful to cure disease, and re-animate old
age; you shall be able to calm the savage winds which lay waste the
labours of the husbandman, and, when you will, shall send forth the
tempest again; you shall cause the skies to be fair and serene, or
once more shall draw down refreshing showers, re-animating the fruits
of the earth; nay, you shall recal the strength of the dead man, when
he has already become the victim of Pluto." [88] Further, speaking of
himself, Empedocles exclaims: "Friends, who inhabit the great city
laved by the yellow Acragas, all hail! I mix with you a God, no longer
a mortal, and am every where honoured by you, as is just; crowned with
fillets, and fragrant garlands, adorned with which when I visit
populous cities, I am revered by both men and women, who follow me by
ten thousands, enquiring the road to boundless wealth, seeking the
gift of prophecy, and who would learn the marvellous skill to cure all
kinds of diseases." [89]

The best known account of the death of Empedocles may reasonably be
considered as fabulous. From what has been said it sufficiently
appears, that he was a man of extraordinary intellectual endowments,
and the most philanthropical dispositions; at the same time that he
was immoderately vain, aspiring by every means in his power to acquire
to himself a deathless remembrance. Working on these hints, a story
has been invented that he aspired to a miraculous way of disappearing
from among men; and for this purpose repaired, when alone, to the top
of Mount Aetna, then in a state of eruption, and threw himself down the
burning crater: but it is added, that in the result of this perverse
ambition he was baffled, the volcano having thrown up one of his
brazen sandals, by means of which the mode of his death became known.


Herodotus tells a marvellous story of one Aristeas, a poet of
Proconnesus, an island of the Propontis. This man, coming by chance
into a fuller's workshop in his native place, suddenly fell down dead.
As the man was of considerable rank, the fuller immediately, quitting
and locking up his shop, proceeded to inform his family of what had
happened. The relations went accordingly, having procured what was
requisite to give the deceased the rites of sepulture, to the shop;
but, when it was opened, they could discover no vestige of Aristeas,
either dead or alive. A traveller however from the neighbouring town
of Cyzicus on the continent, protested that he had just left that
place, and, as he set foot in the wherry which had brought him over,
had met Aristeas, and held a particular conversation with him. Seven
years after, Aristeas reappeared at Proconnesus, resided there a
considerable time, and during this abode wrote his poem of the wars of
the one-eyed Arimaspians and the Gryphons. He then again disappeared
in an unaccountable manner. But, what is more than all extraordinary,
three hundred and forty years after this disappearance, he shewed
himself again at Metapontum, in Magna Graecia, and commanded the
citizens to erect a statue in his honour near the temple of Apollo in
the forum; which being done, he raised himself in the air; and flew
away in the form of a crow. [91]


Hermotimus, or, as Plutarch names him, Hermodorus of Clazomene, is
said to have possessed, like Epimenides, the marvellous power of
quitting his body, and returning to it again, as often, and for as
long a time as he pleased. In these absences his unembodied spirit
would visit what places he thought proper, observe every thing that
was going on, and, when he returned to his fleshy tabernacle, make a
minute relation of what he had seen. Hermotimus had enemies, who, one
time when his body had lain unanimated unusually long, beguiled his
wife, made her believe that he was certainly dead, and that it was
disrespectful and indecent to keep him so long in that state. The
woman therefore placed her husband on the funeral pyre, and consumed
him to ashes; so that, continues the philosopher, when the soul of
Hermotimus came back again, it no longer found its customary
receptacle to retire into. [92] Certainly this kind of treatment
appeared to furnish an infallible criterion, whether the seeming
absences of the soul of this miraculous man were pretended or real.


Herodotus [93] tells a story of the mother of Demaratus, king of
Sparta, which bears a striking resemblance to the fairy tales of
modern times. This lady, afterward queen of Sparta, was sprung from
opulent parents, but, when she was born, was so extravagantly ugly,
that her parents hid her from all human observation. According to the
mode of the times however, they sent the babe daily in its nurse's
arms to the shrine of Helen, now metamorphosed into a Goddess, to pray
that the child might be delivered from its present preternatural
deformity. On these occasions the child was shrouded in many coverings,
that it might escape being seen. One day as the nurse came out of the
temple, a strange woman met her, and asked her what she carried so
carefully concealed. The nurse said it was a female child, but of
opulent parents, and she was strictly enjoined that it should be seen
by no one. The stranger was importunate, and by dint of perseverance
overcame the nurse's reluctance. The woman took the babe in her arms,
stroked down its hair, kissed it, and then returning it to the nurse,
said that it should grow up the most perfect beauty in Sparta. So
accordingly it proved: and the king of the country, having seen her,
became so enamoured of her, that, though he already had a wife, and
she a husband, he overcame all obstacles, and made her his queen.


One of the most extraordinary things to be met with in the history of
ancient times is the oracles. They maintained their reputation for
many successive centuries. The most famous perhaps were that of Delphi
in Greece, and that of Jupiter Ammon in the deserts of Lybia. But they
were scattered through many cities, many plains, and many islands.
They were consulted by the foolish and the wise; and scarcely anything
considerable was undertaken, especially about the time of the Persian
invasion into Greece, without the parties having first had recourse to
these; and they in most cases modified the conduct of princes and
armies accordingly. To render the delusion more successful, every kind
of artifice was put in practice. The oracle could only be consulted on
fixed days; and the persons who resorted to it, prefaced their
application with costly offerings to the presiding God. Their
questions passed through the hands of certain priests, residing in
and about the temple. These priests received the embassy with all due
solemnity, and retired. A priestess, or Pythia, who was seldom or
never seen by any of the profane vulgar, was the immediate vehicle of
communication with the God. She was cut off from all intercourse with
the world, and was carefully trained by the attendant priests.
Spending almost the whole of her time in solitude, and taught to
consider her office as ineffably sacred, she saw visions, and was for
the most part in a state of great excitement. The Pythia, at least of
the Delphian God, was led on with much ceremony to the performance of
her office, and placed upon the sacred tripod. The tripod, we are
told, stood over a chasm in the rock, from which issued fumes of an
inebriating quality. The Pythia became gradually penetrated through
every limb with these fumes, till her bosom swelled, her features
enlarged, her mouth foamed, her voice seemed supernatural, and she
uttered words that could sometimes scarcely be called articulate.
She could with difficulty contain herself, and seemed to be possessed,
and wholly overpowered, with the God. After a prelude of many
unintelligible sounds, uttered with fervour and a sort of frenzy, she
became by degrees more distinct. She uttered incoherent sentences,
with breaks and pauses, that were filled up with preternatural efforts
and distorted gestures; while the priests stood by, carefully recording
her words, and then reducing them into a sort of obscure signification.
They finally digested them for the most part into a species of
hexameter verse. We may suppose the supplicants during this ceremony
placed at a proper distance, so as to observe these things imperfectly,
while the less they understood, they were ordinarily the more impressed
with religious awe, and prepared implicitly to receive what was
communicated to them. Sometimes the priestess found herself in a frame,
not entirely equal to her function, and refused for the present to
proceed with the ceremony.

The priests of the oracle doubtless conducted them in a certain degree
like the gipsies and fortune-tellers of modern times, cunningly
procuring to themselves intelligence in whatever way they could, and
ingeniously worming out the secrets of their suitors, at the same time
contriving that their drift should least of all be suspected. But
their main resource probably was in the obscurity, almost amounting to
unintelligibleness, of their responses. Their prophecies in most cases
required the comment of the event to make them understood; and it not
seldom happened, that the meaning in the sequel was found to be the
diametrically opposite of that which the pious votaries had originally

In the mean time the obscurity of the oracles was of inexpressible
service to the cause of superstition. If the event turned out to be
such as could in no way be twisted to come within the scope of the
response, the pious suitor only concluded that the failure was owing
to the grossness and carnality of his own apprehension, and not to any
deficiency in the institution. Thus the oracle by no means lost credit,
even when its meaning remained for ever in its original obscurity. But,
when, by any fortunate chance, its predictions seemed to be verified,
then the unerringness of the oracle was lauded from nation to nation;
and the omniscience of the God was admitted with astonishment and

It would be a vulgar and absurd mistake however, to suppose that all
this was merely the affair of craft, the multitude only being the
dupes, while the priests in cold blood carried on the deception, and
secretly laughed at the juggle they were palming on the world. They
felt their own importance; and they cherished it. They felt that they
were regarded by their countrymen as something more than human; and
the opinion entertained of them by the world around them, did not fail
to excite a responsive sentiment in their own bosoms. If their
contemporaries willingly ascribed to them an exclusive sacredness, by
how much stronger an impulse were they led fully to receive so
flattering a suggestion! Their minds were in a perpetual state of
exaltation; and they believed themselves specially favoured by the God
whose temple constituted their residence. A small matter is found
sufficient to place a creed which flatters all the passions of its
votaries, on the most indubitable basis. Modern philosophers think
that by their doctrine of gases they can explain all the appearances
of the Pythia; but the ancients, to whom this doctrine was unknown,
admitted these appearances as the undoubted evidence of an
interposition from heaven.

It is certainly a matter of the extremest difficulty, for us in
imagination to place ourselves in the situation of those who believed
in the ancient polytheistical creed. And yet these believers nearly
constituted the whole of the population of the kingdoms of antiquity.
Even those who professed to have shaken off the prejudices of their
education, and to rise above the absurdities of paganism, had still
some of the old leaven adhering to them. One of the last acts of the
life of Socrates, was to order the sacrifice of a cock to be made to

Now the creed of paganism is said to have made up to the number of
thirty thousand deities. Every kingdom, every city, every street, nay,
in a manner every house, had its protecting God. These Gods were
rivals to each other; and were each jealous of his own particular
province, and watchful against the intrusion of any neighbour deity
upon ground where he had a superior right. The province of each of
these deities was of small extent; and therefore their watchfulness
and jealousy of their appropriate honours do not enter into the
slightest comparison with the Providence of the God who directs the
concerns of the universe. They had ample leisure to employ in
vindicating their prerogatives. Prophecy was of all means the plainest
and most obvious for each deity to assert his existence, and to
inforce the reverence and submission of his votaries. Prophecy was
that species of interference which was least liable to the being
confuted and exposed. The oracles, as we have said, were delivered in
terms and phrases that were nearly unintelligible. If therefore they
met with no intelligible fulfilment, this lost them nothing; and, if
it gained them no additional credit, neither did it expose them to any
disgrace. Whereas every example, where the obscure prediction seemed
to tally with, and be illustrated by any subsequent event, was hailed
with wonder and applause, confirmed the faith of the true believers,
and was held forth as a victorious confutation of the doubts of the


It is particularly suitable in this place to notice the events which
took place at Delphi upon occasion of the memorable invasion of Xerxes
into Greece. This was indeed a critical moment for the heathen
mythology. The Persians were pointed and express in their hostility
against the altars and the temples of the Greeks. It was no sooner
known that the straits of Thermopylae had been forced, than the priests
consulted the God, as to whether they should bury the treasures of the
temple, so to secure them against the sacrilege of the invader. The
answer of the oracle was: "Let nothing be moved; the God is sufficient
for the protection of his rights." The inhabitants therefore of the
neighbourhood withdrew: only sixty men and the priest remained. The
Persians in the mean time approached. Previously to this however, the
sacred arms which were placed in the temple, were seen to be moved by
invisible hands, and deposited on the declivity which was on the
outside of the building. The invaders no sooner shewed themselves,
than a miraculous storm of thunder and lightning rebounded and flashed
among the multiplied hills which surrounded the sacred area, and
struck terror into all hearts. Two vast fragments were detached from
the top of mount Parnassus, and crushed hundreds in their fall. A
voice of warlike acclamation issued from within the walls. Dismay
seized the Persian troops. The Delphians then, rushing from their
caverns, and descending from the summits, attacked them with great
slaughter. Two persons, exceeding all human stature, and that were
said to be the demigods whose fanes were erected near the temple of
Apollo, joined in the pursuit, and extended the slaughter. [94] It has
been said that the situation of the place was particularly adapted to
this mode of defence. Surrounded and almost overhung with lofty
mountain-summits, the area of the city was inclosed within crags and
precipices. No way led to it but through defiles, narrow and steep,
shadowed with wood, and commanded at every step by fastnesses from
above. In such a position artificial fires and explosion might imitate
a thunder storm. Great pains had been taken, to represent the place as
altogether abandoned; and therefore the detachment of rocks from the
top of mount Parnassus, though effected by human hands, might appear
altogether supernatural.

Nothing can more forcibly illustrate the strength of the religious
feeling among the Greeks, than the language of the Athenian government
at the time of the second descent of the Persian armament upon their
territory, when they were again compelled to abandon their houses and
land to the invader. Mardonius said to them: "I am thus commissioned
by the king of Persia, he will release and give back to you your
country; he invites you to choose a further territory, whatever you
may think desirable, which he will guarantee to you to govern as you
shall judge fit. He will rebuild for you, without its costing you
either money or labour, the temples which in his former incursion he
destroyed with fire. It is in vain for you to oppose him by force, for
his armies are innumerable." To which the Athenians replied, "As long
as the sun pursues his course in the heavens, so long will we resist
the Persian invader." Then turning to the Spartan ambassadors who were
sent to encourage and animate them to persist, they added, "It is but
natural that your employers should apprehend that we might give way
and be discouraged. But there is no sum of money so vast, and no
region so inviting and fertile, that could buy us to concur in the
enslaving of Greece. Many and resistless are the causes which induce
us to this resolve. First and chiefest, the temples and images of the
Gods, which Xerxes has burned and laid in ruins, and which we are
called upon to avenge to the utmost, instead of forming a league with
him who made this devastation. Secondly, the consideration of the
Grecian race, the same with us in blood and in speech, the same in
religion and manners, and whose cause we will never betray. Know
therefore now, if you knew not before, that, as long as a single
Athenian survives, we will never swerve from the hostility to Persia
to which we have devoted ourselves."

Contemplating this magnanimous resolution, it is in vain for us to
reflect on the absurdity, incongruity and frivolousness, as we
apprehend it, of the pagan worship, inasmuch as we find, whatever we
may think of its demerits, that the most heroic people that ever
existed on earth, in the hour of their direst calamity, regarded a
zealous and fervent adherence to that religion as the most sacred of
all duties. [95]


The fame of Democritus has sustained a singular fortune. He is
represented by Pliny as one of the most superstitious of mortals. This
character is founded on certain books which appeared in his name. In
these books he is made to say, that, if the blood of certain birds be
mingled together, the combination will produce a serpent, of which
whoever eats will become endowed with the gift of understanding the
language of birds. [96] He attributes a multitude of virtues to the
limbs of a dead camelion: among others that, if the left foot of this
animal be grilled, and there be added certain herbs, and a particular
unctuous preparation, it will have the quality to render the person
who carries it about him invisible. [97] But all this is wholly
irreconcileable with the known character of Democritus, who
distinguished himself by the hypothesis that the world was framed from
the fortuitous concourse of atoms, and that the soul died with the
body. And accordingly Lucian, [98] a more judicious author than Pliny,
expressly cites Democritus as the strenuous opposer of all the
pretenders to miracles. "Such juggling tricks," he says, "call for a
Democritus, an Epicurus, a Metrodorus, or some one of that temper, who
should endeavour to detect the illusion, and would hold it for certain,
even if he could not fully lay open the deceit, that the whole was a
lying pretence, and had not a spark of reality in it."

Democritus was in reality one of the most disinterested characters on
record in the pursuit of truth. He has been styled the father of
experimental philosophy. When his father died, and the estate came to
be divided between him and two brothers, he chose the part which was
in money, though the smallest, that he might indulge him [Errata:
_read_ himself] in travelling in pursuit of knowledge. He visited
Egypt and Persia, and turned aside into Ethiopia and India. He is
reported to have said, that he had rather be the possessor of one of
the cardinal secrets of nature, than of the diadem of Persia.


Socrates is the most eminent of the ancient philosophers. He lived in
the most enlightened age of Greece, and in Athens, the most illustrious
of her cities. He was born in the middle ranks of life, the son of a
sculptor. He was of a mean countenance, with a snub nose, projecting
eyes, and otherwise of an appearance so unpromising, that a
physiognomist, his contemporary, pronounced him to be given to the
grossest vices. But he was of a penetrating understanding, the simplest
manners, and a mind wholly bent on the study of moral excellence. He
at once abjured all the lofty pretensions, and the dark and recondite
pursuits of the most applauded teachers of his time, and led those to
whom he addressed his instructions from obvious and irresistible data
to the most unexpected and useful conclusions. There was something in
his manner of teaching that drew to him the noblest youth of Athens.
Plato and Xenophon, two of the most admirable of the Greek writers,
were among his pupils. He reconciled in his own person in a surprising
degree poverty with the loftiest principles of independence. He taught
an unreserved submission to the laws of our country. He several times
unequivocally displayed his valour in the field of battle, while at
the same time he kept aloof from public offices and trusts. The
serenity of his mind never forsook him. He was at all times ready to
teach, and never found it difficult to detach himself from his own
concerns, to attend to the wants and wishes of others. He was
uniformly courteous and unpretending; and, if at any time he indulged
in a vein of playful ridicule, it was only against the presumptuously
ignorant, and those who were without foundation wise in their own

Yet, with all these advantages and perfections, the name of Socrates
would not have been handed down with such lustre to posterity but for
the manner of his death. He made himself many enemies. The plainness
of his manner and the simplicity of his instructions were inexpressibly
wounding to those (and they were many), who, setting up for professors,
had hitherto endeavoured to dazzle their hearers by the loftiness of
their claims, and to command from them implicit submission by the
arrogance with which they dictated. It must be surprising to us, that
a man like Socrates should be arraigned in a country like Athens upon
a capital accusation. He was charged with instilling into the youth a
disobedience to their duties, and propagating impiety to the Gods,
faults of which he was notoriously innocent. But the plot against him
was deeply laid, and is said to have been twenty years in the
concoction. And he greatly assisted the machinations of his
adversaries, by the wonderful firmness of his conduct upon his trial,
and his spirited resolution not to submit to any thing indirect and
pusillanimous. He defended himself with a serene countenance and the
most cogent arguments, but would not stoop to deprecation and intreaty.
When sentence was pronounced against him, this did not induce the
least alteration of his conduct. He did not think that a life which he
had passed for seventy years with a clear conscience, was worth
preserving by the sacrifice of honour. He refused to escape from
prison, when one of his rich friends had already purchased of the
jailor the means of his freedom. And, during the last days of his life,
and when he was waiting the signal of death, which was to be the return
of a ship that had been sent with sacrifices to Delos, he uttered those
admirable discourses, which have been recorded by Xenophon and Plato
to the latest posterity.

But the question which introduces his name into this volume, is that
of what is called the demon of Socrates. He said that he repeatedly
received a divine premonition of dangers impending over himself and
others; and considerable pains have been taken to ascertain the cause
and author of these premonitions. Several persons, among whom we may
include Plato, have conceived that Socrates regarded himself as
attended by a supernatural guardian who at all times watched over his
welfare and concerns.

But the solution is probably of a simpler nature. Socrates, with all
his incomparable excellencies and perfections, was not exempt from the
superstitions of his age and country. He had been bred up among the
absurdities of polytheism. In them were included, as we have seen, a
profound deference for the responses of oracles, and a vigilant
attention to portents and omens. Socrates appears to have been
exceedingly regardful of omens. Plato tells us that this intimation,
which he spoke of as his demon, never prompted him to any act, but
occasionally interfered to prevent him or his friends from proceeding
in any thing that would have been attended with injurious consequences.
[99] Sometimes he described it as a voice, which no one however heard
but himself; and sometimes it shewed itself in the act of sneezing. If
the sneezing came, when he was in doubt to do a thing or not to do it,
it confirmed him; but if, being already engaged in any act, he sneezed,
this he considered as a warning to desist. If any of his friends
sneezed on his right hand, he interpreted this as a favourable omen;
but, if on his left, he immediately relinquished his purpose. [100]
Socrates vindicated his mode of expressing himself on the subject, by
saying that others, when they spoke of omens, for example, by the
voice of a bird, said the bird told me this, but that he, knowing that
the omen was purely instrumental to a higher power, deemed it more
religious and respectful to have regard only to the higher power, and
to say that God had graciously warned him. [101] One of the examples
of this presage was, that, going along a narrow street with several
companions in earnest discourse, he suddenly stopped, and turned
another way, warning his friends to do the same. Some yielded to him,
and others went on, who were encountered by the rushing forward of a
multitude of hogs, and did not escape without considerable
inconvenience and injury. [102] In another instance one of a company
among whom was Socrates, had confederated to commit an act of
assassination. Accordingly he rose to quit the place, saying to
Socrates, "I will be back presently." Socrates, unaware of his purpose,
but having received the intimation of his demon, said to him earnestly,
"Go not." The conspirator sat down. Again however he rose, and again
Socrates stopped him. At length he escaped, without the observation of
the philosopher, and committed the act, for which he was afterwards
brought to trial. When led to execution, he exclaimed, "This would
never have happened to me, if I had yielded to the intimation of
Socrates." [103] In the same manner, and by a similar suggestion, the
philosopher predicted the miscarriage of the Athenian expedition to
Sicily under Nicias, which terminated with such signal disaster. [104]
This feature in the character of Socrates is remarkable, and may shew
the prevalence of superstitious observances, even in persons whom we
might think the most likely to be exempt from this weakness.



From the Greeks let us turn to the Romans. The earliest examples to
our purpose occur in the Aeneid. And, though Virgil is a poet, yet is
he so correct a writer, that we may well take for granted, that he
either records facts which had been handed down by tradition, or that,
when he feigns, he feigns things strikingly in accord with the manners
and belief of the age of which he speaks.


One of the first passages that occur, is of the ghost of the deceased
Polydorus on the coast of Thrace. Polydorus, the son of Priam, was
murdered by the king of that country, his host, for the sake of the
treasures he had brought with him from Troy. He was struck through
with darts made of the wood of the myrtle. The body was cast into a
pit, and earth thrown upon it. The stems of myrtle grew and flourished.
Aeneas, after the burning of Troy, first attempted a settlement in this
place. Near the spot where he landed he found a hillock thickly set
with myrtle. He attempted to gather some, thinking it might form a
suitable screen to an altar which he had just raised. To his
astonishment and horror he found the branches he had plucked, dropping
with blood. He tried the experiment again and again. At length a voice
from the mound was heard, exclaiming, "Spare me! I am Polydorus;" and
warning him to fly the blood-stained and treacherous shore.


We have a more detailed tale of necromancy, when Dido, deserted by
Aeneas, resolves on self-destruction. To delude her sister as to her
secret purpose, she sends for a priestess from the gardens of the
Hesperides, pretending that her object is by magical incantations
again to relumine the passion of love in the breast of Aeneas. This
priestess is endowed with the power, by potent verse to free the
oppressed soul from care, and by similar means to agitate the bosom
with passion which is free from its empire. She can arrest the
headlong stream, and cause the stars to return back in their orbits.
She can call up the ghosts of the dead. She is able to compel the
solid earth to rock, and the trees of the forest to descend from their
mountains. To give effect to the infernal spell, Dido commands that a
funeral pyre shall be set up in the interior court of her palace, and
that the arms of Aeneas, what remained of his attire, and the marriage
bed in which Dido had received him, shall be heaped upon it. The pyre
is hung round with garlands, and adorned with branches of cypress. The
sword of Aeneas and his picture are added. Altars are placed round the
pyre; and the priestess, with dishevelled hair, calls with terrific
charms upon her three hundred Gods, upon Erebus, chaos, and the
three-faced Hecate. She sprinkles around the waters of Avernus, and
adds certain herbs that had been cropped by moonlight with a sickle of
brass. She brings with her the excrescence which is found upon the
forehead of a new-cast foal, of the size of a dried fig, and which
unless first eaten by the mare, the mother never admits her young to
the nourishment of her milk. After these preparations, Dido, with
garments tucked up, and with one foot bare, approached the altars,
breaking over them a consecrated cake, and embracing them successively
in her arms. The pyre was then to be set on fire; and, as the
different objects placed upon it were gradually consumed, the charm
became complete, and the ends proposed to the ceremony were expected
to follow. Dido assures her sister, that she well knew the unlawfulness
of her proceeding, and protests that nothing but irresistible necessity
should have compelled her to have recourse to these unhallowed arts.
She finally stabs herself, and expires.


The early history of Rome is, as might be expected, interspersed with
prodigies. Romulus himself, the founder, after a prosperous reign of
many years, disappeared at last by a miracle. The king assembled his
army to a general review, when suddenly, in the midst of the ceremony,
a tempest arose, with vivid lightnings and tremendous crashes of
thunder. Romulus became enveloped in a cloud, and, when, shortly after,
a clear sky and serene heavens succeeded, the king was no more seen,
and the throne upon which he had sat appeared vacant. The people were
somewhat dissatisfied with the event, and appear to have suspected
foul play. But the next day Julius Proculus, a senator of the highest
character, shewed himself in the general assembly, and assured them,
that, with the first dawn of the morning, Romulus had stood before him,
and certified to him that the Gods had taken him up to their celestial
abodes, authorising him withal to declare to his citizens, that their
arms should be for ever successful against all their enemies. [105]


Numa was the second king of Rome: and, the object of Romulus having
been to render his people soldiers and invincible in war, Numa, an old
man and a philosopher, made it his purpose to civilise them, and
deeply to imbue them with sentiments of religion. He appears to have
imagined the thing best calculated to accomplish this purpose, was to
lead them by prodigies and the persuasion of an intercourse with the
invisible world. A shield fell from heaven in his time, which he
caused to be carefully kept and consecrated to the Gods; and he
conceived no means so likely to be effectual to this end, as to make
eleven other shields exactly like the one which had descended by
miracle, so that, if an accident happened to any one, the Romans might
believe that the one given to them by the divinity was still in their

Numa gave to his people civil statutes, and a code of observances in
matters of religion; and these also were inforced with a divine
sanction. Numa met the goddess Egeria from time to time in a cave; and
by her was instructed in the institutions he should give to the Romans:
and this barbarous people, awed by the venerable appearance of their
king, by the sanctity of his manners, and still more by the divine
favour which was so signally imparted to him, received his mandates
with exemplary reverence, and ever after implicitly conformed
themselves to all that he had suggested. [107]


Tullus Hostilius, the third king of Rome, restored again the policy of
Romulus. In his time, Alba, the parent state, was subdued and united
to its more flourishing colony. In the mean time Tullus, who during
the greater part of his reign had been distinguished by martial
achievements, in the latter part became the victim of superstitions.
A shower of stones fell from heaven, in the manner, as Livy tells us,
of a hail-storm. A plague speedily succeeded to this prodigy. [108]
Tullus, awed by these events, gave his whole attention to the rites of
religion. Among other things he found in the sacred books of Numa an
account of a certain ceremony, by which, if rightly performed, the
appearance of a God, named Jupiter Elicius, would be conjured up. But
Tullus, who had spent his best days in the ensanguined field, proved
inadequate to this new undertaking. Some defects having occurred in
his performance of the magical ceremony, not only no God appeared at
his bidding, but, the anger of heaven being awakened, a thunderbolt
fell on the palace, and the king, and the place of his abode were
consumed together. [109]


In the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth king of Rome, another
famous prodigy is recorded. The king had resolved to increase the
number of the Roman cavalry. Romulus had raised the first body with
the customary ceremony of augury. Tarquinius proposed to proceed in
the present case, omitting this ceremony. Accius Navius, the chief
augur, protested against the innovation. Tarquin, in contempt of his
interference, addressed Accius, saying, "Come, augur, consult your
birds, and tell me, whether the thing I have now in my mind can be
done, or cannot be done." Accius proceeded according to the rules of
his art, and told the king it could be done. "What I was thinking of,"
replied Tarquinius, "was whether you could cut this whetstone in two
with this razor." Accius immediately took the one instrument and the
other, and performed the prodigy in the face of the assembled people.


Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, was the model of a
disinterested and liberal politician, and gave to his subjects those
institutions to which, more than to any other cause, they were indebted
for their subsequent greatness. Tarquinius subjected nearly the whole
people of Latium to his rule, capturing one town of this district
after another. In Corniculum, one of these places, Servius Tullius,
being in extreme youth, was made a prisoner of war, and subsequently
dwelt as a slave in the king's palace. One day as he lay asleep in the
sight of many, his head was observed to be on fire. The bystanders,
terrified at the spectacle, hastened to bring water that they might
extinguish the flames. The queen forbade their assiduity, regarding
the event as a token from the Gods. By and by the boy awoke of his own
accord, and the flames at the same instant disappeared. The queen,
impressed with the prodigy, became persuaded that the youth was
reserved for high fortunes, and directed that he should be instructed
accordingly in all liberal knowledge. In due time he was married to
the daughter of Tarquinius, and was destined in all men's minds to
succeed in the throne, which took place in the sequel. [111]

In the year of Rome two hundred and ninety one, forty-seven years
after the expulsion of Tarquin, a dreadful plague broke out in the
city, and carried off both the consuls, the augurs, and a vast
multitude of the people. The following year was distinguished by
numerous prodigies; fires were seen in the heavens, and the earth
shook, spectres appeared, and supernatural voices were heard, an ox
spoke, and a shower of raw flesh fell in the fields. Most of these
prodigies were not preternatural; the speaking ox was probably
received on the report of a single hearer; and the whole was invested
with exaggerated terror by means of the desolation of the preceding
year. [112]


Prodigies are plentifully distributed through the earlier parts of the
Roman history; but it is not our purpose to enter into a chronological
detail on the subject. And in reality those already given, except in
the instance of Tullus Hostilius, do not entirely fall within the
scope of the present volume. The Roman poets, Virgil, Horace, Ovid and
Lucan, give a fuller insight than the Latin prose-writers, into the
conceptions of their countrymen upon the subject of incantations and

The eighth eclogue of Virgil, entitled Pharmaceutria, is particularly
to our purpose in this point. There is an Idyll of Theocritus under
the same name; but it is of an obscurer character; and the enchantress
is not, like that of Virgil, triumphant in the success of her arts.

The sorceress is introduced by Virgil, giving direction to her female
attendant as to the due administration of her charms. Her object is to
recal Daphnis, whom she styles her husband, to his former love for her.
At the same time, she says, she will endeavour by magic to turn him
away from his wholesome sense. She directs her attendant to burn
vervain and frankincense; and she ascribes the highest efficacy to the
solemn chant, which, she says, can call down the moon from its sphere,
can make the cold-blooded snake burst in the field, and was the means
by which Circe turned the companions of Ulysses into beasts. She
orders his image to be thrice bound round with fillets of three
colours, and then that it be paraded about a prepared altar, while in
binding the knots the attendant shall still say, "Thus do I bind the
fillets of Venus." One image of clay and one of wax are placed before
the same fire; and as the image of clay hardens, so does the heart of
Daphnis harden towards his new mistress; and as the image of wax
softens, so is the heart of Daphnis made tender towards the sorceress.
She commands a consecrated cake to be broken over the image, and
crackling laurels to be burned before it, that as Daphnis had
tormented her by his infidelity, so he in his turn may be agitated
with a returning constancy. She prays that as the wanton heifer
pursues the steer through woods and glens, till at length, worn out
with fatigue, she lies down on the oozy reeds by the banks of the
stream, and the night-dew is unable to induce her to withdraw, so
Daphnis may be led on after her for ever with inextinguishable love.
She buries the relics of what had belonged to Daphnis beneath her
threshold. She bruises poisonous herbs of resistless virtue which had
been gathered in the kingdom of Pontus, herbs, which enabled him who
gave them to turn himself into a hungry wolf prowling amidst the
forests, to call up ghosts from the grave, and to translate the
ripened harvest from the field where it grew to the lands of another.
She orders her attendant to bring out to the face of heaven the ashes
of these herbs, and [Errata: _dele_ and] to cast them over her
head into the running stream, and at the same time taking care not to
look behind her. After all her efforts the sorceress begins to despair.
She says, "Daphnis heeds not my incantations, heeds not the Gods." She
looks again; she perceives the ashes on the altar emit sparkles of
fire; she hears her faithful house-dog bark before the door; she says,
"Can these things be; or do lovers dream what they desire? It is not
so! The real Daphnis comes; I hear his steps; he has left the deluding
town; he hastens to my longing arms!"


In the works of Horace occurs a frightful and repulsive, but a curious
detail of a scene of incantation. [113] Four sorceresses are
represented as assembled, Canidia, the principal, to perform, the other
three to assist in, the concoction of a charm, by means of which a
certain youth, named Varus, for whom Canidia had conceived a passion,
but who regards the hag with the utmost contempt, may be made
obsequious to her desires. Canidia appears first, the locks of her
dishevelled hair twined round with venomous and deadly serpents,
ordering the wild fig-tree and the funereal cypress to be rooted up
from the sepulchres on which they grew, and these, together with the
egg of a toad smeared with blood, the plumage of the screech-owl,
various herbs brought from Thessaly and Georgia, and bones torn from
the jaws of a famished dog, to be burned in flames fed with perfumes
from Colchis. Of the assistant witches, one traces with hurried steps
the edifice, sprinkling it, as she goes, with drops from the Avernus,
her hair on her head stiff and erect, like the quills of the
sea-hedge-hog, or the bristles of a hunted boar; and another, who is
believed by all the neighbourhood to have the faculty of conjuring the
stars and the moon down from heaven, contributes her aid.

But, which is most horrible, the last of the assistant witches is seen,
armed with a spade, and, with earnest and incessant labour, throwing
up earth, that she may dig a trench, in which is to be plunged up to
his chin a beardless youth, stripped of his purple robe, the emblem of
his noble descent, and naked, that, from his marrow already dry and
his liver (when at length his eye-balls, long fixed on the still
renovated food which is withheld from his famished jaws, have no more
the power to discern), may be concocted the love-potion, from which
these hags promise themselves the most marvellous results.

Horace presents before us the helpless victim of their malice, already
inclosed in the fatal trench, first viewing their orgies with affright,
asking, by the Gods who rule the earth and all the race of mortals,
what means the tumult around him? He then intreats Canidia, by her
children if ever she had offspring, by the visible evidences of his
high rank, and by the never-failing vengeance of Jupiter upon such
misdeeds, to say why she casts on him glances, befitting the fury of a
stepmother, or suited to a beast already made desperate by the wounds
of the hunter.

At length, no longer exhausting himself in fruitless intreaties, the
victim has recourse in his agonies to curses on his executioners. He
says, his ghost shall haunt them for ever, for no vengeance can
expiate such cruelty. He will tear their cheeks with his fangs, for
that power is given to the shades below. He will sit, a night-mare, on
their bosoms, driving away sleep from their eyes; while the enraged
populace shall pursue them with stones, and the wolves shall gnaw and
howl over their unburied members. The unhappy youth winds up all with
the remark, that his parents who will survive him, shall themselves
witness this requital of the sorceresses' infernal deeds.

Canidia, unmoved by these menaces and execrations, complains of the
slow progress of her charms. She gnaws her fingers with rage. She
invokes the night and the moon, beneath whose rays these preparations
are carried on, now, while the wild beasts lie asleep in the forests,
and while the dogs alone bay the superanuated letcher, who relies
singly on the rich scents with which he is perfumed for success, to
speed her incantations, and signalise their power beneath the roof of
him whose love she seeks. She impatiently demands why her drugs should
be of less avail than those of Medea, with which she poisoned a
garment, that, once put on, caused Creusa, daughter of the king of
Corinth, to expire in intolerable torments? She discovers that Varus
had hitherto baffled her power by means of some magical antidote; and
she resolves to prepare a mightier charm, that nothing from earth or
hell shall resist. "Sooner," she says, "shall the sky be swallowed up
in the sea, and the earth be stretched a covering over both, than thou,
my enemy, shalt not be wrapped in the flames of love, as subtle and
tenacious as those of burning pitch."

It is not a little curious to remark the operation of the antagonist
principles of superstition and scepticism among the Romans in this
enlightened period, as it comes illustrated to us in the compositions
of Horace on this subject. In the piece, the contents of which have
just been given, things are painted in all the solemnity and terror
which is characteristic of the darkest ages. But, a few pages further
on, we find the poet in a mock Palinodia deprecating the vengeance of
the sorceress, who, he says, has already sufficiently punished him by
turning through her charms his flaxen hair to hoary white, and
overwhelming him by day and night with ceaseless anxieties. He feels
himself through her powerful magic tortured, like Hercules in the
envenomed shirt of Nessus, or as if he were cast down into the flames
of Aetna; nor does he hope that she will cease compounding a thousand
deadly ingredients against him, till his very ashes shall have been
scattered by the resistless winds. He offers therefore to expiate his
offence at her pleasure either by a sacrifice of an hundred oxen, or
by a lying ode, in which her chastity and spotless manners shall be
applauded to the skies.

What Ovid gives is only a new version of the charms and philtres of
Medea. [114]


Lucan, in his Pharsalia, [115] takes occasion, immediately before the
battle which was to decide the fate of the Roman world, to introduce
Sextus, the younger son of Pompey, as impatient to enquire, even by
the most sacrilegious means, into the important events which are
immediately impending. He is encouraged in the attempt by the
reflection, that the soil upon which they are now standing, Thessaly,
had been notorious for ages as the noxious and unwholesome seat of
sorcery and witchcraft. The poet therefore embraces this occasion to
expatiate on the various modes in which this detested art was
considered as displaying itself. And, however he may have been
ambitious to seize this opportunity to display the wealth of his
imagination, the whole does not fail to be curious, as an exhibition
of the system of magical power so far as the matter in hand is

The soil of Thessaly, says the poet, is in the utmost degree fertile
in poisonous herbs, and her rocks confess the power of the sepulchral
song of the magician. There a vegetation springs up of virtue to
compel the Gods; and Colchis itself imports from Thessaly treasures of
this sort which she cannot boast as her own. The chaunt of the
Thessalian witch penetrates the furthest seat of the Gods, and
contains words so powerful, that not the care of the skies, or of the
revolving spheres, can avail as an excuse to the deities to decline
its force. Babylon and Memphis yield to the superior might; and the
Gods of foreign climes fly to fulfil the dread behests of the magician.

Prompted by Thessalian song, love glides into the hardest hearts; and
even the severity of age is taught to burn with youthful fires. The
ingredients of the poisoned cup, nor the excrescence found on the
forehead of the new-cast foal, can rival in efficacy the witching
incantation. The soul is melted by its single force. The heart which
not all the attractions of the genial bed could fire, nor the
influence of the most beautiful form, the wheel of the sorceress shall
force from its bent.

But the effects are perhaps still more marvellous that are produced on
inanimate and unintellectual nature. The eternal succession of the
world is suspended; day delays to rise on the earth; the skies no
longer obey their ruler. Nature becomes still at the incantation: and
Jove, accustomed to guide the machine, is astonished to find the poles
disobedient to his impulse. Now the sorceress deluges the plains with
rain, hides the face of heaven with murky clouds, and the thunders
roll, unbidden by the thunderer. Anon she shakes her hair, and the
darkness is dispersed, and the whole horizon is cleared. At one time
the sea rages, urged by no storm; and at another is smooth as glass,
in defiance of the tempestuous North. The breath of the enchanter
carries along the bark in the teeth of the wind; the headlong torrent
is suspended, and rivers run back to their source. The Nile overflows
not in the summer; the crooked Meander shapes to itself a direct
course; the sluggish Arar gives new swiftness to the rapid Rhone; and
the mountains bow their heads to their foundations. Clouds shroud the
peaks of the cloudless Olympus; and the Scythian snows dissolve,
unurged by the sun. The sea, though impelled by the tempestuous
constellations, is counteracted by witchcraft, and no longer beats
along the shore. Earthquakes shake the solid globe; and the affrighted
inhabitants behold both hemispheres at once. The animals most dreaded
for their fury, and whose rage is mortal, become tame; the hungry
tiger and the lordly lion fawn at the sorceress's feet; the snake
untwines all her folds amidst the snow; the viper, divided by wounds,
unites again its severed parts; and the envenomed serpent pines and
dies under the power of a breath more fatal than his own.

What, exclaims the poet, is the nature of the compulsion thus
exercised on the Gods, this obedience to song and to potent herbs,
this fear to disobey and scorn the enchanter? Do they yield from
necessity, or is it a voluntary subjection? Is it the piety of these
hags that obtains the reward, or by menaces do they secure their
purpose? Are all the Gods subject to this control, or, is there one
God upon whom it has power, who, himself compelled, compels the
elements? The stars fall from heaven at their command. The silver moon
yields to their execrations, and burns with a smouldering flame, even
as when the earth comes between her and the sun, and by its shadow
intercepts its rays; thus is the moon brought lower and more low, till
she covers with her froth the herbs destined to receive her malignant

But Erichtho, the witch of the poet, flouts all these arts, as too
poor and timid for her purposes. She never allows a roof to cover her
horrid head, or confesses the influence of the Houshold Gods. She
inhabits the deserted tomb, and dwells in a grave from which the ghost
of the dead has been previously expelled. She knows the Stygian abodes,
and the counsels of the infernals. Her countenance is lean; and her
complexion overspread with deadly paleness. Her hair is neglected and
matted. But when clouds and tempests obscure the stars, then she comes
forth, and defies the midnight lightning. Wherever she treads, the
fruits of the earth become withered, and the wholesome air is poisoned
with her breath. She offers no prayers, and pours forth no
supplications; she has recourse to no divination. She delights to
profane the sacred altar with a funereal flame, and pollutes the
incense with a torch from the pyre. The Gods yield at once to her
voice, nor dare to provoke her to a second mandate. She incloses the
living man within the confines of the grave; she subjects to sudden
death those who were destined to a protracted age; and she brings back
to life the corses of the dead. She snatches the smoaking cinders,
and the bones whitened with flame, from the midst of the pile, and
wrests the torch from the hand of the mourning parent. She seizes the
fragments of the burning shroud, and the embers yet moistened with
blood. But, where the sad remains are already hearsed in marble, it is
there that she most delights to exercise her sacrilegious power. She
tears the limbs of the dead, and digs out their eyes. She gnaws their
fingers. She separates with her teeth the rope on the gibbet, and
tears away the murderer from the cross on which he hung suspended. She
applies to her purposes the entrails withered with the wind, and the
marrow that had been dried by the sun. She bears away the nails which
had pierced the hands and feet of the criminal, the clotted blood
which had distilled from his wounds, and the sinews that had held him
suspended. She pounces upon the body of the dead in the battle-field,
anticipating the vulture and the beast of prey; but she does not
divide the limbs with a knife, nor tear them asunder with her hands:
she watches the approach of the wolf, that she may wrench the morsels
from his hungry jaws. Nor does the thought of murder deter her, if her
rites require the living blood, first spurting from the lacerated
throat. She drags forth the foetus from its pregnant mother, by a
passage which violence has opened. Wherever there is occasion for a
bolder and more remorseless ghost, with her own hand she dismisses him
from life; man at every period of existence furnishes her with
materials. She drags away the first down from the cheek of the
stripling, and with her left hand cuts the favourite lock from the
head of the young man. Often she watches with seemingly pious care the
dying hours of a relative, and seizes the occasion to bite his lips,
to compress his windpipe, and whisper in his expiring organ some
message to the infernal shades.

Sextus, guided by the general fame of this woman, sought her in her
haunts. He chose his time, in the depth of the night, when the sun is
at its lowermost distance from the upper sky. He took his way through
the desert fields. He took for companions the associates, the
accustomed ministers of his crimes. Wandering among broken graves and
crumbling sepulchres, they discovered her, sitting sublime on a ragged
rock, where mount Haemus stretches its roots to the Pharsalic field.
She was mumbling charms of the Magi and the magical Gods. For she
feared that the war might yet be transferred to other than the
Emathian fields. The sorceress was busy therefore enchanting the soil
of Philippi, and scattering on its surface the juice of potent herbs,
that it might be heaped with carcasses of the dead, and saturated with
their blood, that Macedon, and not Italy, might receive the bodies of
departed kings and the bones of the noble, and might be amply peopled
with the shades of men. Her choicest labour was as to the earth where
should be deposited the prostrate Pompey, or the limbs of the mighty

Sextus approached, and bespoke her thus: "Oh, glory of Haemonia, that
hast the power to divulge the fates of men, or canst turn aside fate
itself from its prescribed course, I pray thee to exercise thy gift in
disclosing events to come. Not the meanest of the Roman race am I, the
offspring of an illustrious chieftain, lord of the world in the one
case, or in the other the destined heir to my father's calamity. I
stand on a tremendous and giddy height: snatch me from this posture of
doubt; let me not blindly rush on, and blindly fall; extort this
secret from the Gods, or force the dead to confess what they know."

To whom the Thessalian crone replied: "If you asked to change the fate
of an individual, though it were to restore an old man, decrepid with
age, to vigorous youth, I could comply; but to break the eternal chain
of causes and consequences exceeds even our power. You seek however
only a foreknowledge of events to come, and you shall be gratified.
Meanwhile it were best, where slaughter has afforded so ample a field,
to select the body of one newly deceased, and whose flexible organs
shall be yet capable of speech, not with lineaments already hardened
in the sun."

Saying thus, Erichtho proceeded (having first with her art made the
night itself more dark, and involved her head in a pitchy cloud), to
explore the field, and examine one by one the bodies of the unburied
dead. As she approached, the wolves fled before her, and the birds of
prey, unwillingly sheathing their talons, abandoned their repast,
while the Thessalian witch, searching into the vital parts of the
frames before her, at length fixed on one whose lungs were uninjured,
and whose organs of speech had sustained no wound. The fate of many
hung in doubt, till she had made her selection. Had the revival of
whole armies been her will, armies would have stood up obedient to her
bidding. She passed a hook beneath the jaw of the selected one, and,
fastening it to a cord, dragged him along over rocks and stones, till
she reached a cave, overhung by a projecting ridge. A gloomy fissure
in the ground was there, of a depth almost reaching to the Infernal
Gods, where the yew-tree spread thick its horizontal branches, at all
times excluding the light of the sun. Fearful and withering shade was
there, and noisome slime cherished by the livelong night. The air was
heavy and flagging as that of the Taenarian promontory; and hither the
God of hell permits his ghosts to extend their wanderings. It is
doubtful whether the sorceress called up the dead to attend her here,
or herself descended to the abodes of Pluto. She put on a fearful and
variegated robe; she covered her face with her dishevelled hair, and
bound her brow with a wreath of vipers.

Meanwhile she observed Sextus afraid, with his eyes fixed on the
ground, and his companions trembling; and thus she reproached them.
"Lay aside," she said, "your vainly-conceived terrors! You shall
behold only a living and a human figure, whose accents you may listen
to with perfect security. If this alarms you, what would you say, if
you should have seen the Stygian lakes, and the shores burning with
sulphur unconsumed, if the furies stood before you, and Cerberus with
his mane of vipers, and the giants chained in eternal adamant? Yet all
these you might have witnessed unharmed; for all these would quail at
the terror of my brow."

She spoke, and next plied the dead body with her arts. She supples his
wounds, and infuses fresh blood into his veins: she frees his scars
from the clotted gore, and penetrates them with froth from the moon.
She mixes whatever nature has engendered in its most fearful caprices,
foam from the jaws of a mad dog, the entrails of the lynx, the backbone
of the hyena, and the marrow of a stag that had dieted on serpents,
the sinews of the remora, and the eyes of a dragon, the eggs of the
eagle, the flying serpent of Arabia, the viper that guards the pearl
in the Red Sea, the slough of the hooded snake, and the ashes that
remain when the phoenix has been consumed. To these she adds all venom
that has a name, the foliage of herbs over which she has sung her
charms, and on which she had voided her rheum as they grew.

At length she chaunts her incantation to the Stygian Gods, in a voice
compounded of all discords, and altogether alien to human organs. It
resembles at once the barking of a dog, and the howl of a wolf; it
consists of the hooting of the screech-owl, the yelling of a ravenous
wild beast, and the fearful hiss of a serpent. It borrows somewhat
from the roar of tempestuous waves, the hollow rushing of the winds
among the branches of the forest, and the tremendous crash of
deafening thunder.

"Ye furies," she cries, "and dreadful Styx, ye sufferings of the
damned, and Chaos, for ever eager to destroy the fair harmony of
worlds, and thou, Pluto, condemned to an eternity of ungrateful
existence, Hell, and Elysium, of which no Thessalian witch shall
partake, Proserpine, for ever cut off from thy health-giving mother,
and horrid Hecate, Cerebrus [Errata: _read_ Cerberus] curst with
incessant hunger, ye Destinies, and Charon endlessly murmuring at the
task I impose of bringing back the dead again to the land of the
living, hear me!--if I call on you with a voice sufficiently impious
and abominable, if I have never sung this chaunt, unsated with human
gore, if I have frequently laid on your altars the fruit of the
pregnant mother, bathing its contents with the reeking brain, if I
have placed on a dish before you the head and entrails of an infant on
the point to be born--

"I ask not of you a ghost, already a tenant of the Tartarean abodes,
and long familiarised to the shades below, but one who has recently
quitted the light of day, and who yet hovers over the mouth of hell:
let him hear these incantations, and immediately after descend to his
destined place! Let him articulate suitable omens to the son of his
general, having so late been himself a soldier of the great Pompey! Do
this, as you love the very sound and rumour of a civil war!"

Saying this, behold, the ghost of the dead man stood erect before her,
trembling at the view of his own unanimated limbs, and loth to enter
again the confines of his wonted prison. He shrinks to invest himself
with the gored bosom, and the fibres from which death had separated
him. Unhappy wretch, to whom death had not given the privilege to die!
Erichtho, impatient at the unlooked for delay, lashes the unmoving
corpse with one of her serpents. She calls anew on the powers of hell,
and threatens to pronounce the dreadful name, which cannot be
articulated without consequences never to be thought of, nor without
the direst necessity to be ventured upon.

At length the congealed blood becomes liquid and warm; it oozes from
the wounds, and creeps steadily along the veins and the members; the
fibres are called into action beneath the gelid breast, and the nerves
once more become instinct with life. Life and death are there at once.
The arteries beat; the muscles are braced; the body raises itself, not
by degrees, but at a single impulse, and stands erect. The eyelids
unclose. The countenance is not that of a living subject, but of the
dead. The paleness of the complexion, the rigidity of the lines,
remain; and he looks about with an unmeaning stare, but utters no
sound. He waits on the potent enchantress.

"Speak!" said she; "and ample shall be your reward. You shall not
again be subject to the art of the magician. I will commit your
members to such a sepulchre; I will burn your form with such wood, and
will chaunt such a charm over your funeral pyre, that all incantations
shall thereafter assail you in vain. Be it enough, that you have once
been brought back to life! Tripods, and the voice of oracles deal in
ambiguous responses; but the voice of the dead is perspicuous and
certain to him who receives it with an unshrinking spirit. Spare not!
Give names to things; give places a clear designation; speak with a
full and articulate voice."

Saying this, she added a further spell, qualified to give to him who
was to answer, a distinct knowledge of that respecting which he was
about to be consulted. He accordingly delivers the responses demanded
of him; and, that done, earnestly requires of the witch to be
dismissed. Herbs and magic rites are necessary, that the corpse may be
again unanimated, and the spirit never more be liable to be recalled
to the realms of day. The sorceress constructs the funeral pile; the
dead man places himself thereon; Erichtho applies the torch; and the
charm is for ever at an end.

Lucan in this passage is infinitely too precise, and exhausts his muse
in a number of particulars, where he had better have been more
succinct and select. He displays the prolific exuberance of a young
poet, who had not yet taught himself the multiplied advantages of
compression. He had not learned the principle, _Relinquere quae
desperat tractata nitescere posse_. [116] But, as this is the
fullest enumeration of the forms of witchcraft that occurs in the
writers of antiquity, it seemed proper to give it to the reader


The story of Sertorius and his hind, which occurred about thirty years
before, may not be improperly introduced here. It is told by Plutarch
in the spirit of a philosopher, and as a mere deception played by that
general, to render the barbarous people of Spain more devoted to his
service. But we must suppose that it had, at least for the time, the
full effect of something preternatural. Sertorius was one of the most
highly gifted and well balanced characters that is to be found in
Roman story. He considered with the soundest discernment the nature of
the persons among whom he was to act, and conducted himself
accordingly. The story in Plutarch is this.

"So soone as Sertorius arriued from Africa, he straight leauied men of
warre, and with them subdued the people of Spaine fronting upon his
marches, of which the more part did willingly submit themselves, upon
the bruit that ran of him to be mercifull and courteous, and a valiant
man besides in present danger, Furthermore, he lacked no fine deuises
and subtilties to win their goodwils: as among others, the policy, and
deuise of the hind. There was a poore man of the countrey called
Spanus, who meeting by chance one day with a hind in his way that had
newly calved, flying from the hunters, he let the damme go, not being
able to take her; and running after her calfe tooke it, which was a
young hind, and of a strange haire, for she was all milk-white. It
chanced so, that Sertorius was at that time in those parts. So, this
poore man presented Sertorius with his young hind, which he gladly
receiued, and which with time he made so tame, that she would come to
him when he called her, and follow him where-euer he went, being
nothing the wilder for the daily sight of such a number of armed
souldiers together as they were, nor yet afraid of the noise and
tumult of the campe. Insomuch as Sertorius by little and little made
it a miracle, making the simple barbarous people beleeue that it was a
gift that Diana had sent him, by the which she made him understand of
many and sundrie things to come: knowing well inough of himselfe, that
the barbarous people were men easily deceiued, and quickly caught by
any subtill superstition, besides that by art also he brought them to
beleeue it as a thing verie true. For when he had any secret
intelligence giuen him, that the enemies would inuade some part of the
countries and prouinces subject vnto him, or that they had taken any
of his forts from him by any intelligence or sudden attempt, he
straight told them that his hind spake to him as he slept, and had
warned him both to arme his men, and put himselfe in strength. In like
manner if he had heard any newes that one of his lieutenants had wonne
a battell, or that he had any aduantage of his enemies, he would hide
the messenger, and bring his hind abroad with a garland and coller of
nosegayes: and then say, it was a token of some good newes comming
towards him, perswading them withall to be of good cheare; and so did
sacrifice to the Gods, to giue them thankes for the good tidings he
should heare before it were long. Thus by putting this superstition
into their heades, he made them the more tractable and obedient to his
will, in so much as they thought they were not now gouerned any more
by a stranger wiser than themselues, but were steadfastly perswaded
that they were rather led by some certaine God."--

"Now was Sertorius very heauie, that no man could tell him what was
become of his white hind: for thereby all his subtilltie and finenesse
to keepe the barbarous people in obedience was taken away, and then
specially when they stood in need of most comfort. But by good hap,
certaine of his souldiers that had lost themselves in the night, met
with the hind in their way, and knowing her by her colour, tooke her
and brought her backe againe. Sertorius hearing of her, promised them
a good reward, so that they would tell no liuing creature that they
brought her againe, and thereupon made her to be secretly kept. Then
within a few dayes after, he came abroad among them, and with a
pleasant countenance told the noble men and chiefe captaines of these
barbarous people, how the Gods had reuealed it to him in his dreame,
that he should shortly have a maruellous good thing happen to him: and
with these words sate downe in his chaire to give audience. Whereupon
they that kept the hind not farre from thence, did secretly let her go.
The hind being loose, when she had spied Sertorius, ranne straight to
his chaire with great joy, and put her head betwixt his legges, and
layed her mouth in his right hand, as she before was wont to do.
Sertorius also made very much of her, and of purpose appeared
maruellous glad, shewing such tender affection to the hind, as it
seemed the water stood in his eyes for joy. The barbarous people that
stood there by and beheld the same, at the first were much amazed
therewith, but afterwards when they had better bethought themselues,
for ioy they clapped their hands together, and waited upon Sertorius
to his lodging with great and ioyfull shouts, saying, and steadfastly
beleeuing, that he he was a heavenly creature, and beloued of the
Gods." [117]


We are now brought down to the era of the Christian religion; and
there is repeated mention of sorcery in the books of the New Testament.

One of the most frequent miracles recorded of Jesus Christ is called
the "casting out devils." The Pharisees in the Evangelist, for the
purpose of depreciating this evidence of his divine mission, are
recorded to have said, "this fellow doth not cast out devils, but by
Beelzebub, the prince of devils." Jesus, among other remarks in
refutation of this opprobrium, rejoins upon them, "If I by Beelzebub
cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?" [118] Here
then we have a plain insinuation of sorcery from the lips of Christ
himself, at the same time that he appears to admit that his
adversaries produced supernatural achievements similar to his own.


But the most remarkable passage in the New Testament on the subject of
sorcery, is one which describes the proceedings of Simon Magus, as

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ
unto them. But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before
time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of
Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one. To whom they all
gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the
great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long
time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But, when they believed
Philip, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the
name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women. Then
Simon himself believed also. And, when he was baptized, he continued
with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were

"Now, when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had
received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who,
when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the
Holy Ghost. For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were
baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on
them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

"And, when Simon saw that, through the laying on of the apostles'
hands, the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give
me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands he may receive the
Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee!
because thou hast thought that the gift of God might be purchased with
money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is
not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness,
and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee:
for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the
bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord
for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."

This passage of the New Testament leaves us in considerable uncertainty
as to the nature of the sorceries, by which "of a long time Simon had
bewitched the people of Samaria." But the fathers of the church,
Clemens Romanus and Anastasius Sinaita, have presented us with a
detail of the wonders he actually performed. When and to whom he
pleased he made himself invisible; he created a man out of air; he
passed through rocks and mountains without encountering an obstacle;
he threw himself from a precipice uninjured; he flew along in the air;
he flung himself in the fire without being burned. Bolts and chains
were impotent to detain him. He animated statues, so that they
appeared to every beholder to be men and women; he made all the
furniture of the house and the table to change places as required,
without a visible mover; he metamorphosed his countenance and visage
into that of another person; he could make himself into a sheep, or a
goat, or a serpent; he walked through the streets attended with a
multitude of strange figures, which he affirmed to be the souls of the
departed; he made trees and branches of trees suddenly to spring up
where he pleased; he set up and deposed kings at will; he caused a
sickle to go into a field of corn, which unassisted would mow twice as
fast as the most industrious reaper. [120]

Thus endowed, it is difficult to imagine what he thought he would have
gained by purchasing from the apostles their gift of working miracles.
But Clemens Romanus informs us that he complained that, in his
sorceries, he was obliged to employ tedious ceremonies and
incantations; whereas the apostles appeared to effect their wonders
without difficulty and effort, by barely speaking a word. [121]


But Simon Magus is not the only magician spoken of in the New
Testament. When the apostle Paul came to Paphos in the isle of Cyprus,
he found the Roman governor divided in his preference between Paul and
Elymas, the sorcerer, who before the governor withstood Paul to his
face. Then Paul, prompted by his indignation, said, "Oh, full of all
subtlety and mischief, child of the devil, enemy of all righteousness,
wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now,
behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind,
not seeing the sun for a season." What wonders Elymas effected to
deceive the Roman governor we are not told: but "immediately there
fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about, seeking some to
lead him by the hand." [122]

In another instance we find certain vagabond Jews, exorcists, who
pretended to cast out devils from the possessed. But they came to the
apostle, and "confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also
which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them
before all. And they counted the price of them, and found it fifty
thousand pieces of silver." [123]

It is easy to see however on which side the victory lay. The apostles
by their devotion and the integrity of their proceedings triumphed;
while those whose only motive was selfishness, the applause of the
vulgar, or the admiration of the superficial, gained the honours of a
day, and were then swept away into the gulf of general oblivion.


The arts of the magician are said to have been called into action by
Nero upon occasion of the assassination of his mother, Agrippina. He
was visited with occasional fits of the deepest remorse in the
recollection of his enormity. Notwithstanding all the ostentatious
applauses and congratulations which he obtained from the senate, the
army and the people, he complained that he was perpetually haunted
with the ghost of his mother, and pursued by the furies with flaming
torches and whips. He therefore caused himself to be attended by
magicians, who employed their arts to conjure up the shade of
Agrippina, and to endeavour to obtain her forgiveness for the crime
perpetrated by her son. [124] We are not informed of the success of
their evocations.


In the reign of Vespasian we meet with a remarkable record of
supernatural power, though it does not strictly fall under the head of
magic. It is related by both Tacitus and Suetonius. Vespasian having
taken up his abode for some months at Alexandria, a blind man, of the
common people, came to him, earnestly intreating the emperor to assist
in curing his infirmity, alleging that he was prompted to apply by the
admonition of the God Serapis, and importuning the prince to anoint
his cheeks and the balls of his eyes with the royal spittle. Vespasian
at first treated the supplication with disdain; but at length, moved
by the fervour of the petitioner, inforced as it was by the flattery
of his courtiers, the emperor began to think that every thing would
give way to his prosperous fortune, and yielded to the poor man's
desire. With a confident carriage therefore, the multitude of those
who stood by being full of expectation, he did as he was requested,
and the desired success immediately followed. Another supplicant
appeared at the same time, who had lost the use of his hands, and
intreated Vespasian to touch the diseased members with his foot; and
he also was cured.[125]

Hume has remarked that many circumstances contribute to give
authenticity to this miracle, "if," as he says, "any evidence could
avail to establish so palpable a falsehood. The gravity, solidity, age
and probity of so great an emperor, who, through the whole course of
his life, conversed in a familiar manner with his friends and
courtiers, and never affected any airs of divinity: the historian, a
contemporary writer, noted for candour and veracity, and perhaps the
greatest and most penetrating genius of all antiquity: and lastly, the
persons from whose authority he related the miracle, who we may
presume to have been of established character for judgment and honour;
eye-witnesses of the fact, and confirming their testimony, as Tacitus
goes on to say, after the Flavian family ceased to be in power, and
could no longer give any reward as the price of a lie." [126]


Apollonius of Tyana in Asia Minor was born nearly at the same time as
Jesus Christ, and acquired great reputation while he lived, and for a
considerable time after. He was born of wealthy parents, and seems
early to have betrayed a passion for philosophy. His father,
perceiving this, placed him at fourteen years of age under Euthydemus,
a rhetorician of Tarsus; but the youth speedily became dissatisfied
with the indolence and luxury of the citizens, and removed himself to
Aegas, a neighbouring town, where was a temple of Aesculapius, and where
the God was supposed sometimes to appear in person. Here he became
professedly a disciple of the sect of Pythagoras. He refrained from
animal food, and subsisted entirely on fruits and herbs. He went
barefoot, and wore no article of clothing made from the skins of
animals. [127] He further imposed on himself a noviciate of five years
silence. At the death of his father, he divided his patrimony equally
with his brother; and, that brother having wasted his estate by
prodigality, he again made an equal division with him of what
remained. [128] He travelled to Babylon and Susa in pursuit of
knowledge, and even among the Brachmans of India, and appears
particularly to have addicted himself to the study of magic. [129] He
was of a beautiful countenance and a commanding figure, and, by means
of these things, combined with great knowledge, a composed and
striking carriage, and much natural eloquence, appears to have won
universal favour wherever he went. He is said to have professed the
understanding of all languages without learning them, to read the
thoughts of men, and to be able to interpret the language of animals.
A power of working miracles attended him in all places. [130]

On one occasion he announced to the people of Ephesus the approach of
a terrible pestilence; but the citizens paid no attention to his
prophecy. The calamity however having overtaken them, they sent to
Apollonius who was then at Smyrna, to implore his assistance. He
obeyed the summons. Having assembled the inhabitants, there was seen
among them a poor, old and decrepid beggar, clothed in rags, hideous
of visage, and with a peculiarly fearful and tremendous expression in
his eyes. Apollonius called out to the Ephesians, "This is an enemy to
the Gods; turn all your animosity against him, and stone him to death!"
The old man in the most piteous tones besought their mercy. The
citizens were shocked with the inhumanity of the prophet. Some however
of the more thoughtless flung a few stones, without any determined
purpose. The old man, who had stood hitherto crouching, and with his
eyes half-closed, now erected his figure, and cast on the crowd
glances, fearful, and indeed diabolical. The Ephesians understood at
once that this was the genius of the plague. They showered upon him
stones without mercy, so as not only to cover him, but to produce a
considerable mound where he had stood. After a time Apollonius
commanded them to take away the stones, that they might discover what
sort of an enemy they had destroyed. Instead of a man they now saw an
enormous black dog, of the size of a lion, and whose mouth and jaws
were covered with a thick envenomed froth. [131]

Another miracle was performed by Apollonius in favour of a young man,
named Menippus of Corinth, five and twenty years of age, for whom the
prophet entertained a singular favour. This man conceived himself to
be beloved by a rich and beautiful woman, who made advances to him,
and to whom he was on the point of being contracted in marriage.
Apollonius warned his young friend against the match in an enigmatical
way, telling him that he nursed a serpent in his bosom. This however
did not deter Menippus. All things were prepared; and the wedding
table was spread. Apollonius meanwhile came among them, and prevented
the calamity. He told the young man that the dishes before him, the
wine he was drinking, the vessels of gold and silver that appeared
around him, and the very guests themselves were unreal and illusory;
and to prove his words, he caused them immediately to vanish. The
bride alone was refractory. She prayed the philosopher not to torment
her, and not to compel her to confess what she was. He was however
inexorable. She at length owned that she was an empuse (a sort of
vampire), and that she had determined to cherish and pamper Menippus,
that she might in the conclusion eat his flesh, and lap up his blood.

One of the miracles of Apollonius consisted in raising the dead. A
young woman of beautiful person was laid out upon a bier, and was in
the act of being conveyed to the tomb. She was followed by a multitude
of friends, weeping and lamenting, and among others by a young man,
to whom she had been on the point to be married. Apollonius met the
procession, and commanded those who bore it, to set down the bier. He
exhorted the proposed bridegroom to dry up his tears. He enquired the
name of the deceased, and, saluting her accordingly, took hold of her
hand, and murmured over her certain mystical words. At this act the
maiden raised herself on her seat, and presently returned home, whole
and sound, to the house of her father. [133]

Towards the end of his life Apollonius was accused before Domitian of
having conspired with Nerva to put an end to the reign of the tyrant.
He appears to have proved that he was at another place, and therefore
could not have engaged in the conspiracy that was charged upon him.
Domitian publicly cleared him from the accusation, but at the same
time required him not to withdraw from Rome, till the emperor had
first had a private conference with him. To this requisition Apollonius
replied in the most spirited terms. "I thank your majesty," said he,
"for the justice you have rendered me. But I cannot submit to what you
require. How can I be secure from the false accusations of the
unprincipled informers who infest your court? It is by their means
that whole towns of your empire are unpeopled, that provinces are
involved in mourning and tears, your armies are in mutiny, your senate
full of suspicion and alarms, and the islands are crowded with exiles.
It is not for myself that I speak, my soul is invulnerable to your
enmity; and it is not given to you by the Gods to become master of my
body." And, having thus given utterance to the virtuous anguish of his
spirit, he suddenly became invisible in the midst of a full assembly,
and was immediately after seen at Puteoli in the neighbourhood of
Mount Vesuvius. [134]

Domitian pursued the prophet no further; and he passed shortly after
to Greece, to Ionia, and finally to Ephesus. He every where delivered
lectures as he went, and was attended with crowds of the most
distinguished auditors, and with the utmost popularity. At length at
Ephesus, when he was in the midst of an eloquent harangue, he suddenly
became silent. He seemed as if he saw a spectacle which engrossed all
his attention. His countenance expressed fervour and the most
determined purpose. He exclaimed, "Strike the tyrant; strike him!" and
immediately after, raising himself, and addressing the assembly, he
said, "Domitian is no more; the world is delivered of its bitterest
oppressor."--The next post brought the news that the emperor was
killed at Rome, exactly on the day and at the hour when Apollonius had
thus made known the event at Ephesus. [135]

Nerva succeeded Domitian, between whom and Apollonius there subsisted
the sincerest friendship. The prophet however did not long survive
this event. He was already nearly one hundred years old. But what is
most extraordinary, no one could tell precisely when or where he died.
No tomb bore the record of his memory; and his biographer inclines to
the opinion that he was taken up into heaven. [136]

Divine honours were paid to this philosopher, both during his life,
and after his death. The inhabitants of Tyana built a temple to him,
and his image was to be found in many other temples. [137] The emperor
Adrian collected his letters, and treated them as an invaluable relic.
Alexander Severus placed his statue in his oratory, together with
those of Jesus Christ, Abraham and Orpheus, to whom he was accustomed
daily to perform the ceremonies of religion. [138] Vopiscus, in his
Life of Aurelian, [139] relates that this emperor had determined to
rase the city of Tyana, but that Apollonius, whom he knew from his
statues, appeared to him, and said, "Aurelian, if you would conquer,
do not think of the destruction of my citizens: Aurelian, if you would
reign, abstain from the blood of the innocent: Aurelian, if you would
conquer, distinguish yourself by acts of clemency." It was at the
desire of Julia, the mother of Severus, that Philostratus composed the
life of Apollonius, to which he is now principally indebted for his
fame. [140]

The publicity of Apollonius and his miracles has become considerably
greater, from the circumstance of the early enemies of the Christian
religion having instituted a comparison between the miracles of Christ
and of this celebrated philosopher, for the obvious purpose of
undermining one of the most considerable evidences of the truth of
divine revelation. It was probably with an indirect view of this sort
that Philostratus was incited by the empress Julia to compose his life
of this philosopher; and Hierocles, a writer of the time of Dioclesian,
appears to have penned an express treatise in the way of a parallel
between the two, attempting to shew a decisive superiority in the
miracles of Apollonius.


Apuleius of Madaura in Africa, who lived in the time of the Antonines,
appears to have been more remarkable as an author, than for any thing
that occurs in the history of his life. St. Augustine and Lactantius
however have coupled him with Apollonius of Tyana, as one of those who
for their pretended miracles were brought into competition with the
author of the Christian religion. But this seems to have arisen from
their misapprehension respecting his principal work, the Golden Ass,
which is a romance detailing certain wonderful transformations, and
which they appear to have thought was intended as an actual history of
the life of the author.

The work however deserves to be cited in this place, as giving a
curious representation of the ideas which were then prevalent on the
subjects of magic and witchcraft. The author in the course of his
narrative says: "When the day began to dawn, I chanced to awake, and
became desirous to know and see some marvellous and strange things,
remembering that I was now in the midst of Thessaly, where, by the
common report of the world, sorceries and enchantments are most
frequent. I viewed the situation of the place in which I was; nor was
there any thing I saw, that I believed to be the same thing which it
appeared. Insomuch that the very stones in the street I thought were
men bewitched and turned into that figure, and the birds I heard
chirping, the trees without the walls, and the running waters, were
changed from human creatures into the appearances they wore. I
persuaded myself that the statues and buildings could move, that the
oxen and other brute beasts could speak and tell strange tidings, and
that I should see and hear oracles from heaven, conveyed on the beams
of the sun."


At the same time with Apuleius lived Alexander the Paphlagonian, of
whom so extraordinary an account is transmitted to us by Lucian. He
was the native of an obscure town, called Abonotica, but was endowed
with all that ingenuity and cunning which enables men most effectually
to impose upon their fellow-creatures. He was tall of stature, of an
impressive aspect, a fair complexion, eyes that sparkled with an
awe-commanding fire as if informed by some divinity, and a voice to
the last degree powerful and melodious. To these he added the graces
of carriage and attire. Being born to none of the goods of fortune, he
considered with himself how to turn these advantages to the greatest
account; and the plan he fixed upon was that of instituting an oracle
entirely under his own direction. He began at Chalcedon on the
Thracian Bosphorus; but, continuing but a short time there, he used it
principally as an opportunity for publishing that Aesculapius, with
Apollo, his father, would in no long time fix his residence at
Abonotica. This rumour reached the fellow-citizens of the prophet, who
immediately began to lay the foundations of a temple for the reception
of the God. In due time Alexander made his appearance; and he so well
managed his scheme, that, by means of spies and emissaries whom he
scattered in all directions, he not only collected applications to his
prophetic skill from the different towns of Ionia, Cilicia and Galatia,
but presently extended his fame to Italy and Rome. For twenty years
scarcely any oracle of the known world could vie with that of
Abonotica; and the emperor Aurelius himself is said to have relied for
the success of a military expedition upon the predictions of Alexander
the Paphlagonian.

Lucian gives, or pretends to give, an account of the manner in which
Alexander gained so extraordinary a success. He says, that this young
man in his preliminary travels, coming to Pella in Macedon, found that
the environs of this city were distinguished from perhaps all other
parts of the world, by a breed of serpents of extraordinary size and
beauty. Our author adds that these serpents were so tame, that they
inhabited the houses of the province, and slept in bed with the
children. If you trod upon them, they did not turn again, or shew
tokens of anger, and they sucked the breasts of the women to whom it
might be of service to draw off their milk. Lucian says, it was
probably one of these serpents, that was found in the bed of Olympias,
and gave occasion to the tale that Alexander the Great was begotten by
Jupiter under the form of a serpent. The prophet bought the largest
and finest serpent he could find, and conveyed it secretly with him
into Asia. When he came to Abonotica, he found the temple that was
built surrounded with a moat; and he took an opportunity privately of
sinking a goose-egg, which he had first emptied of its contents,
inserting instead a young serpent just hatched, and closing it again
with great care. He then told his fellow-citizens that the God was
arrived, and hastening to the moat, scooped up the egg in an egg-cup
in presence of the whole assembly. He next broke the shell, and shewed
the young serpent that twisted about his fingers in presence of the
admiring multitude. After this he suffered several days to elapse, and
then, collecting crowds from every part of Paphlagonia, he exhibited
himself, as he had previously announced he should do, with the fine
serpent he had brought from Macedon twisted in coils about the
prophet's neck, and its head hid under his arm-pit, while a head
artfully formed with linen, and bearing some resemblance to a human
face, protruded itself, and passed for the head of the reptile. The
spectators were beyond measure astonished to see a little embryo
serpent, grown in a few days to so magnificent a size, and exhibiting
the features of a human countenance.

Having thus far succeeded, Alexander did not stop here. He contrived
a pipe which passed seemingly into the mouth of the animal, while the
other end terminated in an adjoining room, where a man was placed
unseen, and delivered the replies which appeared to come from the
mouth of the serpent. This immediate communication with the God was
reserved for a few favoured suitors, who bought at a high price the
envied distinction.

The method with ordinary enquirers was for them to communicate their
requests in writing, which they were enjoined to roll up and carefully
seal; and these scrolls were returned to them in a few days, with the
seals apparently unbroken, but with an answer written within,
strikingly appropriate to the demand that was preferred.--It is further
to be observed, that the mouth of the serpent was occasionally opened
by means of a horsehair skilfully adjusted for the purpose, at the
same time that by similar means the animal darted out its biforked
tongue to the terror of the amazed bystanders.


It is necessary here to take notice of the great revolution that took
place under Constantine, nearly three hundred years after the death of
Christ, when Christianity became the established religion of the Roman
empire. This was a period which produced a new era in the history of
necromancy and witchcraft. Under the reign of polytheism, devotion was
wholly unrestrained in every direction it might chance to assume. Gods
known and unknown, the spirits of departed heroes, the Gods of heaven
and hell, abstractions of virtue or vice, might unblamed be made the
objects of religious worship. Witchcraft therefore, and the invocation
of the spirits of the dead, might be practised with toleration; or at
all events were not regarded otherwise than as venial deviations from
the religion of the state.

It is true, there must always have been a horror of secret arts,
especially of such as were of a maleficent nature. At all times men
dreaded the mysterious power of spells and incantations, of potent
herbs and nameless rites, which were able to control the eternal order
of the planets, and the voluntary operations of mind, which could
extinguish or recal life, inflame the passions of the soul, blast the
works of creation, and extort from invisible beings and the dead the
secrets of futurity. But under the creed of the unity of the divine
nature the case was exceedingly different. Idolatry, and the worship
of other Gods than one, were held to be crimes worthy of the utmost
abhorrence and the severest punishment. There was no medium between
the worship of heaven and hell. All adoration was to be directed to
God the Creator through the mediation of his only begotten Son; or, if
prayers were addressed to inferior beings, and the glorified spirits
of his saints, at least they terminated in the Most High, were a
deprecation of his wrath, a soliciting his favour, and a homage to his
omnipotence. On the other hand sorcery and witchcraft were sins of the
blackest dye. In opposition to the one only God, the creator of heaven
and earth, was the "prince of darkness," the "prince of the power of
the air," who contended perpetually against the Almighty, and sought
to seduce his creatures and his subjects from their due allegiance.
Sorcerers and witches were supposed to do homage and sell themselves
to the devil, than which it was not in the mind of man to conceive a
greater enormity, or a crime more worthy to cause its perpetrators to
be exterminated from the face of the earth. The thought of it was of
power to cause the flesh of man to creep and tingle with horror: and
such as were prone to indulge their imaginations to the utmost extent
of the terrible, found a perverse delight in conceiving this
depravity, and were but too much disposed to fasten it upon their


It was not within the range of possibility, that such a change should
take place in the established religion of the empire as that from
Paganism to Christianity, without convulsions and vehement struggle.
The prejudices of mankind on a subject so nearly concerned with their
dearest interests and affections must inevitably be powerful and
obstinate; and the lucre of the priesthood, together with the strong
hold they must necessarily have had on the weakness and superstition
of their flocks, would tend to give force and perpetuity to the
contention. Julian, a man of great ability and unquestionable
patriotism, succeeded to the empire only twenty-four years after the
death of Constantine; and he employed the most vigorous measures for
the restoration of the ancient religion. But the reign of Julian was
scarcely more than eighteen months in duration: and that of Jovian,
his successor, who again unfurled the standard of Christianity, lasted
hardly more than half a year. The state of things bore a striking
similarity to that of England at the time of the Protestant
Reformation, where the opposite faiths of Edward the Sixth and his
sister Mary, and the shortness of their reigns, gave preternatural
keenness to the feelings of the parties, and instigated them to hang
with the most restless anticipation upon the chances of the demise of
the sovereign, and the consequences, favourable or unfavourable, that
might arise from a new accession.

The joint reign of Valentinian and Valens, Christian emperors, had now
lasted several years, when information was conveyed to these princes,
and particularly to the latter, who had the rule of Asia, that
numerous private consultations were held, as to the duration of their
authority, and the person of the individual who should come after them.
The succession of the Roman empire was elective; and consequently
there was almost an unlimited scope for conjecture in this question.
Among the various modes of enquiry that were employed we are told,
that the twenty-four letters of the alphabet were artificially
disposed in a circle, and that a magic ring, being suspended over the
centre, was conceived to point to the initial letters of the name of
him who should be the future emperor. Theodorus, a man of most eminent
qualifications, and high popularity, was put to death by the jealousy
of Valens, on the vague evidence that this kind of trial had indicated
the early letters of his name. [141] It may easily be imagined, that,
where so restless and secret an investigation was employed as to the
successor that fate might provide, conspiracy would not always be
absent. Charges of this sort were perpetually multiplied; informers
were eager to obtain favour or rewards by the disclosures they
pretended to communicate; and the Christians, who swayed the sceptre
of the state, did not fail to aggravate the guilt of those who had
recourse to these means for satisfying their curiosity, by alleging
that demons were called up from hell to aid in the magic solution. The
historians of these times no doubt greatly exaggerate the terror and
the danger, when they say, that the persons apprehended on such
charges in the great cities outnumbered the peaceable citizens who
were left unsuspected, and that the military who had charge of the
prisoners, complained that they were wholly without the power to
restrain the flight of the captives, or to control the multitude of
partisans who insisted on their immediate release. [142] The
punishments were barbarous and indiscriminate; to be accused was
almost the same thing as to be convicted; and those were obliged to
hold themselves fortunate, who escaped with a fine that in a manner
swallowed up their estates.


From the countries best known in what is usually styled ancient
history, in other words from Greece and Rome, and the regions into
which the spirit of conquest led the people of Rome and Greece, it is
time we should turn to the East, and those remoter divisions of the
world, which to them were comparatively unknown.

With what has been called the religion of the Magi, of Egypt, Persia
and Chaldea, they were indeed superficially acquainted; but for a more
familiar and accurate knowledge of the East we are chiefly indebted to
certain events of modern history; to the conquests of the Saracens,
when they possessed themselves of the North of Africa, made themselves
masters of Spain, and threatened in their victorious career to subject
France to their standard; to the crusades; to the spirit of nautical
discovery which broke out in the close of the fifteenth century; and
more recently to the extensive conquests and mighty augmentation of
territory which have been realised by the English East India Company.

The religion of Persia was that of Zoroaster and the Magi. When
Ardshir, or Artaxerxes, the founder of the race of the Sassanides,
restored the throne of Persia in the year of Christ 226, he called
together an assembly of the Magi from all parts of his dominions, and
they are said to have met to the number of eighty thousand. [143]
These priests, from a remote antiquity, had to a great degree
preserved their popularity, and had remarkably adhered to their
ancient institutions.

They seem at all times to have laid claim to the power of suspending
the course of nature, and producing miraculous phenomena. But in so
numerous a body there must have been some whose pretensions were of a
more moderate nature, and others who displayed a loftier aspiration.
The more ambitious we find designated in their native language by the
name of _Jogees_, [144] of the same signification as the Latin

Their notions of the Supreme Being are said to have been of the
highest and abstrusest character, as comprehending every possible
perfection of power, wisdom and goodness, as purely spiritual in his
essence, and incapable of the smallest variation and change, the same
yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Such as they apprehended him to be,
such the most perfect of their priests aspired to make themselves.
They were to put off all human weakness and frailty; and, in
proportion as they _assimilated_, or rather _became one_
with the Deity, they supposed themselves to partake of his attributes,
to become infinitely wise and powerful and good. Hence their claim to
suspend the course of nature, and to produce miraculous phenomena. For
this purpose it was necessary that they should abstract themselves
from every thing mortal, have no human passions or partialities, and
divest themselves as much as possible of all the wants and demands of
our material frame. Zoroaster appears indeed to have preferred
morality to devotion, to have condemned celibacy and fasting, and to
have pronounced, that "he who sows the ground with diligence and care,
acquires a greater stock of religious merit than he who should repeat
ten thousand prayers." But his followers at least did not abide by
this decision. They found it more practicable to secure to themselves
an elevated reputation by severe observances, rigid self-denial, and
the practice of the most inconceivable mortifications. This excited
wonder and reverence and a sort of worship from the bystander, which
industry and benevolence do not so assuredly secure. They therefore in
frequent instances lacerated their flesh, and submitted to incredible
hardships. They scourged themselves without mercy, wounded their
bodies with lancets and nails, [145] and condemned themselves to
remain for days and years unmoved in the most painful attitudes. It
was no unprecedented thing for them to take their station upon the top
of a high pillar; and some are said to have continued in this position,
without ever coming down from it, for thirty years. The more they
trampled under foot the universal instincts of our nature, and shewed
themselves superior to its infirmities, the nearer they approached to
the divine essence, and to the becoming one with the Omnipresent. They
were of consequence the more sinless and perfect; their will became
the will of the Deity, and they were in a sense invested with, and
became the mediums of the acts of, his power. The result of all this
is, that they who exercised the art of magic in its genuine and
unadulterated form, at all times applied it to purposes of goodness
and benevolence, and that their interference was uniformly the signal
of some unequivocal benefit, either to mankind in general, or to those
individuals of mankind who were best entitled to their aid. It was
theirs to succour virtue in distress, and to interpose the divine
assistance in cases that most loudly and unquestionably called for it.

Such, we are told, was the character of the pure and primitive magic,
as it was handed down from the founder of their religion. It was
called into action by the Jogees, men who, by an extraordinary merit
of whatever sort, had in a certain sense rendered themselves one with
the Deity. But the exercise of magical power was too tempting an
endowment, not in some cases to be liable to abuse. Even as we read of
the angels in heaven, that not all of them stood, and persevered in
their original sinlessness and integrity, so of the Jogees some,
partaking of the divine power, were also under the direction of a will
celestial and divine, while others, having derived, we must suppose, a
mighty and miraculous power from the gift of God, afterwards abused it
by applying it to capricious, or, as it should seem, to malignant
purposes. This appears to have been every where essential to the
history of magic. If those who were supposed to possess it in its
widest extent and most astonishing degree, had uniformly employed it
only in behalf of justice and virtue, they would indeed have been
regarded as benefactors, and been entitled to the reverence and love
of mankind. But the human mind is always prone to delight in the
terrible. No sooner did men entertain the idea of what was supernatural
and uncontrolable, than they began to fear it and to deprecate its
hostility. They apprehended they knew not what, of the dead returning
to life, of invisible beings armed with the power and intention of
executing mischief, and of human creatures endowed with the prerogative
of bringing down pestilence and slaughter, of dispensing wealth and
poverty, prosperity and calamity at their pleasure, of causing health
and life to waste away by insensible, but sure degrees, of producing
lingering torments, and death in its most fearful form. Accordingly it
appears that, as there were certain magicians who were as Gods
dispensing benefits to those who best deserved it, so there were
others, whose only principle of action was caprice, and against whose
malice no innocence and no degree of virtue would prove a defence. As
the former sort of magicians were styled _Jogees_, and were held
to be the deputies and instruments of infinite goodness, so the other
sort were named _Ku-Jogees_, that is, persons who possessing the
same species of ascendancy over the powers of nature, employed it only
in deeds of malice and wickedness.

In the mean time these magicians appear to have produced the wonderful
effects which drew to them the reverence of the vulgar, very frequently
by the intervention of certain beings of a nature superior to the
human, who should seem, though ordinarily invisible, to have had the
faculty of rendering themselves visible when they thought proper, and
assuming what shape they pleased. These are principally known by the
names of Peris, Dives, [146] and Gins, or Genii. Richardson, in the
preface to his Persian Dictionary, from which our account will
principally be taken, refers us to what he calls a romance, but from
which he, appears to derive the outline of his Persian mythology. In
this romance Kahraman, a mortal, is introduced in conversation with
Simurgh, a creature partaking of the nature of a bird and a griffon,
who reveals to him the secrets of the past history of the earth. She
tells him that she has lived to see the world seven times peopled with
inhabitants of so many different natures, and seven times depopulated,
the former inhabitants having been so often removed, and giving place
to their successors. The beings who occupied the earth previously to
man, were distinguished into the Peris and the Dives; and, when they
no longer possessed the earth in chief, they were, as it should seem,
still permitted, in an airy and unsubstantial form, and for the most
part invisibly, to interfere in the affairs of the human race. These
beings ruled the earth during seventy-two generations. The last
monarch, named Jan bin Jan, conducted himself so ill, that God sent
the angel Haris to chastise him. Haris however became intoxicated with
power, and employed his prerogative in the most reprehensible manner.
God therefore at length created Adam, the first of men, crowning him
with glory and honour, and giving him dominion over all other earthly
beings. He commanded the angels to obey him; but Haris refused, and
the Dives followed his example. The rebels were for the most part sent
to hell for their contumacy; but a part of the Dives, whose
disobedience had been less flagrant, were reserved, and allowed for a
certain term to walk the earth, and by their temptations to put the
virtue and constancy of man to trial. Henceforth the human race was
secretly surrounded by invisible beings of two species, the Peris, who
were friendly to man, and the Dives, who exercised their ingenuity in
involving them in error and guilt. The Peris were beautiful and
benevolent, but imperfect and offending beings; they are supposed to
have borne a considerable resemblance to the Fairies of the western
world. The Dives were hideous in form, and of a malignant disposition.
The Peris subsist wholly on perfumes, which the Dives, being of a
grosser nature, hold in abhorrence. This mythology is said to have
been unknown in Arabia till long after Mahomet: the only invisible
beings we read of in their early traditions are the Gins, which term,
though now used for the most part as synonimous with Dives, originally
signified nothing more than certain infernal fiends of stupendous
power, whose agency was hostile to man.

There was perpetual war between the Peris and the Dives, whose proper
habitation was Kaf, or Caucasus, a line of mountains which was
supposed to reach round the globe. In these wars the Peris generally
came off with the worst; and in that case they are represented in the
traditional tales of the East, as applying to some gallant and heroic
mortal to reinforce their exertions. The warriors who figure in these
narratives appear all to have been ancient Persian kings. Tahmuras,
one of the most celebrated of them, is spoken of as mounting upon
Simurgh, surrounded with talismans and enchanted armour, and furnished
with a sword the dint of which nothing could resist. He proceeds to
Kaf, or Ginnistan, and defeats Arzshank, the chief of the Dives, but
is defeated in turn by a more formidable competitor. The war appears
to be carried on for successive ages with alternate advantage and
disadvantage, till after the lapse of centuries Rustan kills Arzshank,
and finally reduces the Dives to a subject and tributary condition.
In all this there is a great resemblance to the fables of Scandinavia;
and the Northern and the Eastern world seem emulously to have
contributed their quota of chivalry and romance, of heroic achievements
and miraculous events, of monsters and dragons, of amulets and
enchantment, and all those incidents which most rouse the imagination,
and are calculated to instil into generous and enterprising youth a
courage the most undaunted and invincible.


Asia has been more notorious than perhaps any other division of the
globe for the vast multiplicity and variety of its narratives of
sorcery and magic. I have however been much disappointed in the thing
I looked for in the first place, and that is, in the individual
adventures of such persons as might be supposed to have gained a high
degree of credit and reputation for their skill in exploits of magic.
Where the professors are many (and they have been perhaps no where so
numerous as those of magic in the East), it is unavoidable but that
some should have been more dextrous than others, more eminently gifted
by nature, more enthusiastic and persevering in the prosecution of
their purpose, and more fortunate in awakening popularity and
admiration among their contemporaries. In the instances of Apollonius
Tyanaeus and others among the ancients, and of Cornelius Agrippa, Roger
Bacon and Faust among the moderns, we are acquainted with many
biographical particulars of their lives, and can trace with some
degree of accuracy, their peculiarities of disposition, and observe
how they were led gradually from one study and one mode of action to
another. But the magicians of the East, so to speak, are mere
abstractions, not characterised by any of those habits which
distinguish one individual of the human race from another, and having
those marking traits and petty lineaments which make the person, as it
were, start up into life while he passes before our eyes. They are
merely reported to us as men prone to the producing great signs and
wonders, and nothing more.

Two of the most remarkable exceptions that I have found to this rule,
occur in the examples of Rocail, and of Hakem, otherwise called


The first of these however is scarcely to be called an exception, as
lying beyond the limits of all credible history, Rocail is said to
have been the younger brother of Seth, the son of Adam. A Dive, or
giant of mount Caucasus, being hard pressed by his enemies, sought as
usual among the sons of men for aid that might extricate him out of
his difficulties. He at length made an alliance with Rocail, by whose
assistance he arrived at the tranquillity he desired, and who in
consequence became his grand vizier, or prime minister. He governed
the dominions of his principal for many years with great honour and
success; but, ultimately perceiving the approaches of old age and
death, he conceived a desire to leave behind him a monument worthy of
his achievements in policy and war. He according erected, we are not
told by what means, a magnificent palace, and a sepulchre equally
worthy of admiration. But what was most entitled to notice, he peopled
this palace with statues of so extraordinary a quality, that they
moved and performed all the functions and offices of living men, so
that every one who beheld them would have believed that they were
actually informed with souls, whereas in reality all they did was by
the power of magic, in consequence of which, though they were in fact
no more than inanimate matter, they were enabled to obey the behests,
and perform the will, of the persons by whom they were visited. [147]


Hakem was a leader in one of the different divisions of the followers
of Mahomet. To inspire the greater awe into the minds of his
supporters, he pretended that he was the Most High God, the creator of
heaven and earth, under one of the different forms by which he has in
successive ages become incarnate, and made himself manifest to his
creatures. He distinguished himself by the peculiarity of always
wearing a thick and impervious veil, by which, according to his
followers, he covered the dazzling splendour of his countenance, which
was so great that no mortal could behold it and live, but that,
according to his enemies, only served to conceal the hideousness of
his features, too monstrously deformed to be contemplated without
horror. One of his miracles, which seems the most to have been
insisted on, was that he nightly, for a considerable space of time,
caused an orb, something like the moon, to rise from a sacred well,
which gave a light scarcely less splendid than the day, that diffused
its beams for many miles around. His followers were enthusiastically
devoted to his service, and he supported his authority unquestioned
for a number of years. At length a more formidable opponent appeared,
and after several battles he became obliged to shut himself up in a
strong fortress. Here however he was so straitly besieged as to be
driven to the last despair, and, having administered poison to his
whole garrison, he prepared a bath of the most powerful ingredients,
which, when he threw himself into it, dissolved his frame, even to the
very bones, so that nothing remained of him but a lock of his hair. He
acted thus, with the hope that it would be believed that he was
miraculously taken up into heaven; nor did this fail to be the effect
on the great body of his adherents. [148]


The most copious record of stories of Asiatic enchantment that we
possess, is contained in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments; to which
we may add the Persian Tales, and a few other repositories of Oriental
adventures. It is true that these are delivered to us in a garb of
fiction; but they are known to present so exact a picture of Eastern
manners and customs, and so just a delineation of the follies, the
weaknesses and credulity of the races of men that figure in them, that,
in the absence of materials of a strictly historical sort of which we
have to complain, they may not inadequately supply the place, and may
furnish us with a pretty full representation of the ideas of sorcery
and magic which for centuries were entertained in this part of the
world. They have indeed one obvious defect, which it is proper the
reader should keep constantly in mind. The mythology and groundwork of
the whole is Persian: but the narrator is for the most part a
Mahometan. Of consequence the ancient Fire-worshippers, though they
contribute the entire materials, and are therefore solely entitled to
our gratitude and deference for the abundant supply they have furnished
to our curiosity, are uniformly treated in these books with disdain
and contumely as unworthy of toleration, while the comparative upstart
race of the believers in the Koran are held out to us as the only
enlightened and upright among the sons of men.

Many of the matters most currently related among these supernatural
phenomena, are tales of transformation. A lady has two sisters of the
most profligate and unprincipled character. They have originally the
same share of the paternal inheritance as herself. But they waste it
in profusion and folly, while she improves her portion by good
judgment and frugality. Driven to the extremity of distress, they
humble themselves, and apply to her for assistance. She generously
imparts to them the same amount of wealth that they originally
possessed, and they are once more reduced to poverty. This happens
again and again. At length, finding them incapable of discretion, she
prevails on them to come and live with her. By wearisome and ceaseless
importunity they induce her to embark in a mercantile enterprise. Here
she meets with a prince, who had the misfortune to be born in a region
of fire-worshippers, but was providentially educated by a Mahometan
nurse. Hence, when his countrymen were by divine vengeance all turned
into stones, he alone was saved alive. The lady finds him in this
situation, endowed with sense and motion amidst a petrified city, and
they immediately fall in love with each other. She brings him away
from this melancholy scene, and together they go on board the vessel
which had been freighted by herself and her sisters. But the sisters
become envious of her good fortune, and conspire, while she and the
prince are asleep, to throw them overboard. The prince is drowned; but
the lady with great difficulty escapes. She finds herself in a desert
island, not far from the place where she had originally embarked on
her adventure; and, having slept off the fatigues she had encountered,
beholds on her awaking a black woman with an agreeable countenance, a
fairy, who leads in her hand two black bitches coupled together with a
cord. These black bitches are the lady's sisters, thus metamorphosed,
as a punishment for their ingratitude and cruelty. The fairy conveys
her through the air to her own house in Bagdad, which she finds well
stored with all sorts of commodities, and delivers to her the two
animals, with an injunction that she is to whip them every day at a
certain hour as a further retribution for their crimes. This was
accordingly punctually performed; and, at the end of each day's
penance, the lady, having before paid no regard to the animals'
gestures and pitiable cries, wept over them, took them in her arms,
kissed them, and carefully wiped the moisture from their eyes. Having
persevered for a length of time in this discipline, the offenders are
finally, by a counter-incantation, restored to their original forms,
being by the severities they had suffered entirely cured of the vices
which had occasioned their calamitous condition.

Another story is of a calender, a sort of Mahometan monk, with one eye,
who had originally been a prince. He had contracted a taste for
navigation and naval discoveries; and, in one of his voyages, having
been driven by stress of weather into unknown seas, he suddenly finds
himself attracted towards a vast mountain of loadstone, which first,
by virtue of the iron and nails in the ship, draws the vessel towards
itself, and then, by its own intrinsic force, extracts the nails, so
that the ship tumbles to pieces, and every one on board is drowned.
The mountain, on the side towards the sea, is all covered with nails,
which had been drawn from vessels that previously suffered the same
calamity; and these nails at once preserve and augment the fatal power
of the mountain. The prince only escapes; and he finds himself in a
desolate island, with a dome of brass, supported by brazen pillars,
and on the top of it a horse of brass, and a rider of the same metal.
This rider the prince is fated to throw down, by means of an enchanted
arrow, and thus to dissolve the charm which had been fatal to
thousands. From the desolate island he embarked on board a boat, with
a single rower, a man of metal, and would have been safely conveyed to
his native country, had he not inadvertently pronounced the name of
God, that he had been warned not to do, and which injunction he had
observed many days. On this the boat immediately sunk; but the prince
was preserved, who comes into a desolate island, where he finds but
one inhabitant, a youth of fifteen. This youth is hid in a cavern, it
having been predicted of him that he should be killed after fifty days,
by the man that threw down the horse of brass and his rider. A great
friendship is struck up between the unsuspecting youth and the prince,
who nevertheless fulfils the prediction, having by a pure accident
killed the youth on the fiftieth day. He next arrives at a province of
the main land, where he visits a castle, inhabited by ten very
agreeable young men, each blind of the right eye. He dwells with them
for a month, and finds, after a day of pleasant entertainment, that
each evening they do penance in squalidness and ashes. His curiosity
is greatly excited to obtain an explanation of what he saw, but this
they refuse, telling him at the same time, that he may, if he pleases,
pass through the same adventure as they have done, and, if he does,
wishing it may be attended with a more favourable issue. He determines
to make the experiment; and by their direction, after certain
preparations, is flown away with through the air by a roc, a stupendous
bird, that is capable in the same manner of carrying off an elephant.
By this means he is brought to a castle of the most extraordinary
magnificence, inhabited by forty ladies of exquisite beauty. With
these ladies he lives for eleven months in a perpetual succession of
delights. But in the twelfth month they tell him, that they are
obliged to leave him till the commencement of the new year. In the
mean time they give him for his amusement the keys of one hundred
apartments, all but one of which he is permitted to open. He is
delighted with the wonders of these apartments till the last day. On
that day he opens the forbidden room, where the rarity that most
strikes him is a black horse of admirable shape and appearance, with
a saddle and bridle of gold. He leads this horse into the open air,
and is tempted to mount him. The horse first stands still; but at
length, being touched with a switch, spreads a pair of wings which the
prince had not before perceived, and mounts to an amazing height in
the air. The horse finally descends on the terrace of a castle, where
he throws his rider, and leaves him, having first dashed out his right
eye with a sudden swing of his tail. The prince goes down into the
castle, and to his surprise finds himself in company with the ten
young men, blind of one eye, who had passed through the same adventure
as he had done, and all been betrayed by means of the same infirmity.


These two stories are from the Arabian Nights: the two following are
from the Persian Tales.--Fadlallah, king of Mousel, contracted an
intimacy with a young dervise, a species of Turkish friar, who makes a
vow of perpetual poverty. The dervise, to ingratiate himself the more
with the prince, informed him of a secret he possessed, by means of a
certain incantation, of projecting his soul into the body of any dead
animal he thought proper.

To convince the king that this power was no empty boast, he offered to
quit his own body, and animate that of a doe, which Fadlallah had just
killed in hunting. He accordingly executed what he proposed, took
possession of the body of the doe, displayed the most surprising
agility, approached the king, fawning on him with every expression of
endearment, and then, after various bounds, deserting the limbs of the
animal, and repossessing his own frame, which during the experiment
had lain breathless on the ground. Fadlallah became earnest to possess
the secret of the dervise; and, after some demurs, it was communicated
to him. The king took possession of the body of the doe; but his
treacherous confident no sooner saw the limbs of Fadlallah stretched
senseless on the ground, than he conveyed his own spirit into them,
and, bending his bow, sought to destroy the life of his defenceless
victim. The king by his agility escaped; and the dervise, resorting to
the palace, took possession of the throne, and of the bed of the queen,
Zemroude, with whom Fadlallah was desperately enamoured. The first
precaution of the usurper was to issue a decree that all the deer
within his dominions should be killed, hoping by this means to destroy
the rightful sovereign. But the king, aware of his danger, had deserted
the body of the doe, and entered that of a dead nightingale that lay
in his path. In this disguise he hastened to the palace, and placed
himself in a wide-spreading tree, which grew immediately before the
apartment of Zemroude. Here he poured out his complaints and the grief
that penetrated his soul in such melodious notes, as did not fail to
attract the attention of the queen. She sent out her bird-catchers to
make captive the little warbler; and Fadlallah, who desired no better,
easily suffered himself to be made their prisoner. In this new
position he demonstrated by every gesture of fondness his partiality
to the queen; but if any of her women approached him, he pecked at
them in anger, and, when the impostor made his appearance, could not
contain the vehemence of his rage. It happened one night that the
queen's lap-dog died; and the thought struck Fadlallah that he would
animate the corpse of this animal. The next morning Zemroude found her
favourite bird dead in his cage, and immediately became inconsolable.
Never, she said, was so amiable a bird; he distinguished her from all
others; he seemed even to entertain a passion for her; and she felt as
if she could not survive his loss. The dervise in vain tried every
expedient to console her. At length he said, that, if she pleased, he
would cause her nightingale to revive every morning, and entertain her
with his tunes as long as she thought proper. The dervise accordingly
laid himself on a sopha, and by means of certain cabalistic words,
transported his soul into the body of the nightingale, and began to
sing. Fadlallah watched his time; he lay in a corner of the room
unobserved; but no sooner had the dervise deserted his body, than the
king proceeded to take possession of it. The first thing he did was to
hasten to the cage, to open the door with uncontrolable impatience,
and, seizing the bird, to twist off its head. Zemroude, amazed, asked
him what he meant by so inhuman an action. Fadlallah in reply related
to her all the circumstances that had befallen him; and the queen
became so struck with agony and remorse that she had suffered her
person, however innocently, to be polluted by so vile an impostor,
that she could not get over the recollection, but pined away and died
from a sense of the degradation she had endured.

But a much more perplexing and astounding instance of transformation
occurs in the history of the Young King of Thibet and the Princess of
the Naimans. The sorcerers in this case are represented as, without
any intermediate circumstance to facilitate their witchcraft, having
the ability to assume the form of any one they please, and in
consequence to take the shape of one actually present, producing a
duplication the most confounding that can be imagined.--Mocbel, the
son of an artificer of Damascus, but whose father had bequeathed him
considerable wealth, contrived to waste his patrimony and his youth
together in profligate living with Dilnouaze, a woman of dissolute
manners. Finding themselves at once poor and despised, they had
recourse to the sage Bedra, the most accomplished magician of the
desert, and found means to obtain her favour. In consequence she
presented them with two rings, which had the power of enabling them to
assume the likeness of any man or woman they please. Thus equipped,
Mocbel heard of the death of Mouaffack, prince of the Naimans, who was
supposed to have been slain in a battle, and whose body had never been
found. The niece of Mouaffack now filled the throne; and under these
circumstances Mocbel conceived the design of personating the absent
Mouaffack, exciting a rebellion among his countrymen, and taking
possession of the throne. In this project he succeeded; and the
princess driven into exile, took refuge in the capital of Thibet. Here
the king saw her, fell in love with her, and espoused her. Being made
acquainted with her history, he resolved to re-conquer her dominions,
and sent a defiance to the usurper. Mocbel, terrified at the thought
of so formidable an invader, first pretended to die, and then, with
Dilnouaze, who during his brief reign had under the form of a beautiful
woman personated his queen, proceeded in his original form to the
capital of Thibet. Here his purpose was to interrupt the happiness of
those who had disturbed him in his deceitful career. Accordingly one
night, when the queen, previously to proceeding to her repose, had
shut herself up in her closet to read certain passages of the Alcoran,
Dilnouaze, assuming her form with the minutest exactness, hastened to
place herself in the royal bed by the side of the king. After a time,
the queen shut her book, and went along the gallery to the king's
bedchamber, Mocbel watched his time, and placed himself, under the
form of a frightful apparition, directly in the queen's path. She
started at the sight, and uttered a piercing shriek. The king
recognised her voice, and hastened to see what had happened to her.
She explained; but the king spoke of something much more extraordinary,
and asked her how it could possibly happen that she should be in the
gallery, at the same moment that he had left her, undressed and in bed.
They proceeded to the chamber to unravel the mystery. Here a contention
occurred between the real and the seeming queen, each charging the
other with imposture. The king turned from one to the other, and was
unable to decide between their pretensions. The courtiers and the
ladies of the bedchamber were called, and all were perplexed with
uncertainty and doubt. At length they determine in favour of the false
queen, It was then proposed that the other should be burned for a
sorceress. The king however forbade this. He was not yet altogether
decided; and could not resolve to consign his true queen, as it might
possibly be, to a cruel death. He was therefore content to strip her
of her royal robes, to clothe her in rags, and thrust her ignominiously
from his palace.

Treachery however was not destined to be ultimately triumphant. The
king one day rode out a hunting; and Mocbel, that he might the better
deceive the guards of the palace, seizing the opportunity, assumed his
figure, and went to bed to Dilnouaze. The king meanwhile recollected
something of importance, that he had forgotten before he went out to
hunt, and returning upon his steps, proceeded to the royal chamber.
Here to his utter confusion he found a man in bed with his queen, and
that man to his greater astonishment the exact counterpart of himself.
Furious at the sight, he immediately drew his scymetar. The man
contrived to escape down the backstairs. The woman however remained in
bed; and, stretching out her hands to intreat for mercy, the king
struck off the hand which had the ring on it, and she immediately
appeared, as she really was, a frightful hag. She begged for life; and,
that she might mollify his rage, explained the mystery, told him that
it was by means of a ring that she effected the delusion, and that by
a similar enchantment her paramour had assumed the likeness of the
king. The king meanwhile was inexorable, and struck off her head. He
next turned in pursuit of the adulterer. Mocbel however had had time
to mount on horseback. But the king mounted also; and, being the
better horseman, in a short time overtook his foe. The impostor did
not dare to cope with him, but asked his life; and the king,
considering him as the least offender of the two, pardoned him upon
condition of his surrendering the ring, in consequence of which he
passed the remainder of his life in poverty and decrepitude.


A story in the Arabian Nights, which merits notice for its singularity,
and as exhibiting a particular example of the credulity of the people
of the East, is that of a man who married a sorceress, without being
in any way conscious of her character in that respect. She was
sufficiently agreeable in her person, and he found for the most part
no reason to be dissatisfied with her. But he became uneasy at the
strangeness of her behaviour, whenever they sat together at meals. The
husband provided a sufficient variety of dishes, and was anxious that
his wife should eat and be refreshed. But she took scarcely any
nourishment. He set before her a plate of rice. From this plate she
took somewhat, grain by grain; but she would taste of no other dish.
The husband remonstrated with her upon her way of eating, but to no
purpose; she still went on the same. He knew it was impossible for any
one to subsist upon so little as she ate; and his curiosity was roused.
One night, as he lay quietly awake, he perceived his wife rise very
softly, and put on her clothes. He watched, but made as if he saw
nothing. Presently she opened the door, and went out. He followed her
unperceived, by moonlight, and tracked her into a place of graves.
Here to his astonishment he saw her joined by a Goule, a sort of
wandering demon, which is known to infest ruinous buildings, and from
time to time suddenly rushes out, seizes children and other defenceless
people, strangles, and devours them. Occasionally, for want of other
food, this detested race will resort to churchyards, and, digging up
the bodies of the newly-buried, gorge their appetites upon the flesh
of these. The husband followed his wife and her supernatural companion,
and watched their proceedings. He saw them digging in a new-made grave.
They extracted the body of the deceased; and, the Goule cutting it up
joint by joint, they feasted voraciously, and, having satisfied their
appetites, cast the remainder into the grave again, and covered it up
as before. The husband now withdrew unobserved to his bed, and the
wife followed presently after. He however conceived a horrible
loathing of such a wife; and she discovers that he is acquainted with
her dreadful secret. They can no longer live together; and a
metamorphosis followed. She turned him into a dog, which by ill usage
she drove from her door; and he, aided by a benevolent sorceress,
first recovers his natural shape, and then, having changed her into a
mare, by perpetual hard usage and ill treatment vents his detestation
of the character he had discovered in her.


A compilation of more vigorous imagination and more exhaustless
variety than the Arabian Nights, perhaps never existed. Almost every
thing that can be conceived of marvellous and terrific is there to be
found. When we should apprehend the author or authors to have come to
an end of the rich vein in which they expatiate, still new wonders are
presented to us in endless succession. Their power of comic exhibition
is not less extraordinary than their power of surprising and
terrifying. The splendour of their painting is endless; and the mind
of the reader is roused and refreshed by shapes and colours for ever


It is characteristic of this work to exhibit a faithful and particular
picture of Eastern manners, customs, and modes of thinking and acting.
And yet, now and then, it is curious to observe the coincidence of
Oriental imagination with that of antiquity and of the North of Europe,
so that it is difficult to conceive the one not to be copied from the
other. Perhaps it was so; and perhaps not. Man is every where man,
possessed of the same faculties, stimulated by the same passions,
deriving pain and pleasure from the same sources, with similar hopes
and fears, aspirations and alarms.

In the Third Voyage of Sinbad he arrives at an island were he finds
one man, a negro, as tall as a palm-tree, and with a single eye in the
middle of his forehead. He takes up the crew, one by one, and selects
the fattest as first to be devoured. This is done a second time. At
length nine of the boldest seize on a spit, while he lay on his back
asleep, and, having heated it red-hot, thrust it into his eye.--This
is precisely the story of Ulysses and the Cyclops.

The story of the Little Hunchback, who is choaked with a fish-bone,
and, after having brought successive individuals into trouble on the
suspicion of murdering him, is restored to life again, is nearly the
best known of the Arabian Tales. The merry jest of Dan Hew, Monk of
Leicester, who "once was hanged, and four times slain," bears a very
striking resemblance to this. [149]

A similar resemblance is to be found, only changing the sex of the
aggressor, between the well known tale of Patient Grizzel, and that of
Cheheristany in the Persian Tales. This lady was a queen of the Gins,
who fell in love with the emperor of China, and agrees to marry him
upon condition that she shall do what she pleases, and he shall never
doubt that what she does is right. She bears him a son, beautiful as
the day, and throws him into the fire. She bears him a daughter, and
gives her to a white bitch, who runs away with her, and disappears.
The emperor goes to war with the Moguls; and the queen utterly
destroys the provisions of his army. But the fire was a salamander,
and the bitch a fairy, who rear the children in the most admirable
manner; and the provisions of the army were poisoned by a traitor, and
are in a miraculous manner replaced by such as were wholesome and of
the most invigorating qualities.


Meanwhile, though the stories above related are extracted from books
purely and properly of fiction, they  exhibit so just a delineation of
Eastern manners and habits of mind, that, in the defect of materials
strictly historical, they may to a certain degree supply the place.
The principal feature they set before us is credulity and a love of
the marvellous. This is ever found characteristic of certain ages of
the world; but in Asia it prevails in uninterrupted continuity.
Wherever learning and the exercise of the intellectual faculties first
shew themselves, there mystery and a knowledge not to be communicated
but to the select few must be expected to appear. Wisdom in its
natural and genuine form seeks to diffuse itself; but in the East on
the contrary it is only valued in proportion to its rarity. Those who
devoted themselves to intellectual improvement, looked for it rather
in solitary abstraction, than in free communication with the minds of
others; and, when they condescended to the use of the organ of speech,
they spoke in enigmas and ambiguities, and in phrases better adapted
to produce wonder and perplexity, than to enlighten and instruct. When
the more consummate instructed the novice, it was by slow degrees only,
and through the medium of a long probation. In consequence of this
state of things the privileged few conceived of their own attainments
with an over-weening pride, and were puffed up with a sense of
superiority; while the mass of their fellow-creatures looked to them
with astonishment; and, agreeably to the Oriental creed of two
independent and contending principles of good and of evil, regarded
these select and supernaturally endowed beings anon as a source of the
most enviable blessings, and anon as objects of unmingled apprehension
and terror, before whom their understandings became prostrate, and
every thing that was most appalling and dreadful was most easily
believed. In this state superstition unavoidably grew infectious; and
the more the seniors inculcated and believed, the more the imagination
of the juniors became a pliant and unresisting slave.

The Mantra, or charm, consisting of a few unintelligible words
repeated again and again, always accompanied, or rather preceded, the
supposed miraculous phenomenon that was imposed on the ignorant. Water
was flung over, or in the face of, the thing or person upon whom the
miraculous effect was to be produced. Incense was burned; and such
chemical substances were set on fire, the dazzling appearance of which
might confound the senses of the spectators. The whole consisted in
the art of the juggler. The first business was to act on the passions,
to excite awe and fear and curiosity in the parties; and next by a
sort of slight of hand, and by changes too rapid to be followed by an
unpractised eye, to produce phenomena, wholly unanticipated, and that
could not be accounted for. Superstition was further an essential
ingredient; and this is never perfect, but where the superior and more
active party regards himself as something more than human, and the
party acted upon beholds in the other an object of religious reverence,
or tingles with apprehension of he knows not what of fearful and
calamitous. The state of the party acted on, and indeed of either, is
never complete, till the senses are confounded, what is imagined is so
powerful as in a manner to exclude what is real, in a word, till, as
the poet expresses it, "function is smothered in surmise, and nothing
is, but what is not."

It is in such a state of the faculties that it is entirely natural and
simple, that one should mistake a mere dumb animal for one's relative
or near connection in disguise. And, the delusion having once begun,
the deluded individual gives to every gesture and motion of limb and
eye an explanation that forwards the deception. It is in the same way
that in ignorant ages the notion of changeling has been produced. The
weak and fascinated mother sees every feature with a turn of
expression unknown before, all the habits of the child appear
different and strange, till the parent herself denies her offspring,
and sees in the object so lately cherished and doated on, a monster
uncouth and horrible of aspect.


In Europe we are slenderly supplied with historians, and with
narratives exhibiting the manners and peculiarities of successive
races of men, from the time of Theodosius in the close of the fourth
century of the Christian era to the end of the tenth. Mankind during
that period were in an uncommon degree wrapped up in ignorance and
barbarism. We may be morally sure that this was an interval beyond all
others, in which superstition and an implicit faith in supernatural
phenomena predominated over this portion of the globe. The laws of
nature, and the everlasting chain of antecedents and consequents, were
little recognised. In proportion as illumination and science have
risen on the world, men have become aware that the succession of
events is universally operating, and that the frame of men and animals
is every where the same, modified only by causes not less unchangeable
in their influence than the internal constitution of the frame itself.
We have learned to explain much; we are able to predict and investigate
the course of things; and the contemplative and the wise are not less
intimately and profoundly persuaded that the process of natural events
is sure and simple and void of all just occasion for surprise and the
lifting up of hands in astonishment, where we are not yet familiarly
acquainted with the developement of the elements of things, as where
we are. What we have not yet mastered, we feel confidently persuaded
that the investigators that come after us will reduce to rules not
less obvious, familiar and comprehensible, than is to us the rising of
the sun, or the progress of animal and vegetable life from the first
bud and seed of existence to the last stage of decrepitude and decay.

But in these ages of ignorance, when but few, and those only the most
obvious, laws of nature were acknowledged, every event that was not of
almost daily occurrence, was contemplated with more or less of awe and
alarm. These men "saw God in clouds, and heard him in the wind."
Instead of having regard only to that universal Providence, which acts
not by partial impulses, but by general laws, they beheld, as they
conceived, the immediate hand of the Creator, or rather, upon most
occasions, of some invisible intelligence, sometimes beneficent, but
perhaps oftener malignant and capricious, interfering, to baffle the
foresight of the sage, to humble the pride of the intelligent, and to
place the discernment of the most gifted upon a level with the
drivellings of the idiot, and the ravings of the insane.

And, as in events men saw perpetually the supernatural and miraculous,
so in their fellow-creatures they continually sought, and therefore
frequently imagined that they found, a gifted race, that had command
over the elements, held commerce with the invisible world, and could
produce the most stupendous and terrific effects. In man, as we now
behold him, we can ascertain his nature, the strength and pliability
of his limbs, the accuracy of his eye, the extent of his intellectual
acquisitions, and the subtlety of his powers of thought, and can
therefore in a great measure anticipate what we have to hope or to
fear from him. Every thing is regulated by what we call natural means.
But, in the times I speak of, all was mysterious: the powers of men
were subject to no recognised laws: and therefore nothing that
imagination could suggest, exceeded the bounds of credibility. Some
men were supposed to be so rarely endowed that "a thousand liveried
angels" waited on them invisibly, to execute their behests for the
benefit of those they favoured; while, much oftener, the perverse and
crookedly disposed, who delighted in mischief, would bring on those to
whom, for whatever capricious reason, they were hostile, calamities,
which no sagacity could predict, and no merely human power could
baffle and resist.

After the tenth century enough of credulity remained, to display in
glaring colours the aberrations of the human mind, and to furnish
forth tales which will supply abundant matter for the remainder of
this volume. But previously to this period, we may be morally sure,
reigned most eminently the sabbath of magic and sorcery, when nothing
was too wild, and remote from the reality of things, not to meet with
an eager welcome, when terror and astonishment united themselves with
a nameless delight, and the auditor was alarmed even to a sort of
madness, at the same time that he greedily demanded an ever-fresh
supply of congenial aliment. The more the known laws of the universe
and the natural possibility of things were violated, with the stronger
marks of approbation was the tale received: while the dextrous
impostor, aware of the temper of his age, and knowing how most
completely to blindfold and lead astray his prepared dupes, made a
rich harvest of the folly of his contemporaries. But I am wrong to
call him an impostor. He imposed upon himself, no less than on the
gaping crowd. His discourses, even in the act of being pronounced, won
upon his own ear; and the dexterity with which he baffled the
observation of others, bewildered his ready sense, and filled him with
astonishment at the magnitude of his achievements. The accomplished
adventurer was always ready to regard himself rather as a sublime
being endowed with great and stupendous attributes, than as a pitiful
trickster. He became the God of his own idolatry, and stood astonished,
as the witch of Endor in the English Bible is represented to have done,
at the success of his incantations.

But all these things are passed away, and are buried in the gulf of
oblivion. A thousand tales, each more wonderful than the other, marked
the year as it glided away. Every valley had its fairies; and every
hill its giants. No solitary dwelling, unpeopled with human
inhabitants, was without its ghosts; and no church-yard in the absence
of day-light could be crossed with impunity. The gifted enchanter

  The noon-tide sun, willed forth the mutinous winds,
  And 'twixt the green sea and the azured vault
  Set roaring war; to the dread, rattling thunder
  He gave forth fire, and rifted Jove's stout oak
  With his own bolt, the strong-based promontory
  He made to shake, and by the spurs plucked up
  The pine and cedar."

It is but a small remnant of these marvellous adventures that has been
preserved. The greater part of them are swallowed up in that gulf of
oblivion, to which are successively consigned after a brief interval
all events as they occur, except so far as their memory is preserved
through the medium of writing and records. From the eleventh century
commences a stream of historical relation, which since that time never
entirely eludes the search of the diligent enquirer. Before this
period there occasionally appears an historian or miscellaneous writer:
but he seems to start up by chance; the eddy presently closes over him,
and all is again impenetrable darkness.

When this succession of writers began, they were unavoidably induced
to look back upon the ages that had preceded them, and to collect here
and there from tradition any thing that appeared especially worthy of
notice. Of course any information they could glean was wild and
uncertain, deeply stamped with the credulity and wonder of an ignorant
period, and still increasing in marvellousness and absurdity from
every hand it passed through, and from every tongue which repeated it.


One of the most extraordinary personages whose story is thus delivered
to us, is Merlin. He appears to have been contemporary with the period
of the Saxon invasion of Britain in the latter part of the fifth
century; but probably the earliest mention of his name by any writer
that has come down to us is not previous to the eleventh. We may the
less wonder therefore at the incredible things that are reported of
him. He is first mentioned in connection with the fortune of Vortigern,
who is represented by Geoffrey of Monmouth as at that time king of
England. The Romans having withdrawn their legions from this island,
the unwarlike Britons found themselves incompetent to repel the
invasions of the uncivilised Scots and Picts, and Vortigern perceived
no remedy but in inviting the Saxons from the northern continent to
his aid. The Saxons successfully repelled the invader; but, having
done this, they refused to return home. They determined to settle here,
and, having taken various towns, are represented as at length inviting
Vortigern and his principal nobility to a feast near Salisbury under
pretence of a peace, where they treacherously slew three hundred of
the chief men of the island, and threw Vortigern into chains. Here, by
way of purchasing the restoration of his liberty, they induced him to
order the surrender of London, York, Winchester, and other principal
towns. Having lost all his strong holds, he consulted his magicians as
to how he was to secure himself from this terrible foe. They advised
him to build an impregnable tower, and pointed out the situation where
it was to be erected. But so unfortunately did their advice succeed,
that all the work that his engineers did in the building one day, the
earth swallowed, so that no vestige was to be found on the next. The
magicians were consulted again on this fresh calamity; and they told
the king that that there was no remedying this disaster, other than by
cementing the walls of his edifice with the blood of a human being,
who was born of no human father.

Vortigern sent out his emissaries in every direction in search of this
victim; and at length by strange good fortune they lighted on Merlin
near the town of Caermarthen, who told them that his mother was the
daughter of a king, but that she had been got with child of him by a
being of an angelic nature, and not a man. No sooner had they received
this information, than they seized him, and hurried him away to
Vortigern as the victim required. But in presence of the king he
baffled the magicians; he told the king that the ground they had
chosen for his tower, had underneath it a lake, which being drained,
they would find at the bottom two dragons of inextinguishable
hostility, that under that form figured the Britons and Saxons, all of
which upon the experiment proved to be true.

Vortigern died shortly after, and was succeeded first by Ambrosius,
and then by Uther Pendragon. Merlin was the confident of all these
kings. To Uther he exhibited a very criminal sort of compliance. Uther
became desperately enamoured of Igerna, wife of the duke of Cornwal,
and tried every means to seduce her in vain. Having consulted Merlin,
the magician contrived by an extraordinary unguent to metamorphose
Uther into the form of the duke. The duke had shut up his wife for
safety in a very strong tower; but Uther in his new form gained
unsuspected entrance; and the virtuous Igerna received him to her
embraces, by means of which he begot Arthur, afterwards the most
renowned sovereign of this island. Uther now contrived that the duke,
her husband, should be slain in battle, and immediately married the
fair Igerna, and made her his queen.

The next exploit of Merlin was with the intent to erect a monument
that should last for ever, to the memory of the three hundred British
nobles that were massacred by the Saxons. This design produced the
extraordinary edifice called Stonehenge. These mighty stones, which by
no human power could be placed in the position in which we behold them,
had originally been set up in Africa, and afterwards by means unknown
were transported to Ireland. Merlin commanded that they should be
carried over the sea, and placed where they now are, on Salisbury
Plain. The workmen, having received his directions, exerted all their
power and skill, but could not move one of them. Merlin, having for
some time watched their exertions, at length applied his magic; and to
the amazement of every one, the stones spontaneously quitted the
situation in which they had been placed, rose to a great height in the
air, and then pursued the course which Merlin had prescribed, finally
settling themselves in Wiltshire, precisely in the position in which
we now find them, and which they will for ever retain.

The last adventure recorded of Merlin proceeded from a project he
conceived for surrounding his native town of Caermarthen with a brazen
wall. He committed the execution of this project to a multitude of
fiends, who laboured upon the plan underground in a neighbouring
cavern. [150] In the mean while Merlin had become enamoured of a
supernatural being, called the Lady of the Lake. The lady had long
resisted his importunities, and in fact had no inclination to yield to
his suit. One day however she sent for him in great haste; and Merlin
was of course eager to comply with her invitation. Nevertheless,
before he set out, he gave it strictly in charge to the fiends, that
they should by no means suspend their labours till they saw him return.
The design of the lady was to make sport with him, and elude his
addresses. Merlin on the contrary, with the hope to melt her severity,
undertook to shew her the wonders of his art. Among the rest he
exhibited to her observation a tomb, formed to contain two bodies; at
the same time teaching her a charm, by means of which the sepulchre
would close, and never again be opened. The lady pretended not to
believe that the tomb was wide enough for its purpose, and inveigled
the credulous Merlin to enter it, and place himself as one dead. No
sooner had she so far succeeded, than she closed the lid of the
sepulchre, and pronouncing the charm, rendered it impossible that it
should ever be opened again till the day of judgment. Thus, according
to the story, Merlin was shut in, a corrupted and putrifying body with
a living soul, to which still inhered the faculty of returning in
audible sounds a prophetic answer to such as resorted to it as an
oracle. Meanwhile the fiends, at work in the cavern near Caermarthen,
mindful of the injunction of their taskmaster, not to suspend their
labours till his return, proceed for ever in their office; and the
traveller who passes that way, if he lays his ear close to the mouth
of the cavern, may hear a ghastly noise of iron chains and brazen
caldrons, the loud strokes of the hammer, and the ringing sound of the
anvil, intermixed with the pants and groans of the workmen, enough to
unsettle the brain and confound the faculties of him that for any time
shall listen to the din.

As six hundred years elapsed between the time of Merlin and the
earliest known records of his achievements, it is impossible to
pronounce what he really pretended to perform, and how great were the
additions which successive reporters have annexed to the wonders of
his art, more than the prophet himself perhaps ever dreamed of. In
later times, when the historians were the contemporaries of the
persons by whom the supposed wonders were achieved, or the persons who
have for these causes been celebrated have bequeathed certain literary
productions to posterity, we may be able to form some conjecture as to
the degree in which the heroes of the tale were deluding or deluded,
and may exercise our sagacity in the question by what strange
peculiarity of mind adventures which we now hold to be impossible
obtained so general belief. But in a case like this of Merlin, who
lived in a time so remote from that in which his history is first
known to have been recorded, it is impracticable to determine at what
time the fiction which was afterwards generally received began to be
reported, or whether the person to whom the miracles were imputed ever
heard or dreamed of the extraordinary things he is represented as
having achieved.


An individual scarcely less famous in the dark ages, and who, like
Merlin, lived in confidence with successive kings, was St. Dunstan. He
was born and died in the tenth century. It is not a little instructive
to employ our attention upon the recorded adventures, and incidents
occurring in the lives, of such men, since, though plentifully
interspersed with impossible tales, they serve to discover to us the
tastes and prepossessions of the times in which these men lived, and
the sort of accomplishments which were necessary to their success.

St. Dunstan is said to have been a man of distinguished birth, and to
have spent the early years of his life in much licentiousness. He was
however doubtless a person of the most extraordinary endowments of
nature. Ambition early lighted its fire in his bosom; and he displayed
the greatest facility in acquiring any talent or art on which he fixed
his attention. His career of profligacy was speedily arrested by a
dangerous illness, in which he was given over by his physicians. While
he lay apparently at the point of death, an angel was suddenly seen,
bringing a medicine to him which effected his instant cure. The saint
immediately rose from his bed, and hastened to the nearest church to
give God thanks for his recovery. As he passed along, the devil,
surrounded with a pack of black dogs, interposed himself to obstruct
his way. Dunstan however intrepidly brandished a rod that he held in
his hand, and his opposers took to flight. When he came to the church,
he found the doors closed. But the same angel, who effected his cure,
was at hand, and, taking him up softly by the hair of his head, placed
him before the high altar, where he performed his devotions with
suitable fervour.

That he might expiate the irregularities of his past life, St. Dunstan
now secluded himself entirely from the world, and constructed for his
habitation a cell in the abbey of Glastonbury, so narrow that he could
neither stand upright in it, nor stretch out his limbs in repose. He
took scarcely so much sustenance as would support life, and mortified
his flesh with frequent castigations.

He did not however pass his time during this seclusion in vacuity and
indolence. He pursued his studies with the utmost ardour, and made a
great proficiency in philosophy, divinity, painting, sculpture and
music. Above all, he was an admirable chemist, excelled in manufactures
of gold and other metals, and was distinguished by a wonderful skill
in the art of magic.

During all these mortifications and the severeness of his industry, he
appears to have become a prey to extraordinary visions and
imaginations. Among the rest, the devil visited him in his cell, and,
thrusting his head in at the window, disturbed the saint with obscene
and blasphemous speeches, and the most frightful contortions of the
features of his countenance. Dunstan at length, wearied out with his
perseverance, seized the red-hot tongs with which he was engaged in
some chemical experiment, and, catching the devil by the nose, held
him with the utmost firmness, while Satan filled the whole
neighbourhood for many miles round with his bellowings. Extraordinary
as this may appear, it constitutes one of the most prominent incidents
in the life of the saint; and the representations of it were for ever
repeated in ancient carvings, and in the illuminations of

This was the precise period at which the pope and his adherents were
gaining the greatest ascendancy in the Christian world. The doctrine
of transubstantiation was now in the highest vogue; and along with it
a precept still more essential to the empire of the Catholic church,
the celibacy of the clergy. This was not at first established without
vehement struggles. The secular clergy, who were required at once to
cast off their wives as concubines, and their children as bastards,
found every impulse of nature rising in arms against the mandate. The
regular clergy, or monks, were in obvious rivalship with the seculars,
and engrossed to themselves, as much as possible, all promotions and
dignities, as well ecclesiastical as civil. St. Augustine, who first
planted Christianity in this island, was a Benedictine monk; and the
Benedictines were for a long time in the highest reputation in the
Catholic church. St. Dunstan was also a Benedictine. In his time the
question of the celibacy of the clergy was most vehemently agitated;
and Dunstan was the foremost of the champions of the new institution
in England. The contest was carried on with great vehemence. Many of
the most powerful nobility, impelled either by pity for the sufferers,
or induced by family affinities, supported the cause of the seculars.
Three successive synods were held on the subject; and the cause of
nature it is said would have prevailed, had not Dunstan and his
confederates called in the influence of miracles to their aid. In one
instance, a crucifix, fixed in a conspicuous part of the place of
assembly, uttered a voice at the critical moment, saying, "Be steady!
you have once decreed right; alter not your ordinances." At another
time the floor of the place of meeting partially gave way,
precipitating the ungodly opposers of celibacy into the place beneath,
while Dunstan and his party, who were in another part of the assembly,
were miraculously preserved unhurt.

In these instances Dunstan seemed to be engaged in the cause of
religion, and might be considered as a zealous, though mistaken,
advocate of Christian simplicity and purity. But he was not contented
with figuring merely as a saint. He insinuated himself into the favour
of Edred, the grandson of Alfred, and who, after two or three short
reigns, succeeded to the throne. Edred was an inactive prince, but
greatly under the dominion of religious prejudices; and Dunstan, being
introduced to him, found him an apt subject for his machinations.
Edred first made him abbot of Glastonbury, one of the most powerful
ecclesiastical dignities in England, and then treasurer of the kingdom.
During the reign of this prince, Dunstan disposed of all ecclesiastical
affairs, and even of the treasures of the kingdom, at his pleasure.

But Edred filled the throne only nine years, and was succeeded by Edwy
at the early age of seventeen, who is said to have been endowed with
every grace of form, and the utmost firmness and intrepidity of spirit.
Dunstan immediately conceived a jealousy of these qualities, and took
an early opportunity to endeavour to disarm them. Edwy entertained a
passion for a princess of the royal house, and even proceeded to marry
her, though within the degrees forbidden by the canon law. The rest of
the story exhibits a lively picture of the manners of these barbarous
times. Odo, archbishop of Canterbury, the obedient tool of Dunstan, on
the day of the coronation obtruded himself with his abettor into the
private apartment, to which the king had retired with his queen, only
accompanied by her mother; and here the ambitious abbot, after loading
Edwy with the bitterest reproaches for his shameless sensuality,
thrust him back by main force into the hall, where the nobles of the
kingdom were still engaged at their banquet.

The spirited young prince conceived a deep resentment of this unworthy
treatment, and, seizing an opportunity, called Dunstan to account for
malversation in the treasury during the late king's life-time. The
priest refused to answer; and the issue was that he was banished the

But he left behind him a faithful and implicit coadjutor in archbishop
Odo. This prelate is said actually to have forced his way with a party
of soldiers into the palace, and, having seized the queen, barbarously
to have seared her cheeks with a red-hot iron, and sent her off a
prisoner to Ireland. He then proceeded to institute all the forms of a
divorce, to which the unhappy king was obliged to submit. Meanwhile
the queen, having recovered her beauty, found means to escape, and,
crossing the Channel, hastened to join her husband. But here again the
priests manifested the same activity as before. They intercepted the
queen in her journey, and by the most cruel means undertook to make
her a cripple for life. The princess however sunk under the experiment,
and ended her existence and her woes together.

A rebellion was now excited against the sacrilegious Edwy; and the
whole north of England, having rebelled, was placed under the dominion
of his brother, a boy of thirteen years of age. In the midst of these
adventures Dunstan returned from the continent, and fearlessly shewed
himself in his native country. His party was every where triumphant;
Odo being dead, he was installed archbishop of Canterbury, and Edwy,
oppressed with calamity on every side, sunk to an untimely grave.

The rest of the life of Dunstan was passed in comparatively
tranquillity. He made and unmade kings as he pleased. Edgar, the
successor of Edwy, discovered the happy medium of energy and authority
as a sovereign, combined with a disposition to indulge the ambitious
policy of the priesthood. He was licentious in his amours, without
losing a particle of his ascendancy as a sovereign. He however reigned
only a few years; but Dunstan at his death found means to place his
eldest son on the throne under his special protection, in defiance of
the intrigues of the ambitious Elfrida, the king's second wife, who
moved heaven and earth to cause the crown to descend upon her own son,
as yet comparatively an infant.

In this narrative we are presented with a lively picture of the means
by which ambition climbed to its purposes in the darkness of the tenth
century. Dunstan was enriched with all those endowments which might
seem in any age to lead to the highest distinction. Yet it would
appear to have been in vain that he was thus qualified, if he had not
stooped to arts that fell in with the gross prejudices of his
contemporaries. He had continual recourse to the aid of miracles. He
gave into practices of the most rigorous mortification. He studied,
and excelled in, all the learning and arts that were then known. But
his main dependence was on the art of magic. The story of his taking
the devil by the nose with a pair of red-hot tongs, seems to have been
of greater service to him than any other single adventure of his life.
In other times he might have succeeded in the schemes of his political
ambition by seemly and specious means. But it was necessary for him in
the times in which he lived, to proceed with eclat, and in a way that
should confound all opposers. The utmost resolution was required to
overwhelm those who might otherwise have been prompted to contend
against him. Hence it appears that he took a right measure of the
understanding of his contemporaries, when he dragged the young king
from the scene of his retirement, and brought him back by force into
the assembly of the nobles. And the inconceivable barbarity practised
to the queen, which would have rendered his name horrible in a more
civilised age, was exactly calculated to overwhelm the feelings and
subject the understandings of the men among whom he lived. The great
quality by which he was distinguished was confidence, a frame of
behaviour which shewed that he acted from the fullest conviction, and
never doubted that his proceedings had the immediate approbation of


It appears to have been about the close of the tenth century that the
more curious and inquisitive spirits of Europe first had recourse to
the East as a source of such information and art, as they found most
glaringly deficient among their countrymen. We have seen that in
Persia there was an uninterrupted succession of professors in the art
of magic: and, when the followers of Mahomet by their prowess had
gained the superiority over the greater part of Asia, over all that
was known of Africa, and a considerable tract of Europe, they
gradually became awake to the desire of cultivating the sciences, and
in particular of making themselves masters of whatever was most
liberal and eminent among the disciples of Zoroaster. To this they
added a curiosity respecting Greek learning, especially as it related
to medicine and the investigation of the powers of physical nature.
Bagdad became an eminent seat of learning; and perhaps, next to Bagdad,
Spain under the Saracens, or Moors, was a principal abode for the
professors of ingenuity and literature.


As a consequence of this state of things the more curious men of
Europe by degrees adopted the practice of resorting to Spain for the
purpose of enlarging their sphere of observation and knowledge. Among
others Gerbert is reported to have been the first of the Christian
clergy, who strung themselves up to the resolution of mixing with the
followers of Mahomet, that they might learn from thence things, the
knowledge of which it was impossible for them to obtain at home. This
generous adventurer, prompted by an insatiable thirst for information,
is said to have secretly withdrawn himself from his monastery of
Fleury in Burgundy, and to have spent several years among the Saracens
of Cordova. Here he acquired a knowledge of the language and learning
of the Arabians, particularly of their astronomy, geometry and
arithmetic; and he is understood to have been the first that imparted
to the north and west of Europe a knowledge of the Arabic numerals, a
science, which at first sight might be despised for its simplicity,
but which in its consequences is no inconsiderable instrument in
subtilising the powers of human intellect. He likewise introduced the
use of clocks. He is also represented to have made an extraordinary
proficiency in the art of magic; and among other things is said to
have constructed a brazen head, which would answer when it was spoken
to, and oracularly resolve many difficult questions. [151] The same
historian assures us that Gerbert by the art of necromancy made
various discoveries of hidden treasures, and relates in all its
circumstances the spectacle of a magic palace he visited underground,
with the multiplied splendours of an Arabian tale, but distinguished
by this feature, that, though its magnificence was dazzling to the
sight, it would not abide the test of feeling, but vanished into air,
the moment it was attempted to be touched.

It happened with Gerbert, as with St. Dunstan, that he united an
aspiring mind and a boundless spirit of ambition, with the
intellectual curiosity which has already been described. The first
step that he made into public life and the career for which he panted,
consisted in his being named preceptor, first to Robert, king of
France, the son of Hugh Capet, and next to Otho the Third, emperor of
Germany. Hugh Capet appointed him archbishop of Rheims; but, that
dignity being disputed with him, he retired into Germany, and,
becoming eminently a favourite with Otho the Third, he was by the
influence of that prince raised, first to be archbishop of Ravenna,
and afterwards to the papacy by the name of Silvester the Second. [152]

Cardinal Benno, who was an adherent of the anti-popes, and for that
reason is supposed to have calumniated Gerbert and several of his
successors, affirms that he was habitually waited on by demons, that
by their aid he obtained the papal crown, and that the devil to whom
he had sold himself, faithfully promised him that he should live, till
he had celebrated high mass at Jerusalem. This however was merely a
juggle of the evil spirit; and Gerbert actually died, shortly after
having officially dispensed the sacrament at the church of the Holy
Cross in Jerusalem, which is one of the seven districts of the city of
Rome. This event occurred in the year 1008. [153]


According to the same authority sorcery was at this time extensively
practised by some of the highest dignitaries of the church, and five
or six popes in succession were notorious for these sacrilegious
practices. About the same period the papal chair was at its lowest
state of degradation; this dignity was repeatedly exposed for sale;
and the reign of Gerbert, a man of consummate abilities and
attainments, is almost the only redeeming feature in the century in
which he lived. At length the tiara became the purchase of an
ambitious family, which had already furnished two popes, in behalf of
a boy of twelve years of age, who reigned by the name of Benedict the
Ninth. This youth, as he grew up, contaminated his rule with every
kind of profligacy and debauchery. But even he, according to Benno,
was a pupil in the school of Silvester, and became no mean proficient
in the arts of sorcery. Among other things he caused the matrons of
Rome by his incantations to follow him in troops among woods and
mountains, being bewitched and their souls subdued by the irresistible
charms of his magic. [154]


Benno presents us with a regular catalogue of the ecclesiastical
sorcerers of this period: Benedict the Ninth, and Laurence, archbishop
of Melfi, (each of whom, he says, learned the art of Silvester),
John XX and Gregory VI. But his most vehement accusations are directed
against Gregory VII, who, he affirms, was in the early part of his
career, the constant companion and assistant of these dignitaries in
unlawful practices of this sort.

Gregory VII, whose original name was Hildebrand, is one of the great
champions of the Romish church, and did more than any other man to
establish the law of the celibacy of the clergy, and to take the
patronage of ecclesiastical dignities out of the hands of the laity.
He was eminently qualified for this undertaking by the severity of his
manners, and the inflexibility of his resolution to accomplish whatever
he undertook.

His great adversary was Henry the Fourth, emperor of Germany, a young
prince of high spirit, and at that time (1075) twenty-four years of
age. Gregory sent to summon him to Rome, to answer an accusation, that
he, as all his predecessors had done, being a layman, had conferred
ecclesiastical dignities. Henry refused submission, and was immediately
declared excommunicated. In retaliation for this offence, the emperor,
it is said, gave his orders to a chief of brigands, who, watching his
opportunity, seized the pope in the act of saying mass in one of the
churches of Rome, and carried him prisoner to a tower in the city
which was in the possession of this adventurer. But no sooner was this
known, than the citizens of Rome, rose _en masse_, and rescued
their spiritual father. Meanwhile Henry, to follow up his blow,
assembled a synod at Worms, who pronounced on the pope, that for
manifold crimes he was fallen from his supreme dignity, and
accordingly fulminated a decree of deposition against him. But Henry
had no forces to carry this decree into execution; and Gregory on his
side emitted a sentence of degradation against the emperor, commanding
the Germans to elect a new emperor in his place. It then became
evident that, in this age of ignorance and religious subjugation, the
spiritual arm, at least in Germany, was more powerful than the
temporal; and Henry, having maturely considered the perils that
surrounded him, took the resolution to pass the Alps with a few
domestics only, and, repairing to the presence of the pope, submit
himself to such penance as the pontiff should impose. Gregory was at
this time at Canosa, a fortress beyond Naples, which was surrounded
with three walls. Henry, without any attendant, was admitted within
the first wall. Here he was required to cast off all the symbols of
royalty, to put on a hair-shirt, and to wait barefoot his holiness's
pleasure. He stood accordingly, fasting from morn to eve, without
receiving the smallest notice from the pontiff. It was in the month of
January. He passed through the same trial the second day, and the
third. On the fourth day in the morning he was admitted to the
presence of the holy father. They parted however more irreconcileable
in heart than ever, though each preserved the appearance of good will.
The pope insisted that Henry should abide the issue of the congress in
Germany, of which he constituted himself president; and the emperor,
exasperated at the treatment he had received, resolved to keep no
terms with Gregory. Henry proceeded to the election of an anti-pope,
Clement the Third, and Gregory patronised a new emperor, Rodolph, duke
of Suabia. Henry had however generally been successful in his military
enterprises; and he defeated Rodolph in two battles, in the last of
which his opponent was slain. In the synod of Brixen, in which Clement
the Third was elected, Gregory was sentenced as a magician and a
necromancer. The emperor, puffed up with his victories, marched
against Rome, and took it, with the exception of the castle of St.
Angelo, in which the pope shut himself up; and in the mean time Henry
caused the anti-pope, his creature, to be solemnly inaugurated in the
church of the Lateran. Gregory however, never dismayed, and never at
an end of his expedients, called in the Normans, who had recently
distinguished themselves by their victories in Naples and Sicily.
Robert Guiscard, a Norman chieftain, drove the Germans out of Rome;
but, some altercations ensuing between the pontiff and his deliverer,
the city was given up to pillage, and Gregory was glad to take refuge
in Salerno, the capital of his Norman ally, where he shortly after
expired, an exile and a fugitive.

Gregory was no doubt a man of extraordinary resources and invincible
courage. He did not live to witness the triumph of his policy; but his
projects for the exaltation of the church finally met with every
success his most sanguine wishes could have aspired to. In addition to
all the rest it happened, that the countess Matilda, a princess who in
her own right possessed extensive sovereignties in Italy, nearly
commensurate with what has since been styled the ecclesiastical state,
transferred to the pope in her life-time, and confirmed by her
testament, all these territories, thus mainly contributing to render
him and his successors so considerable as temporal princes, as since
that time they have appeared.

It is, however, as a sorcerer, that Gregory VII (Hildebrand) finds a
place in this volume. Benno relates that, coming one day from his
Alban villa, he found, just as he was entering the church of the
Lateran, that he had left behind him his magical book, which he was
ascustomed to carry about his person. He immediately sent two trusty
servants to fetch it, at the same time threatening them most fearfully
if they should attempt to look into the volume. Curiosity however got
the better of their fear. They opened the book, and began to read;
when presently a number of devils appeared, saying, "We are come to
obey your commands, but, if we find ourselves trifled with, we shall
certainly fall upon and destroy you." The servants, exceedingly
terrified, replied, "Our will is that you should immediately throw
down so much of the wall of the city as is now before us." The devils
obeyed; and the servants escaped the danger that hung over them. [155]
It is further said, that Gregory was so expert in the arts of magic,
that he would throw out lightning by shaking his arm, and dart thunder
from his sleeve. [156]

But the most conspicuous circumstance in the life of Gregory that has
been made the foundation of a charge of necromancy against him, is
that, when Rodolph marched against Henry IV, the pope was so confident
of his success, as to venture publicly to prophesy, both in speech and
in writing, that his adversary should be conquered and perish in this
campaign. "Nay," he added, "this prophecy shall be accomplished before
St. Peter's day; nor do I desire any longer to be acknowledged for
pope, than on the condition that this comes to pass." It is added,
that Rodolph, relying on the prediction, six times renewed the battle,
in which finally he perished instead of his competitor. But this does
not go far enough to substantiate a charge of necromancy. It is
further remarked, that Gregory was deep in the pretended science of
judicial astrology; and this, without its being necessary to have
recourse to the solution of diabolical aid, may sufficiently account
for the undoubting certainty with which he counted on the event.

In the mean time this statement is of great importance, as illustrative
of the spirit of the times in general, and the character of Gregory in
particular. Rodolph, the competitor for the empire, has his mind wrought
up to such a pitch by this prophetic assurance, that, five times
repulsed, he yet led on his forces a sixth time, and perished the
victim of his faith. Nor were his followers less animated than he, and
from the same cause. We see also from the same story, that Gregory was
not an artful and crafty impostor, but a man spurred on by a genuine
enthusiasm. And this indeed is necessary to account for the whole of
his conduct. The audacity with which he opposed the claims of Henry,
and the unheard-of severity with which he treated him at the fortress
of Canosa, are to be referred to the same feature of character.
Invincible perseverance, when united with great resources of intellect
and a lofty spirit, will enable a man thoroughly to effect, what a
person of inferior endowments would not have dared so much as to dream
of. And Gregory, like St. Dunstan, achieved incredible things, by
skilfully adapting himself to circumstances, and taking advantage of
the temper and weakness of his contemporaries.


It is not to be wondered at, when such things occurred in Italy, the
principal seat of all the learning and refinement then existing in
Europe, that the extreme northerly and western districts should have
been given up to the blindest superstition. Among other instances we
have the following account in relation to Duff, king of Scotland, who
came to the crown about the year 968. He found his kingdom in the
greatest disorder from numerous bands of robbers, many of whom were
persons of high descent, but of no competent means of subsistence.
Duff resolved to put an end to their depredations, and to secure those
who sought a quiet support from cultivating the fruits of the earth
from forcible invasion. He executed the law against these disturbers
without respect of persons, and hence made himself many and powerful
enemies. In the midst of his activity however he suddenly fell sick,
and became confined to his bed. His physicians could no way account
for his distemper. They found no excess of any humour in his body to
which they could attribute his illness; his colour was fresh, and his
eyes lively; and he had a moderate and healthful appetite. But with
all this he was a total stranger to sleep; he burst out into
immoderate perspirations; and there was scarcely any thing that
remained of him, but skin and bone. In the meantime secret information
was brought that all this evil was the result of witchcraft. And, the
house being pointed out in which the sorcerers held their sabbath, a
band of soldiers was sent to surprise them. The doors being burst open,
they found one woman roasting upon a spit by the fire a waxen image of
the king, so like in every feature, that no doubt was entertained that
it was modelled by the art of the devil, while another sat by, busily
engaged in reciting certain verses of enchantment, by which means, as
the wax melted, the king was consumed with perspiration, and, as soon
as it was utterly dissolved, his death should immediately follow. The
witches were seized, and from their own confession burned alive. The
image was broken to pieces, and every fragment of it destroyed. And no
sooner was this effected, than Duff had all that night the most
refreshing and healthful sleep, and the next day rose without any
remains of his infirmity. [157]

This reprieve however availed him but for a short time. He was no
sooner recovered, than he occupied himself as before with pursuing the
outlaws, whom he brought indiscriminately to condign punishment. Among
these there chanced to be two young men, near relations of the
governor of the castle of Fores, who had hitherto been the king's most
faithful adherents. These young men had been deluded by ill company:
and the governor most earnestly sued to Duff for their pardon. But the
king was inexorable. Meanwhile, as he had always placed the most
entire trust in their father, he continued to do so without the
smallest suspicion. The night after the execution, the king slept in
the castle of Fores, as he had often done before; but the governor,
conceiving the utmost rancour at the repulse he had sustained, and
moreover instigated by his wife, in the middle of the night murdered
Duff in his bed, as he slept. His reign lasted only four years. [158]


The seventh king of Scotland after Duff, with an interval of
sixty-eight years, was Macbeth. The historian begins his tale of
witchcraft, towards the end of the reign of Duncan, his predecessor,
with observing, "Shortly after happened a strange and uncouth wonder,
which afterward was the cause of much trouble in the realm of Scotland.
It fortuned, as Macbeth and Banquo journeyed towards Fores, where the
king as then lay, they went sporting by the way together, without
other company save only themselves, passing through the woods and
fields, when suddenly, in the midst of a laund, there met them three
women in strange and ferly apparel, resembling creatures of an elder
world, whom when they attentively beheld, wondering much at the sight,
the first of them spake and said, All hail, Macbeth, thane of Glamis
(for he had lately entered into that dignity and office by the death
of his father Synel). The second of them said, Hail, Macbeth, thane of
Cawdor. But the third said, All hail, Macbeth, that hereafter shall be
king of Scotland. Then Banquo, What sort of women, said he, are you,
that seem so little favourable unto me, whereas to my fellow here,
besides high offices, ye assign also the kingdom, appointing forth
nothing for me at all? Yes, saith the first of them, we promise
greater benefits unto thee than unto him, for he shall reign indeed,
but with an unlucky end, neither shall he leave any issue behind him
to succeed in his place; where contrarily thou indeed shall not reign
at all, but of thee those shall be born, which shall govern the
Scottish kingdom by long order of continual descent. Herewith the
foresaid women vanished immediately out of their sight.

"This was reputed at the first but some vain fantastical illusion by
Macbeth and Banquo, insomuch that Banquo would call Macbeth in jest
king of Scotland, and Macbeth again would call him in sport likewise
the father of many kings. But afterwards the common opinion was, that
these women were either the weird sisters, that is (as you would say)
the goddesses of destiny, or else some nymphs or fairies, endued with
knowledge of prophecy by their necromantical science, because every
thing came to pass as they had spoken.

"For shortly after, the thane of Cawdor, being condemned at Fores of
treason against the king committed, his lands, livings and offices
were given of the king's liberality unto Macbeth." [159]

Malcolm, the preceding king of Scotland, had two daughters, one of
them the mother of Duncan, and the other of Macbeth; and in virtue of
this descent Duncan succeeded to the crown. The accession of Macbeth
therefore was not very remote, if he survived the present king. Of
consequence Macbeth, though he thought much of the prediction of the
weird sisters, yet resolved to wait his time, thinking that, as had
happened in his former preferment, this might come to pass without his
aid. But Duncan had two sons, Malcolm Cammore and Donald Bane. The law
of succession in Scotland was, that, if at the death of the reigning
sovereign he that should succeed were not of sufficient age to take on
him the government, he that was next of blood to him should be
admitted. Duncan however at this juncture created his eldest son
Malcolm prince of Cumberland, a title which was considered as
designating him heir to the throne. Macbeth was greatly troubled at
this, as cutting off the expectation he thought he had a right to
entertain: and, the words of the weird sisters still ringing in his
ears, and his wife with ambitious speeches urging him to the deed, he,
in conjunction with some trusty friends, among whom was Banquo, came
to a resolution to kill the king at Inverness. The deed being
perpetrated, Malcolm, the eldest son of Duncan, fled for safety into
Cumberland, and Donald, the second, into Ireland. [160]

Macbeth, who became king of Scotland in the year 1010, reigned for ten
years with great popularity and applause, but at the end of that time
changed his manner of government, and became a tyrant. His first
action in this character was against Banquo. He remembered that the
weird sisters had promised to Banquo that he should be father to a
line of kings. Haunted with this recollection, Macbeth invited Banquo
and his son Fleance to a supper, and appointed assassins to murder
them both on their return. Banquo was slain accordingly; but Fleance,
under favour of the darkness of the night, escaped. [161]

This murder brought Macbeth into great odium, since every man began to
doubt of the security of his life, and Macbeth at the same time to
fear the ill will of his subjects. He therefore proceeded to destroy
all against whom he entertained any suspicion, and every day more and
more to steep his hands in blood. Further to secure himself, he built
a castle on the top of a high hill, called Dunsinnan, which was placed
on such an elevation, that it seemed impossible to approach it in a
hostile manner. This work he carried on by means of requiring the
thanes of the kingdom, each one in turn, to come with a set of workmen
to help forward the edifice. When it came to the turn of Macduff,
thane of Fife, he sent workmen, but did not come himself, as the
others had done. Macbeth from that time regarded Macduff with an eye
of perpetual suspicion. [162]

Meanwhile Macbeth, remembering that the origin of his present
greatness consisted in the prophecy of the weird sisters, addicted
himself continually to the consulting of wizards. Those he consulted
gave him a pointed warning to take heed of Macduff, who in time to
come would seek to destroy him. This warning would unquestionably have
proved fatal to Macduff; had not on the other hand Macbeth been buoyed
up in security, by the prediction of a certain witch in whom he had
great trust, that he should never be vanquished till the wood of
Bernane came to the castle of Dunsinnan, and that he should not be
slain by any man that was born of a woman; both which he judged to be
impossibilities. [163]

This vain confidence however urged him to do many outrageous things;
at the same time that such was his perpetual uneasiness of mind, that
in every nobleman's house he had one servant or another in fee, that
he might be acquainted with every thing that was said or meditated
against him. About this time Macduff fled to Malcolm, who had now
taken refuge in the court of Edward the Confessor; and Macbeth came
with a strong party into Fife with the purpose of surprising him. The
master being safe, those within Macduff's castle threw open the gates,
thinking that no mischief would result from receiving the king. But
Macbeth, irritated that he missed of his prey, caused Macduff's wife
and children, and all persons who were found within the castle, to be
slain. [164]

Shortly after, Malcolm and Macduff, reinforced by ten thousand English
under the command of Seyward, earl of Northumberland, marched into
Scotland. The subjects of Macbeth stole away daily from him to join
the invaders; but he had such confidence in the predictions that had
been delivered to him, that he still believed he should never be
vanquished. Malcolm meanwhile, as he approached to the castle of
Dunsinnan, commanded his men to cut down, each of them, a bough from
the wood of Bernane, as large as he could bear, that they might take
the tyrant the more by surprise. Macbeth saw, and thought the wood
approached him; but he remembered the prophecy, and led forth and
marshalled his men. When however the enemy threw down their boughs,
and their formidable numbers stood revealed, Macbeth and his forces
immediately betook themselves to flight. Macduff pursued him, and was
hard at his heels, when the tyrant turned his horse, and exclaimed,
"Why dost thou follow me? Know, that it is ordained that no creature
born of a woman can ever overcome me." Macduff instantly retorted, "I
am the man appointed to slay thee. I was not born of a woman, but was
untimely ripped from my mother's womb." And, saying this, he killed
him on the spot. Macbeth reigned in the whole seventeen years. [165]


One of the most curious particulars, and which cannot be omitted in a
history of sorcery, is the various achievements in the art of magic
which have been related of the poet Virgil. I bring them in here,
because they cannot be traced further back than the eleventh or
twelfth century. The burial-place of this illustrious man was at
Pausilippo, near Naples; the Neapolitans had for many centuries
cherished a peculiar reverence for his memory; and it has been
supposed that the old ballads, and songs of the minstrels of the north
of Italy, first originated this idea respecting him. [166] The vulgar
of this city, full of imagination and poetry, conceived the idea of
treating him as the guardian genius of the place; and, in bodying
forth this conception, they represented him in his life-time as gifted
with supernatural powers, which he employed in various ways for the
advantage of a city that he so dearly loved. Be this as it will, it
appears that Gervais of Tilbury, chancellor to Otho the Fourth,
emperor of Germany, Helinandus, a Cisterian monk, and Alexander Neckam,
all of whom lived about this time, first recorded these particulars in
their works.

They tell us, that Virgil placed a fly of brass over one of the gates
of the city, which, as long as it continued there, that is, for a
space of eight years, had the virtue of keeping Naples clear from
moskitoes and all noxious insects: that he built a set of shambles,
the meat in which was at all times free from putrefaction: that he
placed two images over the gates of the city, one of which was named
Joyful, and the other Sad, one of resplendent beauty, and the other
hideous and deformed, and that whoever entered the town under the
former image would succeed in all his undertakings, and under the
latter would as certainly miscarry: that he caused a brazen statue to
be erected on a mountain near Naples, with a trumpet in his mouth,
which when the north wind blew, sounded so shrill as to drive to the
sea the fire and smoke which issued from the neighbouring forges of
Vulcan: that he built different baths at Naples, specifically prepared
for the cure of every disease, which were afterwards demolished by the
malice of the physicians: and that he lighted a perpetual fire for the
refreshment of all travellers, close to which he placed an archer of
brass, with his bow bent, and this inscription, "Whoever strikes me, I
will let fly my arrow:" that a fool-hardy fellow notwithstanding
struck the statue, when the arrow was immediately shot into the fire,
and the fire was extinguished. It is added, that, Naples being
infested with a vast multitude of contagious leeches, Virgil made a
leech of gold, which he threw into a pit, and so delivered the city
from the infection: that he surrounded his garden with a wall of air,
within which the rain never fell: that he built a bridge of brass that
would transport him wherever he pleased: that he made a set of statues,
which were named the salvation of Rome, which had the property that,
if any one of the subject nations prepared to revolt, the statue,
which bore the name of, and was adored by that nation, rung a bell,
and pointed with its finger in the direction of the danger: that he
made a head, which had the virtue of predicting things future: and
lastly, amidst a world of other wonders, that he cut a subterranean
passage through mount Pausilippo, that travellers might pass with
perfect safety, the mountain having before been so infested with
serpents and dragons, that no one could venture to cross it.


The most eminent person next, after popes Silvester II and Gregory VII,
who labours under the imputation of magic, is Robert Grossetête, or
Robert of Lincoln, appointed bishop of that see in the year 1235. He
was, like those that have previously been mentioned, a man of the most
transcendant powers of mind, and extraordinary acquirements. His
parents are said to have been so poor, that he was compelled, when a
boy, to engage in the meanest offices for bread, and even to beg on
the highway. At length the mayor of Lincoln, struck with his
appearance, and the quickness of his answers to such questions as were
proposed to him, took him into his family, and put him to school. Here
his ardent love of learning, and admirable capacity for acquiring it,
soon procured him many patrons, by whose assistance he was enabled to
prosecute his studies, first at Cambridge, afterwards at Oxford, and
finally at Paris. He was master of the Greek and Hebrew languages,
then very rare accomplishments; and is pronounced by Roger Bacon, a
very competent judge, of whom we shall presently have occasion to
speak, to have spent much of his time, for nearly forty years, in the
study of geometry, astronomy, optics, and other branches of
mathematical learning, in all of which he much excelled. So that, as
we are informed from the same authority, this same Robert of Lincoln,
and his friend, Friar Adam de Marisco, were the two most learned men
in the world, and excelled the rest of mankind in both human and
divine knowledge.

This great man especially distinguished himself by his firm and
undaunted opposition to the corruptions of the court of Rome. Pope
Innocent IV, who filled the papal chair upwards of eleven years, from
1243 to 1254, appears to have exceeded all his predecessors in the
shamelessness of his abuses. We are told, that the hierarchy of the
church of England was overwhelmed like a flood with an inundation of
foreign dignitaries, of whom not a few were mere boys, for the most
part without learning, ignorant of the language of the island, and
incapable of benefiting the people nominally under their care, the
more especially as they continued to dwell in their own countries, and
scarcely once in their lives visited the sees to which they had been
appointed. [167] Grossetête lifted up his voice against these scandals.
He said that it was impossible the genuine apostolic see, which
received its authority from the Lord Jesus for edification, and not
for destruction, could be guilty of such a crime, for that would
forfeit all its glory, and plunge it into the pains of hell. He did
not scruple therefore among his most intimate friends to pronounce the
reigning pope to be the true Antichrist; and he addressed the pontiff
himself in scarcely more measured terms.

Among the other accomplishments of bishop Grossetête he is said to
have been profoundly skilled in the art of magic: and the old poet
Gower relates of him that he made a head of brass, expressly
constructed in such a manner as to be able to answer such questions as
were propounded to it, and to foretel future events.


Michael Scot of Balwirie in the county of Fife, was nearly contemporary
with bishop Grossetête. He was eminent for his knowledge of the Greek
and Arabic languages. He was patronised by the emperor Frederic II,
who encouraged him to undertake a translation of the works of Aristotle
into Latin. He addicted himself to astrology, chemistry, and the still
more frivolous sciences of chiromancy and physiognomy. It does not
appear that he made any pretences to magic; but the vulgar, we are
told, generally regarded him as a sorcerer, and are said to have
carried their superstition so far as to have conceived a terror of so
much as touching his works.


There is a story related by this accomplished scholar, in a collection
of aphorisms and anecdotes entitled _Mensa Philosophica_, which
deserves to be cited as illustrating the ideas then current on the
subject of sorcery. A certain great necromancer, or nigromancer, had
once a pupil of considerable rank, who professed himself extremely
desirous for once to have the gratification of believing himself an
emperor. The necromancer, tired with his importunities, at length
assented to his prayer. He took measures accordingly, and by his
potent art caused his scholar to believe that one province and dignity
fell to him after another, till at length his utmost desires became
satisfied. The magician however appeared to be still at his elbow; and
one day, when the scholar was in the highest exultation at his good
fortune, the master humbly requested him to bestow upon him some
landed possession, as a reward for the extraordinary benefit he had
conferred. The imaginary emperor cast upon the necromancer a glance of
the utmost disdain and contempt. "Who are you?" said he, "I really
have not the smallest acquaintance with you." "I am he," replied the
magician, with withering severity of countenance and tone, "that gave
you all these things, and will take them away." And, saying this, the
illusion with which the poor scholar had been inebriated, immediately
vanished; and he became what he had before been, and no more.

The story thus briefly told by Michael Scot, afterwards passed through
many hands, and was greatly dilated. In its last form by the abbé
Blanchet, it constituted the well known and agreeable tale of the dean
of Badajoz. This reverend divine comes to a sorcerer, and intreats a
specimen of his art. The magician replies that he had met with so many
specimens of ingratitude, that he was resolved to be deluded no more.
The dean persists, and at length overcomes the reluctance of the
master. He invites his guest into the parlour, and orders his cook to
put two partridges to the fire, for that the dean of Badajoz will sup
with him. Presently he begins his incantations; and the dean becomes
in imagination by turns a bishop, a cardinal, and a pope. The magician
then claims his reward. Meanwhile the dean, inflated with his supposed
elevation, turns to his benefactor, and says, "I have learned with
grief that, under pretence of secret science, you correspond with the
prince of darkness. I command you to repent and abjure; and in the
mean time I order you to quit the territory of the church in three
days, under pain of being delivered to the secular arm, and the rigour
of the flames." The sorcerer, having been thus treated, presently
dissolves the incantation, and calls aloud to his cook, "Put down but
one partridge, the dean of Badajoz does not sup with me to-night."


This story affords an additional example of the affinity between the
ancient Asiatic and European legends, so as to convince us that it is
nearly impossible that the one should not be in some way borrowed from
the other. There is, in a compilation called the Turkish Tales, a
story of an infidel sultan of Egypt, who took the liberty before a
learned Mahometan doctor, of ridiculing some of the miracles ascribed
to the prophet, as for example his transportation into the seventh
heaven, and having ninety thousand conferences with God, while in the
mean time a pitcher of water, which had been thrown down in the first
step of his ascent, was found with the water not all spilled at his

The doctor, who had the gift of working miracles, told the sultan that,
with his consent, he would give him a practical proof of the
possibility of the circumstance related of Mahomet. The sultan agreed.
The doctor therefore directed that a huge tub of water should be
brought in, and, while the prince stood before it with his courtiers
around, the holy man bade him plunge his head into the water, and draw
it out again. The sultan immersed his head, and had no sooner done so,
than he found himself alone at the foot of a mountain on a desert
shore. The prince first began to rave against the doctor for this
piece of treachery and witchcraft. Perceiving however that all his
rage was vain, and submitting himself to the imperiousness of his
situation, he began to seek for some habitable tract. By and by he
discovered people cutting down wood in a forest, and, having no remedy,
he was glad to have recourse to the same employment. In process of
time he was brought to a town; and there by great good fortune, after
other adventures, he married a woman of beauty and wealth, and lived
long enough with her, for her to bear him seven sons and seven
daughters. He was afterwards reduced to want, so as to be obliged to
ply in the streets as a porter for his livelihood. One day, as he
walked alone on the sea-shore, ruminating on his hard fate, he was
seized with a fit of devotion, and threw off his clothes, that he
might wash himself, agreeably to the Mahometan custom, previously to
saying his prayers. He had no sooner however plunged into the sea, and
raised his head again above water, than he found himself standing by
the side of the tub that had been brought in, with all the great
persons of his court round him, and the holy man close at his side. He
found that the long series of imaginary adventures he had passed
through, had in reality occupied but one minute of time.


About this time a great revolution took place in the state of
literature in Europe. The monks, who at one period considerably
contributed to preserve the monuments of ancient learning, memorably
fell off in reputation and industry. Their communities by the
donations of the pious grew wealthy; and the monks themselves
inhabited splendid palaces, and became luxurious, dissipated and idle.
Upon the ruins of their good fame rose a very extraordinary race of
men, called Friars. The monks professed celibacy, and to have no
individual property; but the friars abjured all property, both private
and in common. They had no place where to lay their heads, and
subsisted as mendicants upon the alms of their contemporaries. They
did not hide themselves in refectories and dormitories, but lived
perpetually before the public. In the sequel indeed they built
Friaries for their residence; but these were no less distinguished for
the simplicity and humbleness of their appearance, than the monasteries
were for their grandeur and almost regal magnificence. The Friars were
incessant in preaching and praying, voluntarily exposed themselves to
the severest hardships, and were distinguished by a fervour of devotion
and charitable activity that knew no bounds. We might figure them to
ourselves as swallowed up in these duties. But they added to their
merits an incessant earnestness in learning and science. A new era in
intellect and subtlety of mind began with them; and a set of the most
wonderful men in depth of application, logical acuteness, and
discoveries in science distinguished this period. They were few indeed,
in comparison of the world of ignorance that every where surrounded
them; but they were for that reason only the more conspicuous. They
divided themselves principally into two orders, the Dominicans and
Franciscans. And all that was most illustrious in intellect at this
period belonged either to the one or the other.


Albertus Magnus, a Dominican, was one of the most famous of these. He
was born according to some accounts in the year 1193, and according to
others in 1205. It is reported of him, that he was naturally very dull,
and so incapable of instruction, that he was on the point of quitting
the cloister from despair of learning what his vocation required, when
the blessed virgin appeared to him in a vision, and enquired of him in
which he desired to excel, philosophy or divinity. He chose philosophy;
and the virgin assured him that he should become incomparable in that,
but, as a punishment for not having chosen divinity, he should sink,
before he died, into his former stupidity. It is added that, after
this apparition, he had an infinite deal of wit, and advanced in
science with so rapid a progress as utterly to astonish the masters.
He afterwards became bishop of Ratisbon.

It is related of Albertus, that he made an entire man of brass,
putting together its limbs under various constellations, and occupying
no less than thirty years in its formation. This man would answer all
sorts of questions, and was even employed by its maker as a domestic.
But what is more extraordinary, this machine is said to have become at
length so garrulous, that Thomas Aquinas, being a pupil of Albertus,
and finding himself perpetually disturbed in his abstrusest
speculations by its uncontrolable loquacity, in a rage caught up a
hammer, and beat it to pieces. According to other accounts the man of
Albertus Magnus was composed, not of metal, but of flesh and bones
like other men; but this being afterwards judged to be impossible, and
the virtue of images, rings, and planetary sigils being in great vogue,
it was conceived that this figure was formed of brass, and indebted
for its virtue to certain conjunctions and aspects of the planets.

A further extraordinary story is told of Albertus Magnus, well
calculated to exemplify the ideas of magic with which these ages
abounded. William, earl of Holland, and king of the Romans, was
expected at a certain time to pass through Cologne. Albertus had set
his heart upon obtaining from this prince the cession of a certain
tract of land upon which to erect a convent. The better to succeed in
his application he conceived the following scheme. He invited the
prince on his journey to partake of a magnificent entertainment. To
the surprise of every body, when the prince arrived, he found the
preparations for the banquet spread in the open air. It was in the
depth of winter, when the earth was bound up in frost, and the whole
face of things was covered with snow. The attendants of the court were
mortified, and began to express their discontent in loud murmurs. No
sooner however was the king with Albertus and his courtiers seated at
table, than the snow instantly disappeared, the temperature of summer
shewed itself, and the sun burst forth with a dazzling splendour. The
ground became covered with the richest verdure; the trees were clothed
at once with foliage, flowers and fruits: and a vintage of the richest
grapes, accompanied with a ravishing odour, invited the spectators to
partake. A thousand birds sang on every branch. A train of pages
shewed themselves, fresh and graceful in person and attire, and were
ready diligently to supply the wants of all, while every one was
struck with astonishment as to who they were and from whence they came.
The guests were obliged to throw off their upper garments the better
to cool themselves. The whole assembly was delighted with their
entertainment, and Albertus easily gained his suit of the king.
Presently after, the banquet disappeared; all was wintry and solitary
as before; the snow lay thick upon the ground; and the guests in all
haste snatched up the garments they had laid aside, and hurried into
the apartments, that by numerous fires on the blazing hearth they
might counteract the dangerous chill which threatened to seize on
their limbs. [169]


Roger Bacon, of whom extraordinary stories of magic have been told,
and who was about twenty years younger than Albertus, was one of the
rarest geniuses that have existed on earth. He was a Franciscan friar.
He wrote grammars of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages. He was
profound in the science of optics. He explained the nature of
burning-glasses, and of glasses which magnify and diminish, the
microscope and the telescope. He discovered the composition of
gunpowder. He ascertained the true length of the solar year; and his
theory was afterwards brought into general use, but upon a narrow
scale, by Pope Gregory XIII, nearly three hundred years after his
death. [170]

But for all these discoveries he underwent a series of the most bitter
persecutions. It was imputed to him by the superiors of his order that
the improvements he suggested in natural philosophy were the effects
of magic, and were suggested to him through an intercourse with
infernal spirits. They forbade him to communicate any of his
speculations. They wasted his frame with rigorous fasting, often
restricting him to a diet of bread and water, and prohibited all
strangers to have access to him. Yet he went on indefatigably in
pursuit of the secrets of nature. [171] At length Clement IV, to whom
he appealed, procured him a considerable degree of liberty. But, after
the death of that pontiff, he was again put under confinement, and
continued in that state for a further period of ten years. He was
liberated but a short time before his death.

Freind says, [172] that, among other ingenious contrivances, he put
statues in motion, and drew articulate sounds from a brazen head, not
however by magic, but by an artificial application of the principles
of natural philosophy.   This probably furnished a foundation for the
tale of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungy, which was one of the earliest
productions to which the art of printing was applied in England. These
two persons are said to have entertained the project of inclosing
England with a wall, so as to render it inaccessible to any invader.
They accordingly raised the devil, as the person best able to inform
them how this was to be done. The devil advised them to make a brazen
head, with all the internal structure and organs of a human head. The
construction would cost them much time; and they must then wait with
patience till the faculty of speech descended upon it. It would
finally however become an oracle, and, if the question were propounded
to it, would teach them the solution of their problem. The friars
spent seven years in bringing the structure to perfection, and then
waited day after day, in expectation that it would utter articulate
sounds. At length nature became exhausted in them, and they lay down
to sleep, having first given it strictly in charge to a servant of
theirs, clownish in nature, but of strict fidelity, that he should
awaken them the moment the image began to speak. That period arrived.
The head uttered sounds, but such as the clown judged unworthy of
notice. "Time is!" it said. No notice was taken; and a long pause
ensued. "Time was!" A similar pause, and no notice. "Time is passed!"
And the moment these words were uttered, a tremendous storm ensued,
with thunder and lightning, and the head was shivered into a thousand
pieces. Thus the experiment of friar Bacon and friar Bungy came to


Thomas Aquinas, who has likewise been brought under the imputation of
magic, was one of the profoundest scholars and subtlest logicians of
his day. He also furnishes a remarkable instance of the ascendant
which the friars at that time obtained over the minds of ingenuous
young men smitten with the thirst of knowledge. He was a youth of
illustrious birth, and received the rudiments of his education under
the monks of Monte Cassino, and in the university of Naples. But, not
contented with these advantages, he secretly entered himself into the
society of Preaching Friars, or Dominicans, at seventeen years of age.
His mother, being indignant that he should thus take the vow of
poverty, and sequester himself from the world for life, employed every
means in her power to induce him to alter his purpose, but in vain.
The friars, to deliver him from her importunities, removed him from
Naples to Terracina, from Terracina to Anagnia, and from Anagnia to
Rome. His mother followed him in all these changes of residence, but
was not permitted so much as to see him. At length she spirited up his
two elder brothers to seize him by force. They waylaid him in his road
to Paris, whither he was sent to complete his course of instruction,
and carried him off to the castle of Aquino where he had been born.
Here he was confined for two years; but he found a way to correspond
with the superiors of his order, and finally escaped from a window in
the castle. St. Thomas Aquinas (for he was canonised after his death)
exceeded perhaps all men that ever existed in the severity and
strictness of his metaphysical disquisitions, and thus acquired the
name of the Seraphic Doctor.

It was to be expected that a man, who thus immersed himself in the
depths of thought, should be an inexorable enemy to noise and
interruption. We have seen that he dashed to pieces the artificial man
of brass, that Albertus Magnus, who was his tutor, had spent thirty
years in bringing to perfection, being impelled to this violence by
its perpetual and unceasing garrulity. [173] It is further said, that
his study being placed in a great thoroughfare, where the grooms were
all day long exercising their horses, he found it necessary to apply a
remedy to this nuisance. He made by the laws of magic a small horse of
brass, which he buried two or three feet under ground in the midst of
this highway; and, having done so, no horse would any longer pass
along the road. It was in vain that the grooms with whip and spur
sought to conquer their repugnance. They were finally compelled to
give up the attempt, and to choose another place for their daily
exercise. [174]

It has further been sought to fix the imputation of magic upon Thomas
Aquinas by imputing to him certain books written on that science; but
these are now acknowledged to be spurious. [175]


Peter of Apono, so called from a village of that name in the vicinity
of Padua, where he was born in the year 1250, was an eminent
philosopher, mathematician and astrologer, but especially excelled in
physic. Finding that science at a low ebb in his native country, he
resorted to Paris, where it especially flourished; and after a time
returning home, exercised his art with extraordinary success, and by
this means accumulated great wealth.

But all his fame and attainments were poisoned to him by the accusation
of magic. Among other things he was said to possess seven spirits,
each of them inclosed in a crystal vessel, from whom he received every
information he desired in the seven liberal arts. He was further
reported to have had the extraordinary faculty of causing the money he
expended in his disbursements, immediately to come back into his own
purse. He was besides of a hasty and revengeful temper. In consequence
of this it happened to him, that, having a neighbour, who had an
admirable spring of water in his garden, and who was accustomed to
suffer the physician to send for a daily supply, but who for some
displeasure or inconvenience withdrew his permission, Peter d'Apono,
by the aid of the devil, removed the spring from the garden in which
it had flowed, and turned it to waste in the public street. For some
of these accusations he was called to account by the tribunal of the
inquisition. While he was upon his trial however, the unfortunate man
died. But so unfavourable was the judgment of the inquisitors
respecting him, that they decreed that his bones should be dug up, and
publicly burned. Some of his friends got intimation of this, and saved
him from the impending disgrace by removing his remains. Disappointed
in this, the inquisitors proceeded to burn him in effigy.


It may seem strange that in a treatise concerning necromancy we should
have occasion to speak of the English law of high treason. But on
reflection perhaps it may appear not altogether alien to the subject.
This crime is ordinarily considered by our lawyers as limited and
defined by the statute of 25 Edward III. As Blackstone has observed,
"By the ancient common law there was a great latitude left in the
breast of the judges, to determine what was treason, or not so:
whereby the creatures of tyrannical power had opportunity to create
abundance of constructive treasons; that is, to raise, by forced and
arbitrary constructions, offences into the crime and punishment of
treason, which were never suspected to be such. To prevent these
inconveniences, the statute of 25 Edward III was made." [176] This
statute divides treason into seven distinct branches; and the first
and chief of these is, "when a man doth compass or imagine the death
of our lord the king."

Now the first circumstance that strikes us in this affair is, why the
crime was not expressed in more perspicuous and appropriate language?
Why, for example, was it not said, that the first and chief branch of
treason was to "kill the king?" Or, if that limitation was not held to
be sufficiently ample, could it not have been added, it is treason to
"attempt, intend, or contrive to kill the king?" We are apt to make
much too large an allowance for what is considered as the vague and
obsolete language of our ancestors. Logic was the element in which the
scholars of what are called the dark ages were especially at home. It
was at that period that the description of human geniuses, called the
Schoolmen, principally flourished. The writers who preceded the
Christian era, possessed in an extraordinary degree the gift of
imagination and invention. But they had little to boast on the score
of arrangement, and discovered little skill in the strictness of an
accurate deduction. Meanwhile the Schoolmen had a surprising subtlety
in weaving the web of an argument, and arriving by a close deduction,
through a multitude of steps, to a sound and irresistible conclusion.
Our lawyers to a certain degree formed themselves on the discipline of
the Schoolmen. Nothing can be more forcibly contrasted, than the mode
of pleading among the ancients, and that which has characterised the
processes of the moderns. The pleadings of the ancients were praxises
of the art of oratorical persuasion; the pleadings of the moderns
sometimes, though rarely, deviate into oratory, but principally
consist in dextrous subtleties upon words, or a nice series of
deductions, the whole contexture of which is endeavoured to be woven
into one indissoluble substance. Several striking examples have been
preserved of the mode of pleading in the reign of Edward II, in which
the exceptions taken for the defendant, and the replies supporting the
mode of proceeding on behalf of the plaintiff, in no respect fall
short of the most admired shifts, quirks and subtleties of the great
lawyers of later times. [177]

It would be certainly wrong therefore to consider the legal phrase, to
"compass or imagine the death of the king," as meaning the same thing
as to "kill, or intend to kill" him. At all events we may take it for
granted, that to "compass" does not mean to accomplish; but rather to
"take in hand, to go about to effect." There is therefore no form of
words here forbidding to "kill the king." The phrase, to "imagine,"
does not appear less startling. What is, to a proverb, more lawless
than imagination?

  Evil into the mind of God or man
  May come and go, so unapproved, and leave
  No spot or blame behind.

What can be more tyrannical, than an inquisition into the sports and
freaks of fancy? What more unsusceptible of detection or evidence? How
many imperceptible shades of distinction between the guilt and
innocence that characterise them!--Meanwhile the force and propriety
of these terms will strikingly appear, if we refer them to the popular
ideas of witchcraft. Witches were understood to have the power of
destroying life, without the necessity of approaching the person whose
life was to be destroyed, or producing any consciousness in him of the
crime about to be perpetrated. One method was by exposing an image of
wax to the action of fire; while, in proportion as the image wasted
away, the life of the individual who was the object contrived against,
was undermined and destroyed. Another was by incantations and spells.
Either of these might fitly be called the "compassing or imagining the
death." Imagination is, beside this, the peculiar province of
witchcraft. And in these pretended hags the faculty is no longer
desultory and erratic. Conscious of their power, they are supposed to
have subjected it to system and discipline. They apply its secret and
trackless energy with an intentness and a vigour, which ordinary
mortals may in vain attempt to emulate in an application of the force
of inert matter, or of the different physical powers by means of which
such stupendous effects have often been produced.--How universal and
familiar then must we consider the ideas of witchcraft to have been
before language which properly describes the secret practices of such
persons, and is not appropriate to any other, could have been found to
insinuate itself into the structure of the most solemn act of our
legislature, that act which beyond all others was intended to narrow
or shut out the subtle and dangerous inroads of arbitrary power!


Very extraordinary things are related of Ziito, a sorcerer, in the
court of Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia and afterwards emperor of Germany,
in the latter part of the fourteenth century. This is perhaps, all
things considered, the most wonderful specimen of magical power any
where to be found. It is gravely recorded by Dubravius, bishop of
Olmutz, in his History of Bohemia. It was publicly exhibited on
occasion of the marriage of Wenceslaus with Sophia, daughter of the
elector Palatine of Bavaria, before a vast assembled multitude.

The father-in-law of the king, well aware of the bridegroom's known
predilection for theatrical exhibitions and magical illusions, brought
with him to Prague, the capital of Wenceslaus, a whole waggon-load of
morrice-dancers and jugglers, who made their appearance among the
royal retinue. Meanwhile Ziito, the favourite magician of the king,
took his place obscurely among the ordinary spectators. He however
immediately arrested the attention of the strangers, being remarked
for his extraordinary deformity, and a mouth that stretched completely
from ear to ear. Ziito was for some time engaged in quietly observing
the tricks and sleights that were exhibited. At length, while the
chief magician of the elector Palatine was still busily employed in
shewing some of the most admired specimens of his art, the Bohemian,
indignant at what appeared to him the bungling exhibitions of his
brother-artist, came forward, and reproached him with the unskilfulness
of his performances. The two professors presently fell into warm
debate. Ziito, provoked at the insolence of his rival, made no more
ado but swallowed him whole before the multitude, attired as he was,
all but his shoes, which he objected to because they were dirty. He
then retired for a short while to a closet, and presently returned,
leading the magician along with him.

Having thus disposed of his rival, Ziito proceeded to exhibit the
wonders of his art. He shewed himself first in his proper shape, and
then in those of different persons successively, with countenances and
a stature totally dissimilar to his own; at one time splendidly
attired in robes of purple and silk, and then in the twinkling of an
eye in coarse linen and a clownish coat of frieze. He would proceed
along the field with a smooth and undulating motion without changing
the posture of a limb, for all the world as if he were carried along
in a ship. He would keep pace with the king's chariot, in a car drawn
by barn-door fowls. He also amused the king's guests as they sat at
table, by causing, when they stretched out their hands to the different
dishes, sometimes their hands to turn into the cloven feet of an ox,
and at other times into the hoofs of a horse. He would clap on them
the antlers of a deer, so that, when they put their heads out at
window to see some sight that was going by, they could by no means
draw them back again; while he in the mean time feasted on the savoury
cates that had been spread before them, at his leisure.

At one time he pretended to be in want of money, and to task his wits
to devise the means to procure it. On such an occasion he took up a
handful of grains of corn, and presently gave them the form and
appearance of thirty hogs well fatted for the market. He drove these
hogs to the residence of one Michael, a rich dealer, but who was
remarked for being penurious and thrifty in his bargains. He offered
them to Michael for whatever price he should judge reasonable. The
bargain was presently struck, Ziito at the same time warning the
purchaser, that he should on no account drive them to the river to
drink. Michael however paid no attention to this advice; and the hogs
no sooner arrived at the river, than they turned into grains of corn
as before. The dealer, greatly enraged at this trick, sought high and
low for the seller that he might be revenged on him. At length he
found him in a vintner's shop seemingly in a gloomy and absent frame
of mind, reposing himself, with his legs stretched out on a form. The
dealer called out to him, but he seemed not to hear. Finally he seized
Ziito by one foot, plucking at it with all his might. The foot came
away with the leg and thigh; and Ziito screamed out, apparently in
great agony. He seized Michael by the nape of the neck, and dragged
him before a judge. Here the two set up their separate complaints,
Michael for the fraud that had been committed on him, and Ziito for
the irreparable injury he had suffered in his person. From this
adventure came the proverb, frequent in the days of the historian,
speaking of a person who had made an improvident bargain, "He has made
just such a purchase as Michael did with his hogs."


Among the different pursuits, which engaged the curiosity of active
minds in these unenlightened ages, was that of the transmutation of
the more ordinary metals into gold and silver. This art, though not
properly of necromantic nature, was however elevated by its professors,
by means of an imaginary connection between it and astrology, and even
between it and an intercourse with invisible spirits. They believed,
that their investigations could not be successfully prosecuted but
under favourable aspects of the planets, and that it was even
indispensible to them to obtain supernatural aid.

In proportion as the pursuit of transmutation, and the search after
the elixir of immortality grew into vogue, the adepts became desirous
of investing them with the venerable garb of antiquity. They
endeavoured to carry up the study to the time of Solomon; and there
were not wanting some who imputed it to the first father of mankind.
They were desirous to track its footsteps in Ancient Egypt; and they
found a mythological representation of it in the expedition of Jason
after the golden fleece, and in the cauldron by which Medea restored
the father of Jason to his original youth. [178] But, as has already
been said, the first unquestionable mention of the subject is to be
referred to the time of Dioclesian. [179] From that period traces of
the studies of the alchemists from time to time regularly discover

The study of chemistry and its supposed invaluable results was
assiduously cultivated by Geber and the Arabians.


Artephius is one of the earliest names that occur among the students
who sought the philosopher's stone. Of him extraordinary things are
told. He lived about the year 1130, and wrote a book of the Art of
Prolonging Human Life, in which he professes to have already attained
the age of one thousand and twenty-five years. [180] He must by this
account have been born about one hundred years after our Saviour. He
professed to have visited the infernal regions, and there to have seen
Tantalus seated on a throne of gold. He is also said by some to be the
same person, whose life has been written by Philostratus under the
name of Apollonius of Tyana. [181] He wrote a book on the philosopher's
stone, which was published in Latin and French at Paris in the year


Among the European students of these interesting secrets a foremost
place is to be assigned to Raymond Lulli and Arnold of Villeneuve.

Lulli was undoubtedly a man endowed in a very eminent degree with the
powers of intellect. He was a native of the island of Majorca, and was
born in the year 1234. He is said to have passed his early years in
profligacy and dissipation, but to have been reclaimed by the accident
of falling in love with a young woman afflicted with a cancer. This
circumstance induced him to apply himself intently to the study of
chemistry and medicine, with a view to discover a cure for her
complaint, in which he succeeded. He afterwards entered into the
community of Franciscan friars.

Edward the First was one of the most extraordinary princes that ever
sat on a throne. He revived the study of the Roman civil law with such
success as to have merited the title of the English Justinian. He was
no less distinguished as the patron of arts and letters. He invited to
England Guido dalla Colonna, the author of the Troy Book, and Raymond
Lulli. This latter was believed in his time to have prosecuted his
studies with such success as to have discovered the _elixir vitae_,
by means of which he could keep off the assaults of old age, at least
for centuries, and the philosopher's stone. He is affirmed by these
means to have supplied to Edward the First six millions of money, to
enable him to carry on war against the Turks.

But he was not only indefatigable in the pursuit of natural science.
He was also seized with an invincible desire to convert the Mahometans
to the Christian faith. For this purpose he entered earnestly upon the
study of the Oriental languages. He endeavoured to prevail on different
princes of Europe to concur in his plan, and to erect colleges for the
purpose, but without success. He at length set out alone upon his
enterprise, but met with small encouragement. He penetrated into
Africa and Asia. He made few converts, and was with difficulty suffered
to depart, under a solemn injunction that he should not return. But
Lulli chose to obey God rather than man, and ventured a second time.
The Mahometans became exasperated with his obstinacy, and are said to
have stoned him to death at the age of eighty years. His body was
however transported to his native place; and miracles are reported to
have been worked at his tomb. [182]

Raymond Lulli is beside famous for what he was pleased to style his
Great Art. The ordinary accounts however that are given of this art
assume a style of burlesque, rather than of philosophy. He is said to
have boasted that by means of it he could enable any one to argue
logically on any subject for a whole day together, independently of
any previous study of the subject in debate. To the details of the
process Swift seems to have been indebted for one of the humorous
projects described by him in his voyage to Laputa. Lulli recommended
that certain general terms of logic, metaphysics, ethics or theology
should first be collected. These were to be inscribed separately upon
square pieces of parchment. They were then to be placed on a frame so
constructed that by turning a handle they might revolve freely, and
form endless combinations. One term would stand for a subject, and
another for a predicate. The student was then diligently to inspect
the different combinations that fortuitously arose, and exercising the
subtlety of his faculties to select such as he should find best
calculated for his purposes. He would thus carry on the process of his
debate; and an extraordinary felicity would occasionally arise,
suggesting the most ingenious hints, and leading on to the most
important discoveries. [183]--If a man with the eminent faculties
which Lulli otherwise appeared to have possessed really laid down the
rules of such an art, all he intended by it must have been to satirize
the gravity with which the learned doctors of his time carried on
their grave disputations in mood and figure, having regard only to the
severity of the rule by which they debated, and holding themselves
totally indifferent whether they made any real advances in the
discovery of truth.


Arnold of Villeneuve, who lived about the same time, was a man of
eminent attainments. He made a great proficiency in Greek, Hebrew, and
Arabic. He devoted himself in a high degree to astrology, and was so
confident in his art, as to venture to predict that the end of the
world would occur in a few years; but he lived to witness the
fallaciousness of his prophecy. He had much reputation as a physician.
He appears to have been a bold thinker. He maintained that deeds of
charity were of more avail than the sacrifice of the mass, and that no
one would be damned hereafter, but such as were proved to afford an
example of immoral conduct. Like all the men of these times who were
distinguished by the profoundness of their studies, he was accused of
magic. For this, or upon a charge of heresy, he was brought under the
prosecution of the inquisition. But he was alarmed by the fate of
Peter of Apono, and by recantation or some other mode of prudent
contrivance was fortunate enough to escape. He is one of the persons
to whom the writing of the book, _De Tribus Impostoribus_, Of the
Three Impostors (Moses, Jesus Christ and Mahomet) was imputed! [184]


So great an alarm was conceived about this time respecting the art of
transmutation, that an act of parliament was passed in the fifth year
of Henry IV, 1404, which lord Coke states as the shortest of our
statutes, determining that the making of gold or silver shall be
deemed felony. This law is said to have resulted from the fear at that
time entertained by the houses of lords and commons, lest the
executive power, finding itself by these means enabled to increase the
revenue of the crown to any degree it pleased, should disdain to ask
aid from the legislature; and in consequence should degenerate into
tyranny and arbitrary power. [185]

George Ripley, of Ripley in the county of York, is mentioned, towards
the latter part of the fifteenth century, as having discovered the
philosopher's stone, and by its means contributed one hundred thousand
pounds to the knights of Rhodes, the better to enable them to carry on
their war against the Turks. [186]

About this time however the tide appears to have turned, and the alarm
respecting the multiplication of the precious metals so greatly to
have abated, that patents were issued in the thirty-fifth year of
Henry VI, for the encouragement of such as were disposed to seek the
universal medicine, and to endeavour the transmutation of inferior
metals into gold. [187]


While these things were going on in Europe, the period was gradually
approaching, when the energies of the human mind were to loosen its
shackles, and its independence was ultimately to extinguish those
delusions and that superstition which had so long enslaved it.
Petrarch, born in the year 1304, was deeply impregnated with a passion
for classical lore, was smitten with the love of republican
institutions, and especially distinguished himself for an adoration of
Homer. Dante, a more sublime and original genius than Petrarch, was
his contemporary. About the same time Boccaccio in his Decamerone gave
at once to Italian prose that purity and grace, which none of his
successors in the career of literature have ever been able to excel.
And in our own island Chaucer with a daring hand redeemed his native
tongue from the disuse and ignominy into which it had fallen, and
poured out the immortal strains that the genuine lovers of the English
tongue have ever since perused with delight, while those who are
discouraged by its apparent crabbedness, have yet grown familiar with
his thoughts in the smoother and more modern versification of Dryden
and Pope. From that time the principles of true taste have been more
or less cultivated, while with equal career independence of thought
and an ardent spirit of discovery have continually proceeded, and made
a rapid advance towards the perfect day.

But the dawn of literature and intellectual freedom were still a long
time ere they produced their full effect. The remnant of the old woman
clung to the heart with a tenacious embrace. Three or four centuries
elapsed, while yet the belief in sorcery and witchcraft was alive in
certain classes of society. And then, as is apt to occur in such cases,
the expiring folly occasionally gave tokens of its existence with a
convulsive vehemence, and became only the more picturesque and
impressive through the strong contrast of lights and shadows that
attended its manifestations.


One of the most memorable stories on record is that of Joan of Arc,
commonly called the Maid of Orleans. Henry the Fifth of England won
the decisive battle of Agincourt in the year 1415, and some time after
concluded a treaty with the reigning king of France, by which he was
recognised, in case of that king's death, as heir to the throne.
Henry V died in the year 1422, and Charles VI of France in less than
two months after. Henry VI was only nine months old at the time of his
father's death; but such was the deplorable state of France, that he
was in the same year proclaimed king in Paris, and for some years
seemed to have every prospect of a fortunate reign. John duke of
Bedford, the king's uncle, was declared regent of France: the son of
Charles VI was reduced to the last extremity; Orleans was the last
strong town in the heart of the kingdom which held out in his favour;
and that place seemed on the point to surrender to the conqueror.

In this fearful crisis appeared Joan of Arc, and in the most incredible
manner turned the whole tide of affairs. She was a servant in a poor
inn at Domremi, and was accustomed to perform the coarsest offices,
and in particular to ride the horses to a neighbouring stream to water.
Of course the situation of France and her hereditary king formed the
universal subject of conversation; and Joan became deeply impressed
with the lamentable state of her country and the misfortunes of her
king. By dint of perpetual meditation, and feeling in her breast the
promptings of energy and enterprise, she conceived the idea that she
was destined by heaven to be the deliverer of France. Agreeably to the
state of intellectual knowledge at that period, she persuaded herself
that she saw visions, and held communication with the saints. She had
conversations with St. Margaret, and St. Catherine of Fierbois. They
told her that she was commissioned by God to raise the siege of
Orleans, and to conduct Charles VII to his coronation at Rheims. St.
Catherine commanded her to demand a sword which was in her church at
Fierbois, which the Maid described by particular tokens, though she
had never seen it. She then presented herself to Baudricourt, governor
of the neighbouring town of Vaucouleurs, telling him her commission,
and requiring him to send her to the king at Chinon. Baudricourt at
first made light of her application; but her importunity and the
ardour she expressed at length excited him. He put on her a man's
attire, gave her arms, and sent her under an escort of two gentlemen
and their attendants to Chinon. Here she immediately addressed the
king in person, who had purposely hid himself behind his courtiers
that she might not know him. She then delivered her message, and
offered in the name of the Most High to raise the siege of Orleans,
and conduct king Charles to Rheims to be anointed. As a further
confirmation she is said to have revealed to the king before a few
select friends, a secret, which nothing but divine inspiration could
have discovered to her.

Desperate as was then the state of affairs, Charles and his ministers
immediately resolved to seize the occasion that offered, and put
forward Joan as an instrument to revive the prostrate courage of his
subjects. He had no sooner determined on this, than he pretended to
submit the truth of her mission to the most rigorous trial. He called
together an assembly of theologians and doctors, who rigorously
examined Joan, and pronounced in her favour. He referred the question
to the parliament of Poitiers; and they, who met persuaded that she
was an impostor, became convinced of her inspiration. She was mounted
on a high-bred steed, furnished with a consecrated banner, and marched,
escorted by a body of five thousand men, to the relief of Orleans. The
French, strongly convinced by so plain an interposition of heaven,
resumed the courage to which they had long been strangers. Such a
phenomenon was exactly suited to the superstition and credulity of the
age. The English were staggered with the rumours that every where went
before her, and struck with a degree of apprehension and terror that
they could not shake off. The garrison, informed of her approach, made
a sally on the other side of the town; and Joan and her convoy entered
without opposition. She displayed her standard in the market-place,
and was received as a celestial deliverer.

She appears to have been endowed with a prudence, not inferior to her
courage and spirit of enterprise. With great docility she caught the
hints of the commanders by whom she was surrounded; and, convinced of
her own want of experience and skill, delivered them to the forces as
the dictates of heaven. Thus the knowledge and discernment of the
generals were brought into play, at the same time that their
suggestions acquired new weight, when falling from the lips of the
heaven-instructed heroine. A second convoy arrived; the waggons and
troops passed between the redoubts of the English; while a dead
silence and astonishment reigned among the forces, so lately
enterprising and resistless. Joan now called on the garrison no longer
to stand upon the defensive, but boldly to attack the army of the
besiegers. She took one redoubt and then another. The English,
overwhelmed with amazement, scarcely dared to lift a hand against her.
Their veteran generals became spell-bound and powerless; and their
soldiers were driven before the prophetess like a flock of sheep. The
siege was raised.

Joan followed the English garrison to a fortified town which they
fixed on as their place of retreat. The siege lasted ten days; the
place was taken; and all the English within it made prisoners. The
late victorious forces now concentred themselves at Patay in the
Orleanois; Joan advanced to meet them. The battle lasted not a moment;
it was rather a flight than a combat; Fastolfe, one of the bravest of
our commanders, threw down his arms, and ran for his life; Talbot and
Scales, the other generals, were made prisoners. The siege of Orleans
was raised on the eighth of May, 1429; the battle of Patay was fought
on the tenth of the following month. Joan was at this time twenty-two
years of age.

This extraordinary turn having been given to the affairs of the
kingdom, Joan next insisted that the king should march to Rheims, in
order to his being crowned. Rheims lay in a direction expressly
through the midst of the enemies' garrisons. But every thing yielded
to the marvellous fortune that attended upon the heroine. Troyes
opened its gates; Chalons followed the example; Rheims sent a
deputation with the keys of the city, which met Charles on his march.
The proposed solemnity took place amidst the extacies and enthusiastic
shouts of his people. It was no sooner over, than Joan stept forward.
She said, she had now performed the whole of what God had commissioned
her to do; she was satisfied; she intreated the king to dismiss her to
the obscurity from which she had sprung.

The ministers and generals of France however found Joan too useful an
instrument, to be willing to part with her thus early; and she yielded
to their earnest expostulations. Under her guidance they assailed Laon,
Soissons, Chateau Thierry, Provins, and many other places, and took
them one after another. She threw herself into Compiegne, which was
besieged by the Duke of Burgundy in conjunction with certain English
commanders. The day after her arrival she headed a sally against the
enemy; twice she repelled them; but, finding their numbers increase
every moment with fresh reinforcements, she directed a retreat. Twice
she returned upon her pursuers, and made them recoil, the third time
she was less fortunate. She found herself alone, surrounded with the
enemy; and after having enacted prodigies of valour, she was compelled
to surrender a prisoner. This happened on the twenty-fifth of May,

It remained to be determined what should be the fate of this admirable
woman. Both friends and enemies agreed that her career had been
attended with a supernatural power. The French, who were so infinitely
indebted to her achievements, and who owed the sudden and glorious
reverse of their affairs to her alone, were convinced that she was
immediately commissioned by God, and vied with each other in reciting
the miraculous phenomena which marked every step in her progress. The
English, who saw all the victorious acquisitions of Henry V crumbling
from their grasp, were equally impressed with the manifest miracle,
but imputed all her good-fortune to a league with the prince of
darkness. They said that her boasted visions were so many delusions of
the devil. They determined to bring her to trial for the tremendous
crimes of sorcery and witchcraft. They believed that, if she were once
convicted and led out to execution, the prowess and valour which had
hitherto marked their progress would return to them, and that they
should obtain the same superiority over their disheartened foes. The
devil, who had hitherto been her constant ally, terrified at the
spectacle of the flames that consumed her, would instantly return to
the infernal regions, and leave the field open to English enterprise
and energy, and to the interposition of God and his saints.

An accusation was prepared against her, and all the solemnities of a
public trial were observed. But the proofs were so weak and
unsatisfactory, and Joan, though oppressed and treated with the utmost
severity, displayed so much acuteness and presence of mind, that the
court, not venturing to proceed to the last extremity, contented
themselves with sentencing her to perpetual imprisonment, and to be
allowed no other nourishment than bread and water for life. Before
they yielded to this mitigation of punishment, they caused her to sign
with her mark a recantation of her offences. She acknowledged that the
enthusiasm that had guided her was an illusion, and promised never
more to listen to its suggestions.

The hatred of her enemies however was not yet appeased. They
determined in some way to entrap her. They had clothed her in a female
garb; they insidiously laid in her way the habiliments of a man. The
fire smothered in the bosom of the maid, revived at the sight; she was
alone; she caught up the garments, and one by one adjusted them to her
person. Spies were set upon her to watch for this event; they burst
into the apartment. What she had done was construed into no less
offence than that of a relapsed heretic; there was no more pardon for
such confirmed delinquency; she was brought out to be burned alive in
the market-place of Rouen, and she died, embracing a crucifix, and in
her last moments calling upon the name of Jesus. A few days more than
twelve months, had elapsed between the period of her first captivity
and her execution.


This was a period in which the ideas of witchcraft had caught fast
hold of the minds of mankind; and those accusations, which by the
enlightened part of the species would now be regarded as worthy only
of contempt, were then considered as charges of the most flatigious
[Errata: _read_ flagitious] nature. While John, duke of Bedford,
the eldest uncle of king Henry VI, was regent of France, Humphrey of
Gloucester, next brother to Bedford, was lord protector of the realm
of England. Though Henry was now nineteen years of age, yet, as he was
a prince of slender capacity, Humphrey still continued to discharge
the functions of sovereignty. He was eminently endowed with popular
qualities, and was a favourite with the majority of the nation. He had
however many enemies, one of the chief of whom was Henry Beaufort,
great-uncle to the king, and cardinal of Winchester. One of the means
employed by this prelate to undermine the power of Humphrey, consisted
in a charge of witchcraft brought against Eleanor Cobham, his wife.

This woman had probably yielded to the delusions, which artful persons,
who saw into the weakness of her character, sought to practise upon
her. She was the second wife of Humphrey, and he was suspected to have
indulged in undue familiarity with her, before he was a widower. His
present duchess was reported to have had recourse to witchcraft in the
first instance, by way of securing his wayward inclinations. The duke
of Bedford had died in 1435; and Humphrey now, in addition to the
actual exercise of the powers of sovereigny, was next heir to the
crown in case of the king's decease. This weak and licentious woman,
being now duchess of Gloucester, and wife to the lord protector,
directed her ambition to the higher title and prerogatives of a queen,
and by way of feeding her evil passions, called to her counsels
Margery Jourdain, commonly called the witch of Eye, Roger Bolingbroke,
an astrologer and supposed magician, Thomas Southwel, canon of St.
Stephen's, and one John Hume, or Hun, a priest. These persons
frequently met the duchess in secret cabal. They were accused of
calling up spirits from the infernal world; and they made an image of
wax, which they slowly consumed before a fire, expecting that, as the
image gradually wasted away, so the constitution and life of the poor
king would decay and finally perish.

Hume, or Hun, is supposed to have turned informer, and upon his
information several of these persons were taken into custody. After
previous examination, on the twenty-fifth of July, 1441, Bolingbroke
was placed upon a scaffold before the cross of St. Paul's, with a
chair curiously painted, which was supposed to be one of his
implements of necromancy, and dressed in mystical attire, and there,
before the archbishop of Canterbury, the cardinal of Winchester, and
several other bishops, made abjuration of all his unlawful arts.

A short time after, the duchess of Gloucester, having fled to the
sanctuary at Westminster, her case was referred to the same high
persons, and Bolingbroke was brought forth to give evidence against
her. She was of consequence committed to custody in the castle of
Leeds near Maidstone, to take her trial in the month of October. A
commission was directed to the lord treasurer, several noblemen, and
certain judges of both benches, to enquire into all manner of treasons,
sorceries, and other things that might be hurtful to the king's person,
and Bolingbroke and Southwel as principals, and the duchess of
Gloucester as accessory, were brought before them. Margery Jourdain
was arraigned at the same time; and she, as a witch and relapsed
heretic, was condemned to be burned in Smithfield. The duchess of
Gloucester was sentenced to do penance on three several days, walking
through the streets of London, with a lighted taper in her hand,
attended by the lord mayor, the sheriffs, and a select body of the
livery, and then to be banished for life to the isle of Man. Thomas
Southwel died in prison; and Bolingbroke was hanged at Tyburn on the
eighteenth of November.


An event occurred not very long after this, which deserves to be
mentioned, as being well calculated to shew how deep an impression
ideas of witchcraft had made on the public mind even in the gravest
affairs and the counsels of a nation. Richard duke of Gloucester,
afterwards Richard III, shortly before his usurpation of the crown in
1483, had recourse to this expedient for disarming the power of his
enemies, which he feared as an obstacle to his project. Being lord
protector, he came abruptly into the assembly of the council that he
had left but just before, and suddenly asked, what punishment they
deserved who should be found to have plotted against his life, being
the person, as nearest akin to the young king, intrusted in chief with
the affairs of the nation? And, a suitable answer being returned, he
said the persons he accused were the queen-dowager, and Jane Shore,
the favourite concubine of the late king, who by witchcraft and
forbidden arts had sought to destroy him. And, while he spoke, he laid
bare his left arm up to the elbow, which appeared shrivelled and
wasted in a pitiable manner. "To this condition," said he, "have these
abandoned women reduced me."--The historian adds, that it was well
known that his arm had been thus wasted from his birth.

In January 1484, the parliament met which recognised the title of
Richard, and pronounced the marriage of Edward IV null, and its issue
illegitimate. [188] The same parliament passed an act of attainder
against Henry earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry VII, the countess of
Richmond, his mother, and a great number of other persons, many of
them the most considerable adherents of the house of Lancaster. Among
these persons are enumerated Thomas Nandick and William Knivet,
necromancers. In the first parliament of Henry VII this attainder was
reversed, and Thomas Nandick of Cambridge, conjurer, is specially
nominated as an object of free pardon. [189]


I am now led to the most painful part of my subject, but which does
not the less constitute one of its integral members, and which, though
painful, is deeply instructive, and constitutes a most essential
branch in the science of human nature. Wherever I could, I have
endeavoured to render the topics which offered themselves to my
examination, entertaining. When men pretended to invert the known laws
of nature, "murdering impossibility; to make what cannot be, slight
work;" I have been willing to consider the whole as an ingenious
fiction, and merely serving as an example how far credulity could go
in setting aside the deductions of our reason, and the evidence of
sense. The artists in these cases did not fail to excite admiration,
and gain some sort of applause from their contemporaries, though still
with a tingling feeling that all was not exactly as it should be, and
with a confession that the professors were exercising unhallowed arts.
It was like what has been known of the art of acting; those who
employed it were caressed and made every where welcome, but were not
allowed the distinction of Christian burial.

But, particularly in the fifteenth century, things took a new turn. In
the dawn of the day of good sense, and when historical evidence at
length began to be weighed in the scales of judgment, men became less
careless of truth, and regarded prodigies and miracles with a different
temper. And, as it often happens, the crisis, the precise passage from
ill to better, shewed itself more calamitous, and more full of
enormities and atrocity, than the period when the understanding was
completely hood-winked, and men digested absurdities and impossibility
with as much ease as their every day food. They would not now forgive
the tampering with the axioms of eternal truth; they regarded cheat
and imposture with a very different eye; and they had recourse to the
stake and the faggot, for the purpose of proving that they would no
longer be trifled with. They treated the offenders as the most
atrocious of criminals, and thus, though by a very indirect and
circuitous method, led the way to the total dispersion of those clouds,
which hung, with most uneasy operation, on the human understanding.

The university of Paris in the year 1398 promulgated an edict, in
which they complained that the practice of witchcraft was become more
frequent and general than at any former period. [190]

A stratagem was at this time framed by the ecclesiastical persecutors,
of confounding together the crimes of heresy and witchcraft. The first
of these might seem to be enough in the days of bigotry and implicit
faith, to excite the horror of the vulgar; but the advocates of
religious uniformity held that they should be still more secure of
their object, if they could combine the sin of holding cheap the
authority of the recognised heads of Christian faith, with that of
men's enlisting under the banners of Satan, and becoming the avowed
and sworn vassals of his infernal empire. They accordingly seem to
have invented the ideas of a sabbath of witches, a numerous assembly
of persons who had cast off all sense of shame, and all regard for
those things which the rest of the human species held most sacred,
where the devil appeared among them in his most forbidding form, and,
by rites equally ridiculous and obscene, the persons present
acknowledged themselves his subjects. And, having invented this scene,
these cunning and mischievous persecutors found means, as we shall
presently see, of compelling their unfortunate victims to confess that
they had personally assisted at the ceremony, and performed all the
degrading offices which should consign them in the world to come to
everlasting fire.

While I express myself thus, I by no means intend to encourage the
idea that the ecclesiastical authorities of these times were generally
hypocrites. They fully partook of the narrowness of thought of the
period in which they lived. They believed that the sin of heretical
pravity was "as the sin of witchcraft;" [191] they regarded them alike
with horror, and were persuaded that there was a natural consent and
alliance between them. Fully impressed with this conception, they
employed means from which our genuine and undebauched nature revolts,
to extort from their deluded victims a confession of what their
examiners apprehended to be true; they asked them leading questions;
they suggested the answers they desired to receive; and led the
ignorant and friendless to imagine that, if these answers were adopted,
they might expect immediately to be relieved from insupportable
tortures. The delusion went round. These unhappy wretches, finding
themselves the objects of universal abhorrence, and the hatred of
mankind, at length many of them believed that they had entered into a
league with the devil, that they had been transported by him through
the air to an assembly of souls consigned to everlasting reprobation,
that they had bound themselves in acts of fealty to their infernal
taskmasters [Errata: _read_ taskmaster], and had received from
him in return the gift of performing superhuman and supernatural feats.
This is a tremendous state of degradation of what Milton called the
"the faultless proprieties of nature," [192] which cooler thinking and
more enlightened times would lead us to regard as impossible, but to
which the uncontradicted and authentic voice of history compels us to

The Albigenses and Waldenses were a set of men, who, in the
flourishing provinces of Languedoc, in the darkest ages, and when the
understandings of human creatures by a force not less memorable than
that of Procrustes were reduced to an uniform stature, shook off by
some strange and unaccountable freak, the chains that were universally
imposed, and arrived at a boldness of thinking similar to that which
Luther and Calvin after a lapse of centuries advocated with happier
auspices. With these manly and generous sentiments however they
combined a considerable portion of wild enthusiasm. They preached the
necessity of a community of goods, taught that it was necessary to
wear sandals, because sandals only had been worn by the apostles, and
devoted themselves to lives of rigorous abstinence and the most severe

The Catholic church knew no other way in those days of converting
heretics, but by fire and sword; and accordingly pope Innocent the
Third published a crusade against them. The inquisition was expressly
appointed in its origin to bring back these stray sheep into the flock
of Christ; and, to support this institution in its operations, Simon
Montfort marched a numerous army for the extermination of the
offenders. One hundred thousand are said to have perished. They
disappeared from the country which had witnessed their commencement,
and dispersed themselves in the vallies of Piedmont, in Artois, and in
various other places. This crusade occurred in the commencement of the
thirteenth century; and they do not again attract the notice of
history till the middle of the fifteenth.

Monstrelet, in his Chronicle, gives one of the earliest accounts of
the proceedings at this time instituted against these unfortunate
people, under the date of the year 1459. "In this year," says he, "in
the town of Arras, there occurred a miserable and inhuman scene, to
which, I know not why, was given the name of _Vaudoisie_. There
were taken up and imprisoned a number of considerable persons
inhabitants of this town, and others of a very inferior class. These
latter were so cruelly put to the torture, that they confessed, that
they had been transported by supernatural means to a solitary place
among woods, where the devil appeared before them in the form of a man,
though they saw not his face. He instructed them in the way in which
they should do his bidding, and exacted from them acts of homage and
obedience. He feasted them, and after, having put out the lights, they
proceeded to acts of the grossest licentiousness." These accounts,
according to Monstrelet, were dictated to the victims by their
tormentors; and they then added, under the same suggestion, the names
of divers lords, prelates, and governors of towns and bailliages, whom
they affirmed they had seen at these meetings, and who joined in the
same unholy ceremonies. The historian adds, that it cannot be
concealed that these accusations were brought by certain malicious
persons, either to gratify an ancient hatred, or to extort from the
rich sums of money, by means of which they might purchase their escape
from further prosecution. The persons apprehended were many of them
put to the torture so severely, and for so long a time, and were
tortured again and again, that they were obliged to confess what was
laid to their charge. Some however shewed so great constancy, that
they could by no means be induced to depart from the protestation of
their innocence. In fine, many of the poorer victims were inhumanly
burned; while the richer with great sums of money procured their
discharge, but at the same time were compelled to banish themselves to
distant places, remote from the scene of this cruel outrage.--Balduinus
of Artois gives a similar account, and adds that the sentence of the
judges was brought, by appeal under the revision of the parliament of
Paris, and was reversed by that judicature in the year 1491. [193]

I have not succeeded in tracing to my satisfaction from the original
authorities the dates of the following examples, and therefore shall
refer them to the periods assigned them in Hutchinson on Witchcraft.
The facts themselves rest for the most part on the most unquestionable

Innocent VIII published about the year 1484 a bull, in which he
affirms: "It has come to our ears, that numbers of both sexes do not
avoid to have intercourse with the infernal fiends, and that by their
sorceries they afflict both man and beast; they blight the
marriage-bed, destroy the births of women, and the increase of cattle;
they blast the corn on the ground, the grapes of the vineyard, the
fruits of the trees, and the grass and herbs of the field." For these
reasons he arms the inquisitors with apostolic power to "imprison,
convict and punish" all such as may be charged with these
offences.--The consequences of this edict were dreadful all over the
continent, particularly in Italy, Germany and France.

Alciatus, an eminent lawyer of this period, relates, that a certain
inquisitor came about this time into the vallies of the Alps, being
commissioned to enquire out and proceed against heretical women with
whom those parts were infested. He accordingly consigned more than one
hundred to the flames, every day, like a new holocaust, sacrificing
such persons to Vulcan, as, in the judgment of the historian, were
subjects demanding rather hellebore than fire; till at length the
peasantry of the vicinity rose in arms, and drove the merciless judge
out of the country. The culprits were accused of having dishonoured
the crucifix, and denying Christ for their God. They were asserted to
have solemnised after a detestable way the devil's sabbath, in which
the fiend appeared personally among them, and instructed them in the
ceremonies of his worship. Meanwhile a question was raised whether
they personally assisted on the occasion, or only saw the solemnities
in a vision, credible witnesses having sworn that they were at home in
their beds, at the very time that they were accused of having taken
part in these blasphemies. [194]

In 1515, more than five hundred persons are said to have suffered
capitally for the crime of witchcraft in the city of Geneva in the
course of three months. [195]

In 1524, one thousand persons were burned on this accusation in the
territory of Como, and one hundred per annum for several year after.

Danaeus commences his Dialogue of Witches with this observation. "Within
three months of the present time (1575) an almost infinite number of
witches have been taken, on whom the parliament of Paris has passed
judgment: and the same tribunal fails not to sit daily, as malefactors
accused of this crime are continually brought before them out of all
the provinces."

In the year 1595 Nicholas Remi, otherwise Remigius, printed a very
curious work, entitled Demonolatreia, in which he elaborately expounds
the principles of the compact into which the devil enters with his
mortal allies, and the modes of conduct specially observed by both
parties. He boasts that his exposition is founded on an exact
observation of the judicial proceedings which had taken place under
his eye in the duchy of Lorraine, where for the preceding fifteen
years nine hundred persons, more or less, had suffered the extreme
penalty of the law for the crime of sorcery. Most of the persons tried
seem to have been sufficiently communicative as to the different kinds
of menace and compulsion by which the devil had brought them into his
terms, and the various appearances he had exhibited, and feats he had
performed: but others, says the author, had, "by preserving an
obstinate silence, shewn themselves invincible to every species of
torture that could be inflicted on them."

But the most memorable record that remains to us on the subject of
witchcraft, is contained in an ample quarto volume, entitled A
Representation (_Tableau_) of the Ill Faith of Evil Spirits and
Demons, by Pierre De Lancre, Royal Counsellor in the Parliament of
Bordeaux. This man was appointed with one coadjutor, to enquire into
certain acts of sorcery, reported to have been committed in the
district of Labourt, near the foot of the Pyrenees; and his commission
bears date in May, 1609, and by consequence twelve months before the
death of Henry the Fourth.

The book is dedicated to M. de Silleri, chancellor of France; and in
the dedication the author observes, that formerly those who practised
sorcery were well known for persons of obscure station and narrow
intellect; but that now the sorcerers who confess their misdemeanours,
depose, that there are seen in the customary meetings held by such
persons a great number of individuals of quality, whom Satan keeps
veiled from ordinary gaze, and who are allowed to approach near to him,
while those of a poorer and more vulgar class are thrust back to the
furthest part of the assembly. The whole narrative assumes the form of
a regular warfare between Satan on the one side, and the royal
commissioners on the other.

At first the devil endeavoured to supply the accused with strength to
support the tortures by which it was sought to extort confession from
them, insomuch that, in an intermission of the torture, the wretches
declared that, presently falling asleep, they seemed to be in paradise,
and to enjoy the most beautiful visions. The commissioners however,
observing this, took care to grant them scarcely any remission, till
they had drawn from them, if possible, an ample confession. The devil
next proceeded to stop the mouths of the accused that they might not
confess. He leaped on their throats, and evidently caused an
obstruction of the organs of speech, so that in vain they endeavoured
to relieve themselves by disclosing all that was demanded of them.

The historian proceeds to say that, at these sacrilegious assemblings,
they now began to murmur against the devil, as wanting power to
relieve them in their extremity. The children, the daughters, and
other relatives of the victims reproached him, not scrupling to say,
"Out upon you! you promised that our mothers who were prisoners should
not die; and look how you have kept your word with us! They have been
burned, and are a heap of ashes." In answer to this charge the devil
stoutly affirmed, that their parents, who seemed to have suffered,
were not dead, but were safe in a foreign country, assuring the
malcontents that, if they called on them, they would receive an answer.
The children called accordingly, and by an infernal illusion an answer
came, exactly in the several voices of the deceased, declaring that
they were in a state of happiness and security.

Further to satisfy the complainers, the devil produced illusory fires,
and encouraged the dissatisfied to walk through them, assuring them
that the fires lighted by a judicial decree were as harmless and
inoffensive as these. The demon further threatened that he would cause
the prosecutors to be burned in their own fire, and even proceeded to
make them in semblance hover and alight on the branches of the
neighbouring trees. He further caused a swarm of toads to appear like
a garland to crown the heads of the sufferers, at which when in one
instance the bystanders threw stones to drive them away, one monstrous
black toad remained to the last uninjured, and finally mounted aloft,
and vanished from sight. De Lancre goes on to describe the ceremonies
of the sabbath of the devil; and a plate is inserted, presenting the
assembly in the midst of their solemnities. He describes in several
chapters the sort of contract entered into between the devil and the
sorcerers, the marks by which they may be known, the feast with which
the demon regaled them, their distorted and monstrous dance, the
copulation between the fiend and the witch, and its issue.--It is easy
to imagine with what sort of fairness the trials were conducted, when
such is the description the judge affords us of what passed at these
assemblies. Six hundred were burned under this prosecution.

The last chapter is devoted to an accurate account of what took place
at an _auto da fe_ in the month of November 1610 at Logrogno on
the Ebro in Spain, the victims being for the greater part the unhappy
wretches, who had escaped through the Pyrenees from the merciless
prosecution that had been exercised against them by the historian of
the whole.


Jerome Savonarola was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and
his fortunes are well adapted to illustrate the peculiarities of that
period. He was born in the year 1452 at Ferrara in Italy. He became a
Dominican Friar at Bologna without the knowledge of his parents in the
twenty-second year of his age. He was first employed by his superiors
in elucidating the principles of physics and metaphysics. But, after
having occupied some years in this way, he professed to take a lasting
leave of these subtleties, and to devote himself exclusively to the
study of the Scriptures. In no long time he became an eminent preacher,
by the elegance and purity of his style acquiring the applause of
hearers of taste, and by the unequalled fervour of his eloquence
securing the hearts of the many. It was soon obvious, that, by his
power gained in this mode, he could do any thing he pleased with the
people of Florence among whom he resided. Possessed of such an
ascendancy, he was not contented to be the spiritual guide of the
souls of men, but further devoted himself to the temporal prosperity
and grandeur of his country. The house of Medici was at this time
masters of the state, and the celebrated Lorenzo de Medici possessed
the administration of affairs. But the political maxims of Lorenzo
were in discord with those of our preacher. Lorenzo sought to
concentre all authority in the opulent few; but Savonarola, proceeding
on the model of the best times of ancient Rome, endeavoured to vest
the sovereign power in the hands of the people.

He had settled at Florence in the thirty-fourth year of his age, being
invited to become prior of the convent of St. Mark in that city: and
such was his popularity, that, four years after, Lorenzo on his
death-bed sent for Savonarola to administer to him spiritual
consolation. Meanwhile, so stern did this republican shew himself,
that he insisted on Lorenzo's renunciation of his absolute power,
before he would administer to him the sacrament and absolution: and
Lorenzo complied with these terms.

The prince being dead, Savonarola stepped immediately into the highest
authority. He reconstituted the state upon pure republican principles,
and enjoined four things especially in all his public preachings, the
fear of God, the love of the republic, oblivion of all past injuries,
and equal rights to all for the future.

But Savonarola was not contented with the delivery of Florence, where
he is said to have produced a total revolution of manners, from
libertinism to the most exemplary purity and integrity; he likewise
aspired to produce an equal effect on the entire of Italy.
Alexander VI, the most profligate of popes, then filled the chair at
Rome; and Savonarola thundered against him in the cathedral at
Florence the most fearful denunciations. The pope did not hesitate a
moment to proceed to extremities against the friar. He cited him to
Rome, under pain, if disobeyed, of excommunication to the priest, and
an interdict to the republic that harboured him. The Florentines
several times succeeded in causing the citation to be revoked, and,
making terms with the sovereign pontiff, Jerome again and again
suspending his preachings, which were however continued by other
friars, his colleagues and confederates. Savonarola meanwhile could
not long be silent; he resumed his philippics as fiercely as ever.

At this time faction raged strongly at Florence. Jerome had many
partisans; all the Dominicans, and the greater part of the populace.
But he had various enemies leagued against him; the adherents of the
house of Medici, those of the pope, the libertines, and all orders of
monks and friars except the Dominicans, The violence proceeded so far,
that the preacher was not unfrequently insulted in his pulpit, and the
cathedral echoed with the dissentions of the parties. At length a
conspiracy was organized against Savonarola; and, his adherents having
got the better, the friar did not dare to trust the punishment of his
enemies to the general assembly, where the question would have led to
a scene of warfare, but referred it to a more limited tribunal, and
finally proceeded to the infliction of death on its sole authority.

This extremity rendered his enemies more furious against him. The pope
directed absolution, the communion, and the rites of sepulture, to be
refused to his followers. He was now expelled from the cathedral at
Florence, and removed his preachings to the chapel of his convent,
which was enlarged in its accommodations to adapt itself to his
numerous auditors. In this interim a most extraordinary scene took
place. One Francis de Pouille offered himself to the trial of fire, in
favour of the validity of the excommunication of the pope against the
pretended inspiration and miracles of the prophet. He said he did not
doubt to perish in the experiment, but that he should have the
satisfaction of seeing Savonarola perish along with him. Dominic de
Pescia however and another Dominican presented themselves to the
flames instead of Jerome, alledging that he was reserved for higher
things. De Pouille at first declined the substitution, but was
afterwards prevailed on to submit. A vast fire was lighted in the
marketplace for the trial; and a low and narrow gallery of iron passed
over the middle, on which the challenger and the challenged were to
attempt to effect their passage. But a furious deluge of rain was said
to have occurred at the instant every thing was ready; the fire was
extinguished; and the trial for the present was thus rendered

Savonarola in the earnestness of his preachings pretended to turn
prophet, and confidently to predict future events. He spoke of
Charles VIII of France as the Cyrus who should deliver Italy, and
subdue the nations before him; and even named the spring of the year
1498 as the period that should see all these things performed.

But it was not in prophecy alone that Savonarola laid claim to
supernatural aid. He described various contests that he had maintained
against a multitude of devils at once in his convent. They tormented
in different ways the friars of St. Mark, but ever shrank with awe
from his personal interposition. They attempted to call upon him by
name; but the spirit of God overruled them, so that they could never
pronounce his name aright, but still misplaced syllables and letters
in a ludicrous fashion. They uttered terrific threatenings against him,
but immediately after shrank away with fear, awed by the holy words
and warnings which he denounced against them. Savonarola besides
undertook to expel them by night, by sprinkling holy water, and the
singing of hymns in a solemn chorus. While however he was engaged in
these sacred offices, and pacing the cloister of his convent, the
devils would arrest his steps, and suddenly render the air before him
so thick, that it was impossible for him to advance further. On
another occasion one of his colleagues assured Francis Picus of
Mirandola, the writer of his Life, that he had himself seen the Holy
Ghost in the form of a dove more than once, sitting on Savonarola's
shoulder, fluttering his feathers, which were sprinkled with silver
and gold, and, putting his beak to his ear, whispering to him his
divine suggestions. The prior besides relates in a book of his own
composition at great length a dialogue that he held with the devil,
appearing like, and having been mistaken by the writer for, a hermit.

The life of Savonarola however came to a speedy and tragical close.
The multitude, who are always fickle in their impulses, conceiving an
unfavourable impression in consequence of his personally declining the
trial by fire, turned against him. The same evening they besieged the
convent where he resided, and in which he had taken refuge. The
signory, seeing the urgency of the case, sent to the brotherhood,
commanding them to surrender the prior, and the two Dominicans who had
presented themselves in his stead to the trial by fire. The pope sent
two judges to try them on the spot. They were presently put to the
torture. Savonarola, who we are told was of a delicate habit of body,
speedily confessed and expressed contrition for what he had done. But
no sooner was he delivered from the strappado, than he retracted all
that he had before confessed. The experiment was repeated several
times, and always with the same success.

At length he and the other two were adjudged to perish in the flames.
This sentence was no sooner pronounced than Savonarola resumed all the
constancy of a martyr. He advanced to the place of execution with a
steady pace and a serene countenance, and in the midst of the flames
resignedly commended his soul into the hands of his maker. His
adherents regarded him as a witness to the truth, and piously
collected his relics; but his judges, to counteract this defiance of
authority, commanded his remains and his ashes to be cast into the
river. [197]


A name that has in some way become famous in the annals of magic, is
that of John Trithemius, abbot of Spanheim, or Sponheim, in the circle
of the Upper Rhine. He was born in the year 1462. He early
distinguished himself by his devotion to literature; insomuch that,
according to the common chronology, he was chosen in the year 1482,
being about twenty years of age, abbot of the Benedictine monastery of
St. Martin at Spanheim. He has written a great number of works, and
has left some memorials of his life. Learning was at a low ebb when he
was chosen to this dignity. The library of the convent consisted of
little more than forty volumes. But, shortly after, under his
superintendence it amounted to many hundreds. He insisted upon his
monks diligently employing themselves in the multiplication of
manuscripts. The monks, who had hitherto spent their days in luxurious
idleness, were greatly dissatisfied with this revolution, and led
their abbot a very uneasy life. He was in consequence removed to
preside over the abbey of St. Jacques in Wurtzburg in 1506, where he
died in tranquillity and peace in 1516.

Trithemius has been accused of necromancy and a commerce with demons.
The principal ground of this accusation lies in a story that has been
told of his intercourse with the emperor Maximilian. Maximilian's
first wife was Mary of Burgundy, whom he lost in the prime of her life.
The emperor was inconsolable upon the occasion; and Trithemius, who
was called in as singularly qualified to comfort him, having tried all
other expedients in vain, at length told Maximilian that he would
undertake to place his late consort before him precisely in the state
in which she had lived. After suitable preparations, Mary of Burgundy
accordingly appeared. The emperor was struck with astonishment. He
found the figure before him in all respects like the consort he had
lost. At length he exclaimed, "There is one mark by which I shall
infallibly know whether this is the same person. Mary, my wife, had a
wart in the nape of her neck, to the existence of which no one was
privy but myself." He examined, and found the wart there, in all
respects as it had been during her life. The story goes on to say,
that Maximilian was so disgusted and shocked with what he saw, that he
banished Trithemius his presence for ever.

This tale has been discredited, partly on the score of the period of
the death of Mary of Burgundy, which happened in 1481, when Trithemius
was only nineteen years of age. He himself expressly disclaims all
imputation of sorcery. One ground of the charge has been placed upon
the existence of a work of his, entitled Steganographia, or the art,
by means of a secret writing, of communicating our thoughts to a
person absent. He says however, that in this work he had merely used
the language of magic, without in any degree having had recourse to
their modes of proceeding. Trithemius appears to have been the first
writer who has made mention of the extraordinary feats of John Faust
of Wittenburg, and that in a way that shews he considered these
enchantments as the work of a supernatural power. [198]


It is particularly proper to introduce some mention of Luther in this
place; not that he is in any way implicated in the question of
necromancy, but that there are passages in his writings in which he
talks of the devil in what we should now think a very extraordinary
way. And it is curious, and not a little instructive, to see how a
person of so masculine an intellect, and who in many respects so far
outran the illumination of his age, was accustomed to judge respecting
the intercourse of mortals with the inhabitants of the infernal world.
Luther was born in the year 1483.

It appears from his Treatise on the Abuses attendant on Private Masses,
that he had a conference with the devil on the subject. He says, that
this supernatural personage caused him by his visits "many bitter
nights and much restless and wearisome repose." Once in particular he
came to Luther, "in the dead of the night, when he was just awaked out
of sleep. The devil," he goes on to say, "knows well how to construct
his arguments, and to urge them with the skill of a master. He
delivers himself with a grave, and yet a shrill voice. Nor does he use
circumlocutions, and beat about the bush, but excels in forcible
statements and quick rejoinders. I no longer wonder," he adds, "that
the persons whom he assails in this way, are occasionally found dead
in their beds. He is able to compress and throttle, and more than once
he has so assaulted me and driven my soul into a corner, that I felt
as if the next moment it must leave my body. I am of opinion that
Gesner and Oecolampadius and others in that manner came by their
deaths. The devil's manner of opening a debate is pleasant enough; but
he urges things so peremptorily, that the respondent in a short time
knows not how to acquit himself." [199] He elsewhere says, "The
reasons why the sacramentarians understood so little of the Scriptures,
is that they do not encounter the true opponent, that is, the devil,
who presently drives one up in a corner, and thus makes one perceive
the just interpretation. For my part I am thoroughly acquainted with
him, and have eaten a bushel of salt with him. He sleeps with me more
frequently, and lies nearer to me in bed, than my own wife does." [200]


Henry Cornelius Agrippa was born in the year 1486. He was one of the
most celebrated men of his time. His talents were remarkably great;
and he had a surprising facility in the acquisition of languages. He
is spoken of with the highest commendations by Trithemius, Erasmus,
Melancthon, and others, the greatest men of his times. But he was a
man of the most violent passions, and of great instability of temper.
He was of consequence exposed to memorable vicissitudes. He had great
reputation as an astrologer, and was assiduous in the cultivation of
chemistry. He had the reputation of possessing the philosopher's stone,
and was incessantly experiencing the privations of poverty. He was
subject to great persecutions, and was repeatedly imprisoned. He
received invitations at the same time from Henry VIII, from the
chancellor of the emperor, from a distinguished Italian marquis, and
from Margaret of Austria, governess of the Low Countries. He made his
election in favour of the last, and could find no way so obvious of
showing his gratitude for her patronage, as composing an elaborate
treatise on the Superiority of the Female Sex, which he dedicated to
her. Shortly after, he produced a work not less remarkable, to
demonstrate the Vanity and Emptiness of Scientifical Acquirements.
Margaret of Austria being dead, he was subsequently appointed physician
to Louisa of Savoy, mother to Francis I. This lady however having
assigned him a task disagreeable to his inclination, a calculation
according to the rules of astrology, he made no scruple of turning
against her, and affirming that he should henceforth hold her for a
cruel and perfidious Jezebel. After a life of storms and perpetual
vicissitude, he died in 1534, aged 48 years.

He enters however into the work I am writing, principally on account
of the extraordinary stories that have been told of him on the subject
of magic. He says of himself, in his Treatise on the Vanity of
Sciences, "Being then a very young man, I wrote in three books of a
considerable size Disquisitions concerning Magic."

The first of the stories I am about to relate is chiefly interesting,
inasmuch as it is connected with the history of one of the most
illustrious ornaments of our early English poetry, Henry Howard earl
of Surrey, who suffered death at the close of the reign of King
Henry VIII. The earl of Surrey, we are told, became acquainted with
Cornelius Agrippa at the court of John George elector of Saxony. On
this occasion were present, beside the English nobleman, Erasmus, and
many other persons eminent in the republic of letters. These persons
shewed themselves enamoured of the reports that had been spread of
Agrippa, and desired him before the elector to exhibit something
memorable. One intreated him to call up Plautus, and shew him as he
appeared in garb and countenance, when he ground corn in the mill.
Another before all things desired to see Ovid. But Erasmus earnestly
requested to behold Tully in the act of delivering his oration for
Roscius. This proposal carried the most votes. And, after marshalling
the concourse of spectators, Tully appeared, at the command of Agrippa,
and from the rostrum pronounced the oration, precisely in the words in
which it has been handed down to us, "with such astonishing animation,
so fervent an exaltation of spirit, and such soul-stirring gestures,
that all the persons present were ready, like the Romans of old, to
pronounce his client innocent of every charge that had been brought
against him." The story adds, that, when sir Thomas More was at the
same place, Agrippa shewed him the whole destruction of Troy in a
dream. To Thomas Lord Cromwel he exhibited in a perspective glass King
Henry VIII and all his lords hunting in his forest at Windsor. To
Charles V he shewed David, Solomon, Gideon, and the rest, with the
Nine Worthies, in their habits and similitude as they had lived.

Lord Surrey, in the mean time having gotten into familiarity with
Agrippa, requested him by the way side as they travelled, to set
before him his mistress, the fair Geraldine, shewing at the same time
what she did, and with whom she talked. Agrippa accordingly exhibited
his magic glass, in which the noble poet saw this beautiful dame, sick,
weeping upon her bed, and inconsolable for the absence of her
admirer.--It is now known, that the sole authority for this tale is
Thomas Nash, the dramatist, in his Adventures of Jack Wilton, printed
in the year 1593.

Paulus Jovius relates that Agrippa always kept a devil attendant upon
him, who accompanied him in all his travels in the shape of a black
dog. When he lay on his death-bed, he was earnestly exhorted to repent
of his sins. Being in consequence struck with a deep contrition, he
took hold of the dog, and removed from him a collar studded with nails,
which formed a necromantic inscription, at the same time saying to him,
"Begone, wretched animal, which hast been the cause of my entire
destruction!"--It is added, that the dog immediately ran away, and
plunged itself in the river Soane, after which it was seen no more.
[201] It is further related of Agrippa, as of many other magicians,
that he was in the habit, when he regaled himself at an inn, of paying
his bill in counterfeit money, which at the time of payment appeared
of sterling value, but in a few days after became pieces of horn and
worthless shells. [202]

But the most extraordinary story of Agrippa is told by Delrio, and is
as follows. Agrippa had occasion one time to be absent for a few days
from his residence at Louvain. During his absence he intrusted his
wife with the key of his Museum, but with an earnest injunction that
no one on any account should be allowed to enter. Agrippa happened at
that time to have a boarder in his house, a young fellow of insatiable
curiosity, who would never give over importuning his hostess, till at
length he obtained from her the forbidden key. The first thing in the
Museum that attracted his attention, was a book of spells and
incantations. He spread this book upon a desk, and, thinking no harm,
began to read aloud. He had not long continued this occupation, when a
knock was heard at the door of the chamber. The youth took no notice,
but continued reading. Presently followed a second knock, which
somewhat alarmed the reader. The space of a minute having elapsed, and
no answer made, the door was opened, and a demon entered. "For what
purpose am I called?" said the stranger sternly. "What is it you
demand to have done?" The youth was seized with the greatest alarm,
and struck speechless. The demon advanced towards him, seized him by
the throat, and strangled him, indignant that his presence should thus
be invoked from pure thoughtlessness and presumption.

At the expected time Agrippa came home, and to his great surprise
found a number of devils capering and playing strange antics about,
and on the roof of his house. By his art he caused them to desist from
their sport, and with authority demanded what was the cause of this
novel appearance. The chief of them answered. He told how they had
been invoked, and insulted, and what revenge they had taken. Agrippa
became exceedingly alarmed for the consequences to himself of this
unfortunate adventure. He ordered the demon without loss of time to
reanimate the body of his victim, then to go forth, and to walk the
boarder three or four times up and down the market-place in the sight
of the people. The infernal spirit did as he was ordered, shewed the
student publicly alive, and having done this, suffered the body to
fall down, the marks of conscious existence being plainly no more. For
a time it was thought that the student had been killed by a sudden
attack of disease. But, presently after, the marks of strangulation
were plainly discerned, and the truth came out. Agrippa was then
obliged suddenly to withdraw himself, and to take up his residence in
a distant province. [203]

Wierus in his well known book, _De Praestigiis Demonum_, informs
us that he had lived for years in daily attendance on Cornelius
Agrippa, and that the black dog respecting which such strange surmises
had been circulated, was a perfectly innocent animal that he had often
led in a string. He adds, that the sole foundation for the story lay
in the fact, that Agrippa had been much attached to the dog, which he
was accustomed to permit to eat off the table with its master, and
even to lie of nights in his bed. He further remarks, that Agrippa was
accustomed often not to go out of his room for a week together, and
that people accordingly wondered that he could have such accurate
information of what was going on in all parts of the world, and would
have it that his intelligence was communicated to him by his dog. He
subjoins however, that Agrippa had in fact correspondents in every
quarter of the globe, and received letters from them daily, and that
this was the real source of his extraordinary intelligence. [204]

Naudé, in his Apology for Great Men accused of Magic, mentions, that
Agrippa composed a book of the Rules and Precepts of the Art of Magic,
and that, if such a work could entitle a man to the character of a
magician, Agrippa indeed well deserved it. But he gives it as his
opinion that this was the only ground for fastening the imputation on
this illustrious character.

Without believing however any of the tales of the magic practices of
Cornelius Agrippa, and even perhaps without supposing that he
seriously pretended to such arts, we are here presented with a
striking picture of the temper and credulity of the times in which he
lived. We plainly see from the contemporary evidence of Wierus, that
such things were believed of him by his neighbours; and at that period
it was sufficiently common for any man of deep study, of recluse
habits, and a certain sententious and magisterial air to undergo these
imputations. It is more than probable that Agrippa was willing by a
general silence and mystery to give encouragement to the wonder of the
vulgar mind. He was flattered by the terror and awe which his
appearance inspired. He did not wish to come down to the ordinary
level. And if to this we add his pursuits of alchemy and astrology,
with the formidable and various apparatus supposed to be required in
these pursuits, we shall no longer wonder at the results which
followed. He loved to wander on the brink of danger, and was contented
to take his chance of being molested, rather than not possess that
ascendancy over the ordinary race of mankind which was evidently
gratifying to his vanity.


Next in respect of time to Cornelius Agrippa comes the celebrated Dr.
Faustus. Little in point of fact is known respecting this eminent
personage in the annals of necromancy. His pretended history does not
seem to have been written till about the year 1587, perhaps half a
century after his death. This work is apparently in its principal
features altogether fictitious. We have no reason however to deny the
early statements as to his life. He is asserted by Camerarius and
Wierus to have been born at Cundling near Cracow in the kingdom of
Poland, and is understood to have passed the principal part of his
life at the university of Wittenberg. He was probably well known to
Cornelius Agrippa and Paracelsus. Melancthon mentions him in his
Letters; and Conrad Gessner refers to him as a contemporary. The
author of his Life cites the opinions entertained respecting him by
Luther. Philip Camerarius speaks of him in his Horae Subsecivae as a
celebrated name among magicians, apparently without reference to the
Life that has come down to us; [205] and Wierus does the same thing.
[206] He was probably nothing more than an accomplished juggler, who
appears to have practised his art with great success in several towns
of Germany. He was also no doubt a pretender to necromancy.

On this basis the well known History of his Life has been built. The
author has with great art expanded very slender materials, and
rendered his work in a striking degree a code and receptacle of all
the most approved ideas respecting necromancy and a profane and
sacrilegious dealing with the devil. He has woven into it with much
skill the pretended arts of the sorcerers, and has transcribed or
closely imitated the stories that have been handed down to us of many
of the extraordinary feats they were said to have performed. It is
therefore suitable to our purpose to dwell at some length upon the
successive features of this history.

The life has been said to have been originally written in Spain by
Franciscus Schottus of Toledo, in the Latin language. [207] But this
biographical work is assigned to the date of 1594, previously to which
the Life is known to have existed in German. It is improbable that a
Spanish writer should have chosen a German for the hero of his romance,
whereas nothing can be more natural than for a German to have conceived
the idea of giving fame and notoriety to his countryman. The mistake
seems to be the same, though for an opposite reason, as that which
appears to have been made in representing the Gil Blas of Le Sage as a

The biographical account professes to have been begun by Faustus
himself, though written in the third person, and to have been
continued by Wagner, his confidential servant, to whom the doctor is
affirmed to have bequeathed his memoirs, letters and manuscripts,
together with his house and its furniture.

Faustus then, according to his history, was the son of a peasant,
residing on the banks of the Roda in the duchy of Weimar, and was
early adopted by an uncle, dwelling in the city of Wittenberg, who had
no children. Here he was sent to college, and was soon distinguished
by the greatness of his talents, and the rapid progress he made in
every species of learning that was put before him. He was destined by
his relative to the profession of theology. But singularly enough,
considering that he is represented as furnishing materials for his
own Memoirs, he is said ungraciously to have set at nought his uncle's
pious intentions by deriding God's word, and thus to have resembled
Cain, Reuben and Absalom, who, having sprung from godly parents,
afflicted their fathers' hearts by their apostasy. He went through his
examinations with applause, and carried off all the first prizes among
sixteen competitors. He therefore obtained the degree of doctor in
divinity; but his success only made him the more proud and headstrong.
He disdained his theological eminence, and sighed for distinction as a
man of the world. He took his degree as a doctor of medicine, and
aspired to celebrity as a practitioner of physic. About the same time
he fell in with certain contemporaries, of tastes similar to his own,
and associated with them in the study of Chaldean, Greek and Arabic
science, of strange incantations and supernatural influences, in short,
of all the arts of a sorcerer.

Having made such progress as he could by dint of study and intense
application, he at length resolved to prosecute his purposes still
further by actually raising the devil. He happened one evening to walk
in a thick, dark wood, within a short distance from Wittenberg, when
it occurred to him that that was a fit place for executing his design.
He stopped at a solitary spot where four roads met, and made use of
his wand to mark out a large circle, and then two small ones within
the larger. In one of these he fixed himself, appropriating the other
for the use of his expected visitor. He went over the precise range of
charms and incantations, omitting nothing. It was now dark night
between the ninth and tenth hour. The devil manifested himself by the
usual signs of his appearance. "Wherefore am I called?" said he, "and
what is it that you demand?" "I require," rejoined Faustus, "that you
should sedulously attend upon me, answer my enquiries, and fulfil my

Immediately upon Faustus pronouncing these words, there followed a
tumult over head, as if heaven and earth were coming together. The
trees in their topmost branches bended to their very roots. It seemed
as if the whole forest were peopled with devils, making a crash like a
thousand waggons, hurrying to the right and the left, before and
behind, in every possible direction, with thunder and lightning, and
the continual discharge of great cannon. Hell appeared to have emptied
itself, to have furnished the din. There succeeded the most charming
music from all sorts of instruments, and sounds of hilarity and
dancing. Next came a report as of a tournament, and the clashing of
innumerable lances. This lasted so long, that Faustus was many times
about to rush out of the circle in which he had inclosed himself, and
to abandon his preparations. His courage and resolution however got
the better; and he remained immoveable. He pursued his incantations
without intermission. Then came to the very edge of the circle a
griffin first, and next a dragon, which in the midst of his
enchantments grinned at him horribly with his teeth, but finally fell
down at his feet, and extended his length to many a rood. Faustus
persisted. Then succeeded a sort of fireworks, a pillar of fire, and a
man on fire at the top, who leaped down; and there immediately
appeared a number of globes here and there red-hot, while the man on
fire went and came to every part of the circle for a quarter of an
hour. At length the devil came forward in the shape of a grey monk,
and asked Faustus what he wanted. Faustus adjourned their further
conference, and appointed the devil to come to him at his lodgings.

He in the mean time busied himself in the necessary preparations. He
entered his study at the appointed time, and found the devil waiting
for him. Faustus told him that he had prepared certain articles, to
which it was necessary that the demon should fully accord,--that he
should attend him at all times, when required, for all the days of his
life, that he should bring him every thing he wanted, that he should
come to him in any shape that Faustus required, or be invisible, and
Faustus should be invisible too, whenever he desired it, that he
should deny him nothing, and answer him with perfect veracity to every
thing he demanded. To some of these requisitions the spirit could not
consent, without authority from his master, the chief of devils. At
length all these concessions were adjusted. The devil on his part also
prescribed his conditions. That Faustus should abjure the Christian
religion and all reverence for the supreme God; that he should enjoy
the entire command of his attendant demon for a certain term of years,
and that at the end of that period the devil should dispose of him
body and soul at his pleasure [the term was fixed for twenty-four
years]; that he should at all times stedfastly refuse to listen to any
one who should desire to convert him, or convince him of the error of
his ways, and lead him to repentance; that Faustus should draw up a
writing containing these particulars, and sign it with his blood, that
he should deliver this writing to the devil, and keep a duplicate of
it for himself, that so there might be no misunderstanding. It was
further appointed by Faustus that the devil should usually attend him
in the habit of cordelier, with a pleasing countenance and an
insinuating demeanour. Faustus also asked the devil his name, who
answered that he was usually called Mephostophiles (perhaps more
accurately Nephostophiles, a lover of clouds).

Previously to this deplorable transaction, in which Faustus sold
himself, soul and body, to the devil, he had consumed his inheritance,
and was reduced to great poverty. But he was now no longer subjected
to any straits. The establishments of the prince of Chutz, the duke of
Bavaria, and the archbishop of Saltzburgh were daily put under
contribution for his more convenient supply. By the diligence of
Mephostophiles provisions of all kinds continually flew in at his
windows; and the choicest wines were perpetually found at his board to
the annoyance and discredit of the cellarers and butlers of these
eminent personages, who were extremely blamed for defalcations in
which they had no share. He also brought him a monthly supply of money,
sufficient for the support of his establishment. Besides, he supplied
him with a succession of mistresses, such as his heart desired, which
were in truth nothing but devils disguised under the semblance of
beautiful women. He further gave to Faustus a book, in which were
amply detailed the processes of sorcery and witchcraft, by means of
which the doctor could obtain whatever he desired.

One of the earliest indulgences which Faustus proposed to himself from
the command he possessed over his servant-demon, was the gratification
of his curiosity in surveying the various nations of the world.
Accordingly Mephostophiles converted himself into a horse, with two
hunches on his back like a dromedary, between which he conveyed
Faustus through the air where-ever he desired. They consumed fifteen
months in their travels. Among the countries they visited the history
mentions Pannonia, Austria, Germany, Bohemia, Silesia, Saxony, Misnia,
Thuringia, Franconia, Suabia, Bavaria, Lithuania, Livonia, Prussia,
Muscovy, Friseland, Holland, Westphalia, Zealand, Brabant, Flanders,
France, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Hungary; and afterwards Turkey,
Egypt, England, Sweden, Denmark, India, Africa and Persia. In most of
these countries Mephostophiles points out to his fellow-traveller
their principal curiosities and antiquities. In Rome they sojourned
three days and three nights, and, being themselves invisible, visited
the residence of the pope and the other principal palaces.

At Constantinople Faustus visited the emperor of the Turks, assuming
to himself the figure of the prophet Mahomet. His approach was
preceded by a splendid illumination, not less than that of the sun in
all his glory. He said to the emperor, "Happy art thou, oh sultan, who
art found worthy to be visited by the great prophet." And the emperor
in return fell prostrate before him, thanking Mahomet for his
condescension in this visit. The doctor also entered the seraglio,
where he remained six days under the same figure, the building and its
gardens being all the time environed with a thick darkness, so that no
one, not the emperor himself, dared to enter. At the end of this time
the doctor, still under the figure of Mahomet, was publicly seen,
ascending, as it seemed, to heaven. The sultan afterwards enquired of
the women of his seraglio what had occurred to them during the period
of the darkness; and they answered, that the God Mahomet had been with
them, that he had enjoyed them corporeally, and had told them that
from his seed should arise a great people, capable of irresistible

Faustus had conceived a plan of making his way into the terrestrial
paradise, without awakening suspicion in his demon-conductor. For this
purpose he ordered him to ascend the highest mountains of Asia. At
length they came so near, that they saw the angel with the flaming
sword forbidding approach to the garden. Faustus, perceiving this,
asked Mephostophiles what it meant. His conductor told him, but added
that it was in vain for them, or any one but the angels of the Lord,
to think of entering within.

Having gratified his curiosity in other ways, Faustus was seized with
a vehement desire to visit the infernal regions. He proposed the
question to Mephostophiles, who told him that this was a matter out of
his department, and that on that journey he could have no other
conductor than Beelzebub. Accordingly, every thing being previously
arranged, one day at midnight Beelzebub appeared, being already
equipped with a saddle made of dead men's bones. Faustus speedily
mounted. They in a short time came to an abyss, and encountered a
multitude of enormous serpents; but a bear with wings came to their
aid, and drove the serpents away. A flying bull next came with a
hideous roar, so fierce that Beelzebub appeared to give way, and
Faustus tumbled at once heels-over-head into the pit. After having
fallen to a considerable depth, two dragons with a chariot came to his
aid, and an ape helped him to get into the vehicle. Presently however
came on a storm with thunder and lightning, so dreadful that the
doctor was thrown out, and sunk in a tempestuous sea to a vast depth.
He contrived however to lay hold of a rock, and here to secure himself
a footing. He looked down, and perceived a great gulph, in which lay
floating many of the vulgar, and not a few emperors, kings, princes,
and such as had been mighty lords. Faustus with a sudden impulse cast
himself into the midst of the flames with which they were surrounded,
with the desire to snatch one of the damned souls from the pit. But,
just as he thought he had caught him by the hand, the miserable wretch
slided from between his fingers, and sank again.

At length the doctor became wholly exhausted with the fatigue he had
undergone, with the smoke and the fog, with the stifling, sulphureous
air, with the tempestuous blasts, with the alternate extremes of heat
and cold, and with the clamours, the lamentations, the agonies, and
the howlings of the damned everywhere around him,--when, just in the
nick of time, Beelzebub appeared to him again, and invited him once
more to ascend the saddle, which he had occupied during his infernal
journey. Here he fell asleep, and, when he awoke, found himself in his
own bed in his house. He then set himself seriously to reflect on what
had passed. At one time he believed that he had been really in hell,
and had witnessed all its secrets. At another he became persuaded that
he had been subject to an illusion only, and that the devil had led
him through an imaginary scene, which was truly the case; for the
devil had taken care not to shew him the real hell, fearing that it
might have caused too great a terror, and have induced him to repent
him of his misdeeds perhaps before it was too late.

It so happened that, once upon a time, the emperor Charles V was at
Inspruck, at a time when Faustus also resided there. His courtiers
informed the emperor that Faustus was in the town, and Charles
expressed a desire to see him. He was introduced. Charles asked him
whether he could really perform such wondrous feats as were reported
of him. Faustus modestly replied, inviting the emperor to make trial
of his skill. "Then," said Charles, "of all the eminent personages I
have ever read of, Alexander the Great is the man who most excites my
curiosity, and whom it would most gratify my wishes to see in the very
form in which he lived." Faustus rejoined, that it was out of his
power truly to raise the dead, but that he had spirits at his command
who had often seen that great conqueror, and that Faustus would
willingly place him before the emperor as he required. He conditioned
that Charles should not speak to him, nor attempt to touch him. The
emperor promised compliance. After a few ceremonies therefore, Faustus
opened a door, and brought in Alexander exactly in the form in which
he had lived, with the same garments, and every circumstance
corresponding. Alexander made his obeisance to the emperor, and walked
several times round him. The queen of Alexander was then introduced in
the same manner. Charles just then recollected, he had read that
Alexander had a wart on the nape of his neck; and with proper
precautions Faustus allowed the emperor to examine the apparition by
this test. Alexander then vanished.

As doctor Faustus waited in court, he perceived a certain knight, who
had fallen asleep in a bow-window, with his head out at window. The
whim took the doctor, to fasten on his brow the antlers of a stag.
Presently the knight was roused from his nap, when with all his
efforts he could not draw in his head on account of the antlers which
grew upon it. The courtiers laughed exceedingly at the distress of the
knight, and, when they had sufficiently diverted themselves, Faustus
took off his conjuration, and set the knight at liberty.

Soon after Faustus retired from Inspruck. Meanwhile the knight, having
conceived a high resentment against the conjuror, waylaid him with
seven horsemen on the road by which he had to pass. Faustus however
perceived them, and immediately made himself invisible. Meanwhile the
knight spied on every side to discover the conjuror; but, as he was
thus employed, he heard a sudden noise of drums and trumpets and
cymbals, and saw a regiment of horse advancing against him. He
immediately turned off in another direction; but was encountered by a
second regiment of horse. This occurred no less than six times; and
the knight and his companions were compelled to surrender at
discretion. These regiments were so many devils; and Faustus now
appeared in a new form as the general of this army. He obliged the
knight and his party to dismount, and give up their swords. Then with
a seeming generosity he gave them new horses and new swords, But this
was all enchantment. The swords presently turned into switches; and
the horses, plunging into a river on their road, vanished from beneath
their riders, who were thoroughly drenched in the stream, and scarcely
escaped with their lives.

Many of Faustus's delusions are rather remarkable as tricks of merry
vexation, than as partaking of those serious injuries which we might
look for in an implement of hell. In one instance he inquired of a
countryman who was driving a load of hay, what compensation he would
judge reasonable for the doctor's eating as much of his hay as he
should be inclined to. The waggoner replied, that for half a stiver
(one farthing) he should be welcome to eat as much as he pleased. The
doctor presently fell to, and ate at such a rate, that the peasant was
frightened lest his whole load should be consumed. He therefore
offered Faustus a gold coin, value twenty-seven shillings, to be off
his bargain. The doctor took it; and, when the countryman came to his
journey's end, he found his cargo undiminished even by a single blade.

Another time, as Faustus was walking along the road near Brunswick,
the whim took him of asking a waggoner who was driving by, to treat
him with a ride in his vehicle. "No, I will not," replied the boor;
"my horses will have enough to do to drag their proper load." "You
churl," said the doctor, "since you will not let your wheels carry me,
you shall carry them yourself as far as from the gates of the city."
The wheels then detached themselves, and flew through the air, to the
gates of the town from which they came. At the same time the horses
fell to the ground, and were utterly unable to raise themselves up.
The countryman, frightened, fell on his knees to the doctor, and
promised, if he would forgive him, never to offend in like manner
again. Faustus now, relenting a little, bade the waggoner take a
handful of sand from the road, and scatter on his horses, and they
would be well. At the same time he directed the man to go to the four
gates of Brunswick, and he would find his wheels, one at each gate.

In another instance, Faustus went into a fair, mounted on a noble
beast, richly caparisoned, the sight of which presently brought all
the horse-fanciers about him. After considerable haggling, he at last
disposed of his horse to a dealer for a handsome price, only cautioning
him at parting, how he rode the horse to water. The dealer, despising
the caution that had been given him, turned his horse the first thing
towards the river. He had however no sooner plunged in, than the horse
vanished, and the rider found himself seated on a saddle of straw, in
the middle of the stream. With difficulty he waded to the shore, and
immediately, enquiring out the doctor's inn, went to him to complain
of the cheat. He was directed to Faustus's room, and entering found
the conjuror on his bed, apparently asleep. He called to him lustily,
but the doctor took no notice. Worked up beyond his patience, he next
laid hold of Faustus's foot, that he might rouse him the more
effectually. What was his surprise, to find the doctor's leg and foot
come off in his hand! Faustus screamed, apparently in agony of pain,
and the dealer ran out of the room as fast as he could, thinking that
he had the devil behind him.

In one instance three young noblemen applied to Faustus, having been
very desirous to be present at the marriage of the son of the duke of
Bavaria at Mentz, but having overstaid the time, in which it would
have been possible by human means to accomplish the journey. Faustus,
to oblige them, led them into his garden, and, spreading a large
mantle upon a grass-plot, desired them to step on it, and placed
himself in the midst. He then recited a certain form of conjuration.
At the same time he conditioned with them, that they should on no
account speak to any one at the marriage, and, if spoken to, should
not answer again. They were carried invisibly through the air, and
arrived in excellent time. At a certain moment they became visible,
but were still bound to silence. One of them however broke the
injunction, and amused himself with the courtiers. The consequence was
that, when the other two were summoned by the doctor to return, he was
left behind. There was something so extraordinary in their sudden
appearance, and the subsequent disappearance of the others, that he
who remained was put in prison, and threatened with the torture the
next day, if he would not make a full disclosure. Faustus however
returned before break of day, opened the gates of the prison, laid all
the guards asleep, and carried off the delinquent in triumph.

On one occasion Faustus, having resolved to pass a jovial evening,
took some of his old college-companions, and invited them to make free
with the archbishop of Saltzburgh's cellar. They took a ladder, and
scaled the wall. They seated themselves round, and placed a
three-legged stool, with bottles and glasses in the middle. They were
in the heart of their mirth, when the butler made his appearance, and
began to cry thieves with all his might. The doctor at once conjured
him, so that he could neither speak nor move. There he was obliged to
sit, while Faustus and his companions tapped every vat in the cellar.
They then carried him along with them in triumph. At length they came
to a lofty tree, where Faustus ordered them to stop; and the butler
was in the greatest fright, apprehending that they would do no less
than hang him. The doctor however was contented, by his art to place
him on the topmost branch, where he was obliged to remain trembling
and almost dead with the cold, till certain peasants came out to their
work, whom he hailed, and finally with great difficulty they rescued
him from his painful eminence, and placed him safely on the ground.

On another occasion Faustus entertained several of the junior members
of the university of Wittenberg at his chambers. One of them,
referring to the exhibition the doctor had made of Alexander the Great
to the emperor Charles V, said it would gratify him above all things,
if he could once behold the famous Helen of Greece, whose beauty was
so great as to have roused all the princes of her country to arms, and
to have occasioned a ten years' war. Faustus consented to indulge his
curiosity, provided all the company would engage to be merely mute
spectators of the scene. This being promised, he left the room, and
presently brought in Helen. She was precisely as Homer has described
her, when she stood by the side of Priam on the walls of Troy, looking
on the Grecian chiefs. Her features were irresistibly attractive; and
her full, moist lips were redder than the summer cherries. Faustus
shortly after obliged his guests with her bust in marble, from which
several copies were taken, no one knowing the name of the original

No long time elapsed after this, when the doctor was engaged in
delivering a course of lectures on Homer at Erfurth, one of the
principal cities of Germany. It having been suggested to him that it
would very much enhance the interest of his lectures, if he would
exhibit to the company the heroes of Greece exactly as they appeared
to their contemporaries, Faustus obligingly yielded to the proposal.
The heroes of the Trojan war walked in procession before the
astonished auditors, no less lively in the representation than Helen
had been shewn before, and each of them with some characteristic
attitude and striking expression of countenance.

When the doctor happened to be at Frankfort, there came there four
conjurors, who obtained vast applause by the trick of cutting off one
another's heads, and fastening them on again. Faustus was exasperated
at this proceeding, and regarded them as laying claim to a skill
superior to his own. He went, and was invisibly present at their
exhibition. They placed beside them a vessel with liquor which they
pretended was the elixir of life, into which at each time they threw a
plant resembling the lily, which no sooner touched the liquor than its
buds began to unfold, and shortly it appeared in full blossom. The
chief conjuror watched his opportunity; and, when the charm was
complete, made no more ado but struck off the head of his fellow that
was next to him, and dipping it in the liquor, adjusted it to the
shoulders, where it became as securely fixed as before the operation.
This was repeated a second and a third time. At length it came to the
turn of the chief conjuror to have his head smitten off. Faustus stood
by invisibly, and at the proper time broke off the flower of the lily
without any one being aware of it. The head therefore of the principal
conjuror was struck off; but in vain was it steeped in the liquor. The
other conjurors were at a loss to account for the disappearance of the
lily, and fumbled for a long time with the old sorcerer's head, which
would not stick on in any position in which it could be placed.

Faustus was in great favour with the Prince of Anhalt. On one occasion,
after residing some days in his court, he said to the prince, "Will
your highness do me the favour to partake of a small collation at a
castle which belongs to me out at your city-gates?" The prince
graciously consented. The prince and princess accompanied the doctor,
and found a castle which Faustus had erected by magic during the
preceding night. The castle, with five lofty towers, and two great
gates, inclosing a spacious court, stood in the midst of a beautiful
lake, stocked with all kinds of fish, and every variety of water-fowl.
The court exhibited all sorts of animals, beside birds of every colour
and song, which flitted from tree to tree. The doctor then ushered his
guests into the hall, with an ample suite of apartments, branching off
on each side. In one of the largest they found a banquet prepared,
with the pope's plate of gold, which Mephostophiles had borrowed for
the day. The viands were of the most delicious nature, with the
choicest wines in the world. The banquet being over, Faustus conducted
the prince and princess back to the palace. But, before they had gone
far, happening to turn their heads, they saw the whole castle blown up,
and all that had been prepared for the occasion vanish at once in a
vast volume of fire.

One Christmas-time Faustus gave a grand entertainment to certain
distinguished persons of both sexes at Wittenberg. To render the scene
more splendid, he contrived to exhibit a memorable inversion of the
seasons. As the company approached the doctor's house, they were
surprised to find, though there was a heavy snow through the
neighbouring fields, that Faustus's court and garden bore not the
least marks of the season, but on the contrary were green and blooming
as in the height of summer. There was an appearance of the freshest
vegetation, together with a beautiful vineyard, abounding with grapes,
figs, raspberries, and an exuberance of the finest fruits. The large,
red Provence roses, were as sweet to the scent as the eye, and looked
perfectly fresh and sparkling with dew.

As Faustus was now approaching the last year of his term, he seemed to
resolve to pamper his appetite with every species of luxury. He
carefully accumulated all the materials of voluptuousness and
magnificence. He was particularly anxious in the selection of women
who should serve for his pleasures. He had one Englishwoman, one
Hungarian, one French, two of Germany, and two from different parts of
Italy, all of them eminent for the perfections which characterised
their different countries.

As Faustus's demeanour was particularly engaging, there were many
respectable persons in the city in which he lived, that became
interested in his welfare. These applied to a certain monk of
exemplary purity of life and devotion, and urged him to do every thing
he could to rescue the doctor from impending destruction. The monk
began with him with tender and pathetic remonstrances. He then drew a
fearful picture of the wrath of God, and the eternal damnation which
would certainly ensue. He reminded the doctor of his extraordinary
gifts and graces, and told him how different an issue might reasonably
have been expected from him. Faustus listened attentively to all the
good monk said, but replied mournfully that it was too late, that he
had despised and insulted the Lord, that he had deliberately sealed a
solemn compact to the devil, and that there was no possibility of
going back. The monk answered, "You are mistaken. Cry to the Lord for
grace; and it shall still be given. Shew true remorse; confess your
sins; abstain for the future from all acts of sorcery and diabolical
interference; and you may rely on final salvation." The doctor however
felt that all endeavours would be hopeless, He found in himself an
incapacity, for true repentance. And finally the devil came to him,
reproached him for breach of contract in listening to the pious
expostulations of a saint, threatened that in case of infidelity he
would take him away to hell even before his time, and frightened the
doctor into the act of signing a fresh contract in ratification of
that which he had signed before.

At length Faustus ultimately arrived at the end of the term for which
he had contracted with the devil. For two or three years before it
expired, his character gradually altered. He became subject to fits of
despondency, was no longer susceptible of mirth and amusement, and
reflected with bitter agony on the close in which the whole must
terminate. During the last month of his period, he no longer sought
the services of his infernal ally, but with the utmost unwillingness
saw his arrival. But Mephostophiles now attended him unbidden, and
treated him with biting scoffs and reproaches. "You have well studied
the Scriptures," he said, "and ought to have known that your safety
lay in worshipping God alone. You sinned with your eyes open, and can
by no means plead ignorance. You thought that twenty-four years was a
term that would have no end; and you now see how rapidly it is
flitting away. The term for which you sold yourself to the devil is a
very different thing; and, after the lapse of thousands of ages, the
prospect before you will be still as unbounded as ever. You were
warned; you were earnestly pressed to repent; but now it is too late."

After the demon, Mephostophiles, had long tormented Faustus in this
manner, he suddenly disappeared, consigning him over to wretchedness,
vexation and despair.

The whole twenty-four years were now expired. The day before,
Mephostophiles again made his appearance, holding in his hand the bond
which the doctor had signed with his blood, giving him notice that the
next day, the devil, his master, would come for him, and advising him
to hold himself in readiness. Faustus, it seems, had earned himself
much good will among the younger members of the university by his
agreeable manners, by his willingness to oblige them, and by the
extraordinary spectacles with which he occasionally diverted them.
This day he resolved to pass in a friendly farewel. He invited a
number of them to meet him at a house of public reception, in a hamlet
adjoining to the city. He bespoke a large room in the house for a
banqueting room, another apartment overhead for his guests to sleep in,
and a smaller chamber at a little distance for himself. He furnished
his table with abundance of delicacies and wines. He endeavoured to
appear among them in high spirits; but his heart was inwardly sad.

When the entertainment was over, Faustus addressed them, telling them
that this was the last day of his life, reminding them of the wonders
with which he had frequently astonished them, and informing them of
the condition upon which he had held this power. They, one and all,
expressed the deepest sorrow at the intelligence. They had had the
idea of something unlawful in his proceedings; but their notions had
been very far from coming up to the truth. They regretted exceedingly
that he had not been unreserved in his communications at an earlier
period. They would have had recourse in his behalf to the means of
religion, and have applied to pious men, desiring them to employ their
power to intercede with heaven in his favour. Prayer and penitence
might have done much for him; and the mercy of heaven was unbounded.
They advised him still to call upon God, and endeavour to secure an
interest in the merits of the Saviour.

Faustus assured them that it was all in vain, and that his tragical
fate was inevitable. He led them to their sleeping apartment, and
recommended to them to pass the night as they could, but by no means,
whatever they might happen to hear, to come out of it; as their
interference could in no way be beneficial to him, and might be
attended with the most serious injury to themselves. They lay still
therefore, as he had enjoined them; but not one of them could close
his eyes.

Between twelve and one in the night they heard first a furious storm
of wind round all sides of the house, as if it would have torn away
the walls from their foundations. This no sooner somewhat abated, than
a noise was heard of discordant and violent hissing, as if the house
was full of all sorts of venomous reptiles, but which plainly
proceeded from Faustus's chamber. Next they heard the doctor's
room-door vehemently burst open, and cries for help uttered with
dreadful agony, but a half-suppressed voice, which presently grew
fainter and fainter. Then every thing became still, as if the
everlasting motion of the world was suspended.

When at length it became broad day, the students went in a body into
the doctor's apartment. But he was no where to be seen. Only the walls
were found smeared with his blood, and marks as if his brains had been
dashed out. His body was finally discovered at some distance from the
house, his limbs dismembered, and marks of great violence about the
features of his face. The students gathered up the mutilated parts of
his body, and afforded them private burial at the temple of Mars in
the village where he died.

A ludicrous confusion of ideas has been produced by some persons from
the similarity of names of Faustus, the supposed magician of
Wittenberg, and Faust or Fust of Mentz, the inventor, or first
establisher of the art of printing. It has been alleged that the exact
resemblance of the copies of books published by the latter, when no
other mode of multiplying copies was known but by the act of
transcribing, was found to be such, as could no way be accounted for
by natural means, and that therefore it was imputed to the person who
presented these copies, that he must necessarily be assisted by the
devil. It has further been stated, that Faust, the printer, swore the
craftsmen he employed at his press to inviolable secrecy, that he
might the more securely keep up the price of his books. But this
notion of the identity of the two persons is entirely groundless.
Faustus, the magician, is described in the romance as having been born
in 1491, twenty-five years after the period at which the printer is
understood to have died, and there is no one coincidence between the
histories of the two persons, beyond the similarity of names, and a
certain mystery (or magical appearance) that inevitably adheres to the
practice of an art hitherto unknown. If any secret reference had been
intended in the romance to the real character of the illustrious
introducer of an art which has been productive of such incalculable
benefits to mankind, it would be impossible to account for such a
marvellous inconsistence in the chronology.

Others have carried their scepticism so far, as to have started a
doubt whether there was ever really such a person as Faustus of
Wittenberg, the alleged magician. But the testimony of Wierus, Philip
Camerarius, Melancthon and others, his contemporaries, sufficiently
refutes this supposition. The fact is, that there was undoubtedly such
a man, who, by sleights of dexterity, made himself a reputation as if
there was something supernatural in his performances, and that he was
probably also regarded with a degree of terror and abhorrence by the
superstitious. On this theme was constructed a romance, which once
possessed the highest popularity, and furnished a subject to the
dramatical genius of Marlow, Leasing, Goethe, and others.--It is
sufficiently remarkable, that the notoriety of this romance seems to
have suggested to Shakespear the idea of sending the grand conception
of his brain, Hamlet, prince of Denmark, to finish his education at
the university of Wittenberg.

And here it may not be uninstructive to remark the different tone
of the record of the acts of Ziito, the Bohemian, and Faustus of
Wittenburg, though little more than half a century elapsed between
the periods at which they were written. Dubravius, bishop of Olmutz
in Moravia, to whose pen we are indebted for what we know of Ziito,
died in the year 1553. He has deemed it not unbecoming to record in
his national history of Bohemia, the achievements of this magician,
who, he says, exhibited them before Wenceslaus, king of the country,
at the celebration of his marriage. A waggon-load of sorcerers arrived
at Prague on that occasion for the entertainment of the company. But,
at the close of that century, the exploits of Faustus were no longer
deemed entitled to a place in national history, but were more
appropriately taken for the theme of a romance. Faustus and his
performances were certainly contemplated with at least as much horror
as the deeds of Ziito. But popular credulity was no longer wound to
so high a pitch: the marvels effected by Faustus are not represented
as challenging the observation of thousands at a public court, and
on the occasion of a royal festival. They "hid their diminished heads,"
and were performed comparatively in a corner.


A pretended magician is recorded by Naudé, as living about this time,
named Georgius Sabellicus, who, he says, if loftiness and arrogance
of assumption were enough to establish a claim to the possession of
supernatural gifts, would beyond all controversy be recognised for
a chief and consummate sorcerer. It was his ambition by the most
sounding appellations of this nature to advance his claim to immortal
reputation. He called himself, "The most accomplished Georgius
Sabellicus, a second Faustus, the spring and centre of necromantic
art, an astrologer, a magician, consummate in chiromancy, and in
agromancy, pyromancy and hydromancy inferior to none that ever lived."
I mention this the rather, as affording an additional proof how highly
Faustus was rated at the time in which he is said to have flourished.

It is specially worthy of notice, that Naudé, whose book is a sort
of register of all the most distinguished names in the annals of
necromancy, drawn up for the purpose of vindicating their honour,
now here [Errata: _read_ no where] mentions Faustus, except once
in this slight and cursory way.


Paracelsus, or, as he styled himself, Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus
Bombastus Paracelsus de Hohenheim, was a man of great notoriety and
eminence, about the same time as Dr. Faustus. He was born in the year
1493, and died in 1541. His father is said to have lived in some
repute; but the son early became a wanderer in the world, passing
his youth in the occupation of foretelling future events by the stars
and by chiromancy, invoking the dead, and performing various operations
of alchemy and magic. He states Trithemius to have been his instructor
in the science of metals. He was superficial in literature, and says
of himself that at one time he did not open a book for ten years
together. He visited the mines of Bohemia, Sweden and the East to
perfect himself in metallic knowledge. He travelled through Prussia,
Lithuania, Poland, Transylvania and Illyria, conversing indifferently
with physicians and old women, that he might extract from them the
practical secrets of their art. He visited Egypt, Tartary and
Constantinople, at which last place, as he says, he learned the
transmutation of metals and the philosopher's stone. He boasts also
of the elixir of life, by means of which he could prolong the life
of man to the age of the antediluvians. He certainly possessed
considerable sagacity and a happy spirit of daring, which induced
him to have recourse to the application of mercury and opium in the
cure of diseases, when the regular physicians did not venture on the
use of them. He therefore was successfully employed by certain eminent
persons in desperate cases, and was consulted by Erasmus. He gradually
increased in fame, and in the year 1526 was chosen professor of natural
philosophy and surgery in the university of Bale. Here he delivered
lectures in a very bold and presumptuous style. He proclaimed himself
the monarch of medicine, and publicly burned the writings of Galen
and Avicenna as pretenders and impostors.

This however was the acme of his prosperity. His system was extremely
popular for one year; but then he lost himself by brutality and
intemperance. He had drunk water only for the first five-and-twenty
years of his life; but now indulged himself in beastly crapulence
with the dregs of society, and scarcely ever took off his clothes
by day or night. After one year therefore spent at Bale, he resumed
his former vagabond life, and, having passed through many vicissitudes,
some of them of the most abject poverty, he died at the age of

Paracelsus in fact exhibited in his person the union of a quack, a
boastful and impudent pretender, with a considerable degree of natural
sagacity and shrewdness. Such an union is not uncommon in the present
day; but it was more properly in its place, when the cultivation of
the faculties of the mind was more restricted than now, and the law
of criticism of facts and evidence was nearly unknown. He took
advantage of the credulity and love of wonder incident to the
generality of our species; and, by dint of imposing on others,
succeeded in no small degree in imposing on himself. His intemperance
and arrogance of demeanour gave the suitable finish to his character.
He therefore carefully cherished in those about him the idea that
there was in him a kind of supernatural virtue, and that he had the
agents of an invisible world at his command. In particular he gave
out that he held conferences with a familiar or demon, whom for the
convenience of consulting he was in the habit of carrying about with
him in the hilt of his sword.


Jerome Cardan, who was only a few years younger than Paracelsus, was
a man of a very different character. He had considerable refinement
and discrimination, and ranked among the first scholars of his day.
He is however most of all distinguished for the Memoirs he has left
us of his life, which are characterised by a frankness and unreserve
which are almost without a parallel. He had undoubtedly a considerable
spice of madness in his composition. He says of himself, that he was
liable to extraordinary fits of abstraction and elevation of mind,
which by their intenseness became so intolerable, that he gladly had
recourse to very severe bodily pain by way of getting rid of them.
That in such cases he would bite his lips till they bled, twist his
fingers almost to dislocation, and whip his legs with rods, which
he found a great relief to him. That he would talk purposely of
subjects which he knew were particularly offensive to the company
he was in; that he argued on any side of a subject, without caring
whether he was right or wrong; and that he would spend whole nights
in gaming, often venturing as the stake he played for, the furniture
of his house, and his wife's jewels.

Cardan describes three things of himself, which he habitually
experienced, but respecting which he had never unbosomed himself to
any of his friends. The first was, a capacity which he felt in himself
of abandoning his body in a sort of extacy whenever he pleased. He
felt in these cases a sort of splitting of the heart, as if his soul
was about to withdraw, the sensation spreading over his whole frame,
like the opening of a door for the dismissal of its guest. His
apprehension was, that he was out of his body, and that by an
energetic exertion he still retained a small hold of his corporeal
figure. The second of his peculiarities was, that he saw, when he
pleased, whatever he desired to see, not through the force of
imagination, but with his material organs: he saw groves, animals,
orbs, as he willed. When he was a child, he saw these things, as they
occurred, without any previous volition or anticipation that such
a thing was about to happen. But, after he had arrived at years of
maturity, he saw them only when he desired, and such things as he
desired. These images were in perpetual succession, one after another.
The thing incidental to him which he mentions in the third place was,
that he could not recollect any thing that ever happened to him,
whether good, ill, or indifferent, of which he had not been admonished,
and that a very short time before, in a dream. These things serve
to shew of what importance he was in his own eyes, and also, which
is the matter he principally brings it to prove, the subtlety and
delicacy of his animal nature.

Cardan speaks uncertainly and contradictorily as to his having a
genius or demon perpetually attending him, advising him of what was
to happen, and forewarning him of sinister events. He concludes
however that he had no such attendant, but that it was the excellence
of his nature, approaching to immortality. He was much addicted to
the study of astrology, and laid claim to great skill as a physician.
He visited the court of London, and calculated the nativity of king
Edward VI. He was sent for as a physician by cardinal Beaton,
archbishop of St Andrews, whom, according to Melvile, [208] he
recovered to speech and health, and the historian appears to attribute
the cure to magic. He calculated the nativity of Jesus Christ, which
was imputed to him as an impious undertaking, inasmuch as it supposed
the creator of the world to be subject to the influence of the stars.
He also predicted his own death, and is supposed by some to have
forwarded that event, by abstinence from food at the age of
seventy-five, that he might not bely his prediction.


Hitherto we have principally passed such persons in review, as seem
to have been in part at least the victims of their own delusions.
But beside these there has always been a numerous class of men, who,
with minds perfectly disengaged and free, have applied themselves
to concert the means of overreaching the simplicity, or baffling the
penetration, of those who were merely spectators, and uninitiated
in the mystery of the arts that were practised upon them. Such was
no doubt the case with the speaking heads and statues, which were
sometimes exhibited in the ancient oracles. Such was the case with
certain optical delusions, which were practised on the unsuspecting,
and were contrived to produce on them the effect of supernatural
revelations. Such is the story of Bel and the Dragon in the book of
Apocrypha, where the priests daily placed before the idol twelve
measures of flour, and forty sheep, and six vessels of wine,
pretending that the idol consumed all these provisions, when in fact
they entered the temple by night, by a door under the altar, and
removed them.


We have a story minutely related by Benvenuto Cellini in his Life,
which it is now known was produced by optical delusion, but which
was imposed upon the artist and his companions as altogether
supernatural. It occurred a very short time before the death of pope
Clement the Seventh in 1534, and is thus detailed. It took place in
the Coliseum at Rome.

"It came to pass through a variety of odd accidents, that I made
acquaintance with a Sicilian priest, who was a man of genius, and
well versed in the Greek and Latin languages. Happening one day to
have some conversation with him, where the subject turned upon the
art of necromancy, I, who had a great desire to know something of
the matter, told him, that I had all my life had a curiosity to be
acquainted with the mysteries of this art. The priest made answer,
that the man must be of a resolute and steady temper, who entered
on that study. I replied, that I had fortitude and resolution enough
to desire to be initiated in it. The priest subjoined, 'If you think
you have the heart to venture, I will give you all the satisfaction
you can desire.' Thus we agreed to enter upon a scheme of necromancy.

"The priest one evening prepared to satisfy me, and desired me to
look for a companion or two. I invited one Vincenzio Romoli, who was
my intimate acquaintance, and he brought with him a native of Pistoia
who cultivated the art of necromancy himself. We repaired to the
Coliseum; and the priest, according to the custom of conjurors, began
to draw circles on the ground, with the most impressive ceremonies
imaginable. He likewise brought with him all sorts of precious
perfumes and fire, with some compositions which diffused noisome and
bad odours. As soon as he was in readiness, he made an opening to
the circle, and took us by the hand, and ordered the other
necromancer, his partner, to throw perfumes into the fire at a proper
time, intrusting the care of the fire and the perfumes to the rest;
and then he began his incantations.

"This ceremony lasted above an hour and a half, when there appeared
several legions of devils, so that the amphitheatre was quite filled
with them. I was busy about the perfumes, when the priest, who knew
that there was a sufficient number of infernal spirits, turned about
to me, and said, 'Benvenuto, ask them something.' I answered, 'Let
them bring me into company with my Sicilian mistress, Angelica.' That
night we obtained no answer of any sort; but I received great
satisfaction in having my curiosity so far indulged.

"The necromancer told me that it was requisite we should go a second
time, assuring me that I should be satisfied in whatever I asked; but
that I must bring with me a boy that had never known woman. I took
with me my apprentice, who was about twelve years of age; with the
same Vincenzio Romoli, who had been my companion the first time, and
one Agnolino Gaddi, an intimate acquaintance, whom I likewise
prevailed on to assist at the ceremony. When we came to the place
appointed, the priest, having made his preparations as before with the
same and even more striking ceremonies, placed us within the circle,
which he had drawn with a more wonderful art and in a more solemn
manner, than at our former meeting. Thus having committed the care of
the perfumes and the fire to my friend Vincenzio, who was assisted by
Gaddi, he put into my hands a pintacolo, or magical chart, and bid me
turn it towards the places to which he should direct me; and under the
pintacolo I held my apprentice. The necromancer, having begun to make
his most tremendous invocations, called by their names a multitude of
demons who were the leaders of the several legions, and questioned
them, by the virtue and power of the eternal, uncreated God, who lives
for ever, in the Hebrew language, as also in Latin and Greek; insomuch
that the amphitheatre was filled, almost in an instant, with demons a
hundred times more numerous than at the former conjuration. Vincenzio
meanwhile was busied in making a fire with the assistance of Gaddi,
and burning a great quantity of precious perfumes. I, by the direction
of the necromancer, again desired to be in company with my Angelica.
He then turning upon me said, 'Know, they have declared that in the
space of a month you shall be in her company.'

"He then requested me to stand by him resolutely, because the legions
were now above a thousand more in number than he had designed; and
besides these were the most dangerous; so that, after they had
answered my question, it behoved him to be civil to them, and dismiss
them quietly. At the same time the boy under the pintacolo was in a
terrible fright, saying, that there were in the place a million of
fierce men who threatened to destroy us; and that, besides, there were
four armed giants of enormous stature, who endeavoured to break into
our circle. During this time, while the necromancer, trembling with
fear, endeavoured by mild means to dismiss them in the best way he
could, Vincenzio, who quivered like an aspen leaf, took care of the
perfumes. Though I was as much afraid as any of them, I did my utmost
to conceal it; so that I greatly contributed to inspire the rest with
resolution; but the truth is, I gave myself over for a dead man,
seeing the horrid fright the necromancer was in.

"The boy had placed his head between his knees; and said, 'In this
attitude will I die; for we shall all surely perish.' I told him that
those demons were under us, and what he saw was smoke and shadow; so
bid him hold up his head and take courage. No sooner did he look up,
than he cried out, 'The whole amphitheatre is burning, and the fire is
just falling on us.' So, covering his eyes with his hands, he again
exclaimed, that destruction was inevitable, and he desired to see no
more. The necromancer intreated me to have a good heart, and to take
care to burn proper perfumes; upon which I turned to Vincenzio, and
bade him burn all the most precious perfumes he had. At the same time
I cast my eyes upon Gaddi, who was terrified to such a degree, that he
could scarcely distinguish objects, and seemed to be half dead. Seeing
him in this condition, I said to him, 'Gaddi, upon these occasions a
man should not yield to fear, but stir about to give some assistance;
so come directly, and put on more of these perfumes.' Gaddi accordingly
attempted to move; but the effect was annoying both to our sense of
hearing and smell, and overcame the perfumes.

"The boy perceiving this, once more ventured to raise his head, and,
seeing me laugh, began to take courage, and said, 'The devils are
flying away with a vengeance.' In this condition we staid, till the
bell rang for morning prayers. The boy again told us, that there
remained but few devils, and those were at a great distance. When the
magician had performed the rest of his ceremonies, he stripped off his
gown, and took up a wallet full of books, which he had brought with
him. We all went out of the circle together, keeping as close to each
other as we possibly could, especially the boy, who placed himself in
the middle, holding the necromancer by the coat, and me by the cloak.

"As we were going to our houses in the quarter of Banchi, the boy told
us, that two of the demons whom we had seen at the amphitheatre, went
on before us leaping and skipping, sometimes running upon the roofs of
the houses, and sometimes on the ground. The priest declared that, as
often as he had entered magic circles, nothing so extraordinary had
ever happened to him. As we went along, he would fain have persuaded
me to assist at the consecrating a book, from which he said we should
derive immense riches. We should then ask the demons to discover to us
the various treasures with which the earth abounds, which would raise
us to opulence and power; but that those love-affairs were mere
follies from which no good could be expected. I made answer, that I
would readily have accepted his proposal if I had understood Latin. He
assured me that the knowledge of Latin was nowise material; but that
he could never meet with a partner of resolution and intrepidity equal
to mine, and that that would be to him an invaluable acquisition."
Immediately subsequent to this scene, Cellini got into one of those
scrapes, in which he was so frequently involved by his own violence
and ferocity; and the connection was never again renewed.

The first remark that arises out of this narrative is, that nothing is
actually done by the supernatural personages which are exhibited. The
magician reports certain answers as given by the demons; but these
answers do not appear to have been heard from any lips but those of
him who was the creator or cause of the scene. The whole of the demons
therefore were merely figures, produced by the magic lantern (which is
said to have been invented by Roger Bacon), or by something of that
nature. The burning of the perfumes served to produce a dense
atmosphere, that was calculated to exaggerate, and render more
formidable and terrific, the figures which were exhibited. The magic
lantern, which is now the amusement only of servant-maids, and boys at
school in their holidays, served at this remote period, and when the
power of optical delusions was unknown, to terrify men of wisdom and
penetration, and make them believe that legions of devils from the
infernal regions were come among them, to produce the most horrible
effects, and suspend and invert the laws of nature. It is probable,
that the magician, who carried home with him a "wallet full of books,"
also carried at the same time the magic lantern or mirror, with its
lights, which had served him for his exhibition, and that this was the
cause of the phenomenon, that they observed two of the demons which
they had seen at the amphitheatre, going before them on their return,
"leaping and skipping, sometimes running on the roofs of the houses,
and sometimes on the ground." [209]


Michael Nostradamus, a celebrated astrologer, was born at St. Remi in
Provence in the year 1503. He published a Century of Prophecies in
obscure and oracular terms and barbarous verse, and other works. In
the period in which he lived the pretended art of astrological
prediction was in the highest repute; and its professors were sought
for by emperors and kings, and entertained with the greatest
distinction and honour. Henry the Second of France, moved with his
great renown, sent for Nostradamus to court, received much
gratification from his visit, and afterward ordered him to Blois, that
he might see the princes, his sons, calculate their horoscopes, and
predict their future fortunes. He was no less in favour afterwards
with Charles the Ninth. He died in the year 1566.


Dr. John Dee was a man who made a conspicuous figure in the sixteenth
century. He was born at London in the year 1527. He was an eminent
mathematician, and an indefatigable scholar. He says of himself, that,
having been sent to Cambridge when he was fifteen, he persisted for
several years in allowing himself only four hours for sleep in the
twenty-four, and two for food and refreshment, and that he constantly
occupied the remaining eighteen (the time for divine service only
excepted) in study. At Cambridge he superintended the exhibition of a
Greek play of Aristophanes, among the machinery of which he introduced
an artificial scarabaeus, or beetle, which flew up to the palace of
Jupiter, with a man on his back, and a basket of provisions. The
ignorant and astonished spectators ascribed this feat to the arts of
the magician; and Dee, annoyed by these suspicions, found it expedient
to withdraw to the continent. Here he resided first at the university
of Louvaine, at which place, his acquaintance was courted by the dukes
of Mantua and Medina, and from thence proceeded to Paris, where he
gave lectures on Euclid with singular applause.

In 1551 he returned to England, and was received with distinction by
sir John Check, and introduced to secretary Cecil, and even to king
Edward, from whom he received a pension of one hundred crowns _per
annum_, which he speedily after exchanged for a small living in the
church. In the reign of queen Mary he was for some time kindly
treated; but afterwards came into great trouble, and even into danger
of his life. He entered into correspondence with several of the
servants of queen Elizabeth at Woodstock, and was charged with
practising against Mary's life by enchantments. Upon this accusation,
he was seized and confined; and, being after several examinations
discharged of the indictment, was turned over to bishop Bonner to see
if any heresy could be found in him. After a tedious persecution he
was set at liberty in 1555, and was so little subdued by what he had
suffered, that in the following year he presented a petition to the
queen, requesting her co-operation in a plan for preserving and
recovering certain monuments of classical antiquity.

The principal study of Dee however at this time lay in astrology; and
accordingly, upon the accession of Elizabeth, Robert Dudley, her chief
favourite, was sent to consult the doctor as to the aspect of the
stars, that they might fix on an auspicious day for celebrating her
coronation. Some years after we find him again on the continent; and
in 1571, being taken ill at Louvaine, we are told the queen sent over
two physicians to accomplish his cure. Elizabeth afterwards visited
him at his house at Mortlake, that she might view his magazine of
mathematical instruments and curiosities; and about this time employed
him to defend her title to countries discovered in different parts of
the globe. He says of himself, that he received the most advantageous
offers from Charles V, Ferdinand, Maximilian II, and Rodolph II,
emperors of Germany, and from the czar of Muscovy an offer of L.2000
sterling _per annum_, upon condition that he would reside in his
dominions. All these circumstances were solemnly attested by Dee in a
Compendious Rehearsal of his Life and Studies for half-a-century,
composed at a later period, and read by him at his house at Mortlake
to two commissioners appointed by Elizabeth to enquire into his
circumstances, accompanied with evidences and documents to establish
the particulars. [210]

Had Dee gone no further than this, he would undoubtedly have ranked
among the profoundest scholars and most eminent geniuses that adorned
the reign of the maiden queen. But he was unfortunately cursed with an
ambition that nothing could satisfy; and, having accustomed his mind
to the wildest reveries, and wrought himself up to an extravagant
pitch of enthusiasm, he pursued a course that involved him in much
calamity, and clouded all his latter days with misery and ruin. He
dreamed perpetually of the philosopher's stone, and was haunted with
the belief of intercourse of a supramundane character. It is almost
impossible to decide among these things, how much was illusion, and
how much was forgery. Both were inextricably mixed in his proceedings;
and this extraordinary victim probably could not in his most
dispassionate moments precisely distinguish what belonged to the one,
and what to the other.

As Dee was an enthusiast, so he perpetually interposed in his
meditations prayers of the greatest emphasis and fervour. As he was
one day in November 1582, engaged in these devout exercises, he says
that there appeared to him the angel Uriel at the west window of his
Museum, who gave him a translucent stone, or chrystal, of a convex
form, that had the quality, when intently surveyed, of presenting
apparitions, and even emitting sounds, in consequence of which the
observer could hold conversations, ask questions and receive answers
from the figures he saw in the mirror. It was often necessary that the
stone should be turned one way and another in different positions,
before the person who consulted it gained the right focus; and then
the objects to be observed would sometimes shew themselves on the
surface of the stone, and sometime in different parts of the room by
virtue of the action of the stone. It had also this peculiarity, that
only one person, having been named as seer, could see the figures
exhibited, and hear the voices that spoke, though there might be
various persons in the room. It appears that the person who discerned
these visions must have his eyes and his ears uninterruptedly engaged
in the affair, so that, as Dee experienced, to render the communication
effectual, there must be two human beings concerned in the scene, one
of them to describe what he saw, and to recite the dialogue that took
place, and the other immediately to commit to paper all that his
partner dictated. Dee for some reason chose for himself the part of
the amanuensis, and had to seek for a companion, who was to watch the
stone, and repeat to him whatever he saw and heard.

It happened opportunely that, a short time before Dee received this
gift from on high, he contracted a familiar intercourse with one
Edward Kelly of Worcestershire, whom he found specially qualified to
perform the part which it was necessary to Dee to have adequately
filled. Kelly was an extraordinary character, and in some respects
exactly such a person as Dee wanted. He was just twenty-eight years
younger than the memorable personage, who now received him as an
inmate, and was engaged in his service at a stipulated salary of fifty
pounds a year.

Kelly entered upon life with a somewhat unfortunate adventure. He was
accused, when a young man, of forgery, brought to trial, convicted,
and lost his ears in the pillory. This misfortune however by no means
daunted him. He was assiduously engaged in the search for the
philosopher's stone. He had an active mind, great enterprise, and a
very domineering temper. Another adventure in which he had been
engaged previously to his knowledge of Dee, was in digging up the body
of a man, who had been buried only the day before, that he might
compel him by incantations, to answer questions, and discover future
events. There was this difference therefore between the two persons
previously to their league. Dee was a man of regular manners and
unspotted life, honoured by the great, and favourably noticed by
crowned heads in different parts of the world; while Kelly was a
notorious profligate, accustomed to the most licentious actions, and
under no restraint from morals or principle.

One circumstance that occurred early in the acquaintance of Kelly and
Dee it is necessary to mention. It serves strikingly to illustrate the
ascendancy of the junior and impetuous party over his more gifted
senior. Kelly led Dee, we are not told under what pretence, to visit
the celebrated ruins of Glastonbury Abbey in Somersetshire. Here, as
these curious travellers searched into every corner of the scene, they
met by some rare accident with a vase containing a certain portion of
the actual _elixir vitae_, that rare and precious liquid, so much
sought after, which has the virtue of converting the baser metals into
gold and silver. It had remained here perhaps ever since the time of
the highly-gifted St. Dunstan in the tenth century. This they carried
off in triumph: but we are not told of any special use to which they
applied it, till a few years after, when they were both on the

The first record of their consultations with the supramundane spirits,
was of the date of December 2, 1581, at Lexden Heath in the county of
Essex; and from this time they went on in a regular series of
consultations with and enquiries from these miraculous visitors, a
great part of which will appear to the uninitiated extremely puerile
and ludicrous, but which were committed to writing with the most
scrupulous exactness by Dee, the first part still existing in
manuscript, but the greater portion from 28 May 1583 to 1608, with
some interruptions, having been committed to the press by Dr. Meric
Casaubon in a well-sized folio in 1659, 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 of the world."

Kelly and Dee had not long been engaged in these supernatural
colloquies, before an event occurred which gave an entirely new turn
to their proceedings. Albert Alaski, a Polish nobleman, lord palatine
of the principality of Siradia, came over at this time into England,
urged, as he said, by a desire personally to acquaint himself with the
glories of the reign of Elizabeth, and the evidences of her unrivalled
talents. The queen and her favourite, the earl of Leicester, received
him with every mark of courtesy and attention, and, having shewn him
all the wonders of her court at Westminster and Greenwich, sent him to
Oxford, with a command to the dignitaries and heads of colleges, to
pay him every attention, and to lay open to his view all their rarest
curiosities. Among other things worthy of notice, Alaski enquired for
the celebrated Dr. Dee, and expressed the greatest impatience to be
acquainted with him.

Just at this juncture the earl of Leicester happened to spy Dr. Dee
among the crowd who attended at a royal levee. The earl immediately
advanced towards him; and, in his frank manner, having introduced him
to Alaski, expressed his intention of bringing the Pole to dine with
the doctor at his house at Mortlake. Embarrassed with this unexpected
honour, Dee no sooner got home, than he dispatched an express to the
earl, honestly confessing that he should be unable to entertain such
guests in a suitable manner, without being reduced to the expedient of
selling or pawning his plate, to procure him the means of doing so.
Leicester communicated the doctor's perplexity to Elizabeth; and the
queen immediately dispatched a messenger with a present of forty
angels, or twenty pounds, to enable him to receive his guests as
became him.

A great intimacy immediately commenced between Dee and the stranger.
Alaski, though possessing an extensive territory, was reduced by the
prodigality of himself or his ancestors to much embarrassment; and on
the other hand this nobleman appeared to Dee an instrument well
qualified to accomplish his ambitious purposes. Alaski was extremely
desirous to look into the womb of time; and Dee, it is likely,
suggested repeated hints of his extraordinary power from his
possession of the philosopher's stone. After two or three interviews,
and much seeming importunity on the part of the Pole, Dee and Kelly
graciously condescended to admit Alaski as a third party to their
secret meetings with their supernatural visitors, from which the rest
of the world were carefully excluded. Here the two Englishmen made use
of the vulgar artifice, of promising extraordinary good fortune to the
person of whom they purposed to make use. By the intervention of the
miraculous stone they told the wondering traveller, that he should
shortly become king of Poland, with the accession of several other
kingdoms, that he should overcome many armies of Saracens and Paynims,
and prove a mighty conqueror. Dee at the same time complained of the
disagreeable condition in which he was at home, and that Burleigh and
Walsingham were his malicious enemies. At length they concerted among
themselves, that they, Alaski, and Dee and Kelly with their wives and
families, should clandestinely withdraw out of England, and proceed
with all practicable rapidity to Alaski's territory in the kingdom of
Poland. They embarked on this voyage 21 September, and arrived at
Siradia the third of February following.

At this place however the strangers remained little more than a month.
Alaski found his finances in such disorder, that it was scarcely
possible for him to feed the numerous guests he had brought along with
him. The promises of splendid conquests which Dee and Kelly profusely
heaped upon him, were of no avail to supply the deficiency of his
present income. And the elixir they brought from Glastonbury was, as
they said, so incredibly rich in virtue, that they were compelled to
lose much time in making projection by way of trial, before they could
hope to arrive at the proper temperament for producing the effect they

In the following month Alaski with his visitors passed to Cracow, the
residence of the kings of Poland. Here they remained five months, Dee
and Kelly perpetually amusing the Pole with the extraordinary virtue
of the stone, which had been brought from heaven by an angel, and
busied in a thousand experiments with the elixir, and many tedious
preparations which they pronounced to be necessary, before the
compound could have the proper effect. The prophecies were uttered
with extreme confidence; but no external indications were afforded, to
shew that in any way they were likely to be realised. The experiments
and exertions of the laboratory were incessant; but no transmutation
was produced. At length Alaski found himself unable to sustain the
train of followers he had brought out of England. With mountains of
wealth, the treasures of the world promised, they were reduced to the
most grievous straits for the means of daily subsistence. Finally the
zeal of Alaski diminished; he had no longer the same faith in the
projectors that had deluded him; and he devised a way of sending them
forward with letters of recommendation to Rodolph II, emperor of
Germany, at his imperial seat of Prague, where they arrived on the
ninth of August.

Rodolph was a man, whose character and habits of life they judged
excellently adapted to their purpose. Dee had a long conference with
the emperor, in which he explained to him what wonderful things the
spirits promised to this prince, in case he proved exemplary of life,
and obedient to their suggestions, that he should be the greatest
conqueror in the world, and should take captive the Turk in his city
of Constantinople. Rodolph was extremely courteous in his reception,
and sent away Dee with the highest hopes that he had at length found
a personage with whom he should infallibly succeed to the extent of
his wishes. He sought however a second interview, and was baffled. At
one time the emperor was going to his country palace near Prague, and
at another was engaged in the pleasures of the chace.

He also complained that he was not sufficiently familiar with the
Latin tongue, to manage the conferences with Dee in a satisfactory
manner in person. He therefore deputed Curtzius, a man high in his
confidence, to enter into the necessary details with his learned
visitor. Dee also contrived to have Spinola, the ambassador from
Madrid to the court of the emperor, to urge his suit. The final result
was that Rodolph declined any further intercourse with Dee. He turned
a deaf ear to his prophecies, and professed to be altogether void of
faith as to his promises respecting the philosopher's stone. Dee
however was led on perpetually with hopes of better things from the
emperor, till the spring of the year 1585. At length he was obliged to
fly from Prague, the bishop of Placentia, the pope's nuncio, having it
in command from his holiness to represent to Rodolph how discreditable
it was for him to harbour English magicians, heretics, at his court.

From Prague Dee and his followers proceeded to Cracow. Here he found
means of introduction to Stephen, king of Poland, to whom immediately
he insinuated as intelligence from heaven, that Rodolph, the emperor,
would speedily be assassinated, and that Stephen would succeed him in
the throne of Germany. Stephen appears to have received Dee with more
condescension than Rodolph had done, and was once present at his
incantation and interview with the invisible spirits. Dee also lured
him on with promises respecting the philosopher's stone. Meanwhile the
magician was himself reduced to the strangest expedients for
subsistence. He appears to have daily expected great riches from the
transmutation of metals, and was unwilling to confess that he and his
family were in the mean time almost starving.

When king Stephen at length became wearied with fruitless expectation,
Dee was fortunate enough to meet with another and more patient dupe in
Rosenburg, a nobleman of considerable wealth at Trebona in the kingdom
of Bohemia. Here Dee appears to have remained till 1589, when he was
sent for home by Elizabeth. In what manner he proceeded during this
interval, and from whence he drew his supplies, we are only left to
conjecture. He lured on his victim with the usual temptation,
promising him that he should be king of Poland. In the mean time it is
recorded by him, that, on the ninth of December, 1586, he arrived at
the point of projection, having cut a piece of metal out of a brass
warming-pan; and merely heating it by the fire, and pouring on it a
portion of the elixir, it was presently converted into pure silver. We
are told that he sent the warming-pan and the piece of silver to queen
Elizabeth, that she might be convinced by her own eyes how exactly
they tallied, and that the one had unquestionably been a portion of
the other. About the same time it is said, that Dee and his associate
became more free in their expenditure; and in one instance it is
stated as an example, that Kelly gave away to the value of four
thousand pounds sterling in gold rings on occasion of the celebration
of the marriage of one of his maid-servants. On the twenty-seventh and
thirtieth of July, 1587, Dee has recorded in his journal his gratitude
to God for his unspeakable mercies on those days imparted, which has
been interpreted to mean further acquisitions of wealth by means of
the elixir.

Meanwhile perpetual occasions of dissention occurred between the two
great confederates, Kelly and Dee. They were in many respects unfitted
for each other's society. Dee was a man, who from his youth upward had
been indefatigable in study and research, had the consciousness of
great talents and intellect, and had been universally recognised as
such, and had possessed a high character for fervent piety and
blameless morals. Kelly was an impudent adventurer, a man of no
principles and of blasted reputation; yet fertile in resources, full
of self-confidence, and of no small degree of ingenuity. In their
mutual intercourse the audacious adventurer often had the upper hand
of the man who had lately possessed a well-earned reputation. Kelly
frequently professed himself tired of enacting the character of
interpreter of the Gods under Dee. He found Dee in all cases running
away with the superior consideration; while he in his own opinion best
deserved to possess it. The straitness of their circumstances, and the
misery they were occasionally called on to endure, we may be sure did
not improve their good understanding. Kelly once and again threatened
to abandon his leader. Dee continually soothed him, and prevailed on
him to stay.

Kelly at length started a very extraordinary proposition. Kelly, as
interpreter to the spirits, and being the only person who heard and
saw any thing, we may presume made them say whatever he pleased. Kelly
and Dee had both of them wives. Kelly did not always live harmoniously
with the partner of his bed. He sometimes went so far as to say that
he hated her. Dee was more fortunate. His wife was a person of good
family, and had hitherto been irreproachable in her demeanour. The
spirits one day revealed to Kelly, that they must henceforth have
their wives in common. The wife of Kelly was barren, and this curse
could no otherwise be removed. Having started the proposition, Kelly
played the reluctant party. Dee, who was pious and enthusiastic,
inclined to submit. He first indeed started the notion, that it could
only be meant that they should live in mutual harmony and good
understanding. The spirits protested against this, and insisted upon
the literal interpretation. Dee yielded, and compared his case to that
of Abraham, who at the divine command consented to sacrifice his son
Isaac. Kelly alleged that these spirits, which Dee had hitherto
regarded as messengers from God, could be no other than servants of
Satan. He persisted in his disobedience; and the spirits declared that
he was no longer worthy to be their interpreter, and that another
mediator must be found.

They named Arthur Dee, the son of the possessor of the stone, a
promising and well-disposed boy of only eight years of age. Dee
consecrated the youth accordingly to his high function by prayers and
religious rites for several days together. Kelly took horse and rode
away, protesting that they should meet no more. Arthur entered upon
his office, April 15, 1587. The experiment proved abortive. He saw
something; but not to the purpose. He heard no voices. At length
Kelly, on the third day, entered the room unexpectedly, "by miraculous
fortune," as Dee says, "or a divine fate," sate down between them, and
immediately saw figures, and heard voices, which the little Arthur was
not enabled to perceive. In particular he saw four heads inclosed in
an obelisk, which he perceived to represent the two magicians and
their wives, and interpreted to signify that unlimited communion in
which they were destined to engage. The matter however being still an
occasion of scruple, a spirit appeared, who by the language he used
was plainly no other than the Saviour of the world, and took away from
them the larger stone; for now it appears there were two stones. This
miracle at length induced all parties to submit; and the divine
command was no sooner obeyed, than the stone which had been
abstracted, was found again under the pillow of the wife of Dee.

It is not easy to imagine a state of greater degradation than that
into which this person had now fallen. During all the prime and vigour
of his intellect, he had sustained an eminent part among the learned
and the great, distinguished and honoured by Elizabeth and her
favourite. But his unbounded arrogance and self-opinion could never be
satisfied. And seduced, partly by his own weakness, and partly by the
insinuations of a crafty adventurer, he became a mystic of the most
dishonourable sort. He was induced to believe in a series of
miraculous communications without common sense, engaged in the pursuit
of the philosopher's stone, and no doubt imagined that he was
possessed of the great secret. Stirred up by these conceptions, he
left his native country, and became a wanderer, preying upon the
credulity of one prince and eminent man after another, and no sooner
was he discarded by one victim of credulity, than he sought another,
a vagabond on the earth, reduced from time to time to the greatest
distress, persecuted, dishonoured and despised by every party in their
turn. At length by incessant degrees he became dead to all moral
distinctions, and all sense of honour and self-respect. "Professing
himself to be wise he became a fool, walked in the vanity of his
imagination," and had his understanding under total eclipse. The
immoral system of conduct in which he engaged, and the strange and
shocking blasphemy that he mixed with it, render him at this time a
sort of character that it is painful to contemplate.

Led on as Dee at this time was by the ascendancy and consummate art of
Kelly, there was far from existing any genuine harmony between them;
and, after many squabbles and heart-burnings, they appear finally to
have parted in January 1589, Dee having, according to his own account,
at that time delivered up to Kelly, the elixir and the different
implements by which the transmutation of metals was to be effected.

Various overtures appear to have passed now for some years between Dee
and queen Elizabeth, intended to lead to his restoration to his native
country. Dee had upon different occasions expressed a wish to that
effect; and Elizabeth in the spring of 1589 sent him a message, that
removed from him all further thought of hesitation and delay. He set
out from Trebona with three coaches, and a baggage train correspondent,
and had an audience of the queen at Richmond towards the close of that
year. Upon the whole it is impossible perhaps not to believe, that
Elizabeth was influenced in this proceeding by the various reports
that had reached her of his extraordinary success with the
philosopher's stone, and the boundless wealth he had it in his power
to bestow. Many princes at this time contended with each other, as to
who should be happy enough by fair means or by force to have under his
control the fortunate possessor of the great secret, and thus to have
in his possession the means of inexhaustible wealth. Shortly after
this time the emperor Rodolph seized and committed to prison Kelly,
the partner of Dee in this inestimable faculty, and, having once
enlarged him, placed him in custody a second time. Meanwhile Elizabeth
is said to have made him pressing overtures of so flattering a nature
that he determined to escape and return to his native country. For
this purpose he is said to have torn the sheets of his bed, and
twisted them into a rope, that by that means he might descend from
the tower in which he was confined. But, being a corpulent man of
considerable weight, the rope broke with him before he was half way
down, and, having fractured one or both his legs, and being otherwise
considerably bruised, he died shortly afterwards. This happened in
the year 1595.

Dee (according to his own account, delivered to commissioners
appointed by queen Elizabeth to enquire into his circumstances) came
from Trebona to England in a state little inferior to that of an
ambassador. He had three coaches, with four horses harnessed to each
coach, two or three loaded waggons, and a guard, sometimes of six,
and sometimes of twenty-four soldiers, to defend him from enemies,
who were supposed to lie in wait to intercept his passage. Immediately
on his arrival he had an audience of the queen at Richmond, by whom
he was most graciously received. She gave special orders, that he
should do what he would in chemistry and philosophy, and that no one
should on any account molest him.

But here end the prosperity and greatness of this extraordinary man.
If he possessed the power of turning all baser metals into gold, he
certainly acted unadvisedly in surrendering this power to his
confederate, immediately before his return to his native country.
He parted at the same time with his gift of prophecy, since, though
he brought away with him his miraculous stone, and at one time
appointed one Bartholomew, and another one Hickman, his interpreters
to look into the stone, to see the marvellous sights it was expected
to disclose, and to hear the voices and report the words that issued
from it, the experiments proved in both instances abortive. They
wanted the finer sense, or the unparalleled effrontery and
inexhaustible invention, which Kelly alone possessed.

The remainder of the voyage of the life of Dee was "bound in shallows
and in miseries." Queen Elizabeth we may suppose soon found that her
dreams of immense wealth to be obtained through his intervention were
nugatory. Yet would she not desert the favourite of her former years.
He presently began to complain of poverty and difficulties. He
represented that the revenue of two livings he held in the church
had been withheld from him from the time of his going abroad. He
stated that, shortly after that period, his house had been broken
into and spoiled by a lawless mob, instigated by his ill fame as a
dealer in prohibited and unlawful arts. They destroyed or dispersed
his library, consisting of four thousand volumes, seven hundred of
which were manuscripts, and of inestimable rarity. They ravaged his
collection of curious implements and machines. He enumerated the
expences of his journey home by Elizabeth's command, for which he
seemed to consider the queen as his debtor. Elizabeth in consequence
ordered him at several times two or three small sums. But this being
insufficient, she was prevailed upon in 1592 to appoint two members
of her privy council to repair to his house at Mortlake to enquire
into particulars, to whom he made a Compendious Rehearsal of half
a hundred years of his life, accompanied with documents and vouchers.

It is remarkable that in this Rehearsal no mention occurs of the
miraculous stone brought down to him by an angel, or of his
pretensions respecting the transmutation of metals. He merely rests,
his claims to public support upon his literary labours, and the
acknowledged eminence of his intellectual faculties. He passes over
the years he had lately spent in foreign countries, in entire silence,
unless we except his account of the particulars of his journey home.
His representation to Elizabeth not being immediately productive of
all the effects he expected, he wrote a letter to archbishop Whitgift
two years after, lamenting the delay of the expected relief, and
complaining of the "untrue reports, opinions and fables, which had
for so many years been spread of his studies." He represents these
studies purely as literary, frank, and wholly divested of mystery.
If the "True Relation of what passed for many years between Dr. Dee
and certain Spirits" had not been preserved, and afterwards printed,
we might have been disposed to consider all that was said on this
subject as a calumny.

The promotion which Dee had set his heart on, was to the office of
master of St. Cross's Hospital near Winchester, which the queen had
promised him when the present holder should be made a bishop. But
this never happened. He obtained however in lieu of it the
chancellorship of St. Paul's cathedral, 8 December 1594, which in
the following year he exchanged for the wardenship of the college
at Manchester. In this last office he continued till the year 1602
(according to other accounts 1604), during which time he complained
of great dissention and refractoriness on the part of the fellows;
though it may perhaps be doubted whether equal blame may not fairly
be imputed to the arrogance and restlessness of the warden. At length
he receded altogether from public life, and retired to his ancient
domicile at Mortlake. He made one attempt to propitiate the favour
of king James; but it was ineffectual. Elizabeth had known him in
the flower and vigour of his days; he had boasted the uniform
patronage of her chief favourite; he had been recognised by the
philosophical and the learned as inferior to none of their body,
and he had finally excited the regard of his ancient mistress by
his pretence to revelations, and the promises he held out of the
philosopher's stone. She could not shake off her ingrafted prejudice
in his favour; she could not find in her heart to cast him aside in
his old age and decay. But then came a king, to whom in his prosperity
and sunshine he had been a stranger. He wasted his latter days in
dotage, obscurity and universal neglect. No one has told us how he
contrived to subsist. We may be sure that his constant companions
were mortification and the most humiliating privations. He lingered
on till the year 1608; and the ancient people in the time of Antony
Wood, nearly a century afterwards, pointed to his grave in the chancel
of the church at Mortlake, and professed to know the very spot where
his remains were desposited.

The history of Dee is exceedingly interesting, not only on its own
account; not only for the eminence of his talents and attainments,
and the incredible sottishness and blindness of understanding which
marked his maturer years; but as strikingly illustrative of the
credulity and superstitious faith of the time in which he lived. At
a later period his miraculous stone which displayed such wonders,
and was attended with so long a series of supernatural vocal
communications would have deceived nobody: it was scarcely more
ingenious than the idle tricks of the most ordinary conjurer. But
at this period the crust of long ages of darkness had not yet been
fully worn away. Men did not trust to the powers of human
understanding, and were not familiarised with the main canons of
evidence and belief. Dee passed six years on the continent, proceeding
from the court of one prince or potent nobleman to another, listened
to for a time by each, each regarding his oracular communications
with astonishment and alarm, and at length irresolutely casting him
off, when he found little or no difficulty in running a like career
with another.

It is not the least curious circumstance respecting the life of Dee,
that in 1659, half a century after his death, there remained still
such an interest respecting practices of this sort, as to authorise
the printing a folio volume, in a complex and elaborate form, of his
communications with spirits. The book was brought out by Dr. Meric
Casaubon, no contemptible name in the republic of letters. The editor
observes respecting the hero and his achievements in the Preface,
that, "though his carriage in certain respects seemed to lay in works
of darkness, yet all was tendered by him to kings and princes, and
by all (England alone excepted) was listened to for a good while with
good respect, and by some for a long time embraced and entertained."
He goes on to say, that "the fame of it made the pope bestir himself,
and filled all, both learned and unlearned, with great wonder and
astonishment." He adds, that, "as a whole it is undoubtedly not to
be paralleled in its kind in any age or country." In a word the
editor, though disavowing an entire belief in Dee's pretensions, yet
plainly considers them with some degree of deference, and insinuates
to how much more regard such undue and exaggerated pretensions are
entitled, than the impious incredulity of certain modern Sadducees,
who say that "there is no resurrection; neither angel, nor spirit."
The belief in witchcraft and sorcery has undoutedly met with some
degree of favour from this consideration, inasmuch as, by recognising
the correspondence of human beings with the invisible world, it has
one principle in common with the believers in revelation, of which
the more daring infidel is destitute.


The circumstances of the death of Ferdinand, fifth earl of Derby,
in 1594, have particularly engaged the attention of the contemporary
historians. Hesket, an emissary of the Jesuits and English Catholics
abroad, was importunate with this nobleman to press his title to the
crown, as the legal representative of his great-grandmother Mary,
youngest daughter to king Henry the Seventh. But the earl, fearing,
as it is said, that this was only a trap to ensnare him, gave
information against Hesket to the government, in consequence of which
he was apprehended, tried and executed. Hesket had threatened the
earl that, if he did not comply with his suggestion, he should live
only a short time. Accordingly, four months afterwards, the earl was
seized with a very uncommon disease. A waxen image was at the same
time found in his chamber with hairs in its belly exactly of the same
colour as those of the earl. [211] The image was, by some zealous
friend of lord Derby, burned; but the earl grew worse. He was himself
thoroughly persuaded that he was bewitched. Stow has inserted in his
Annals a minute account of his disease from day to day, with a
description of all the symptoms.


While Elizabeth amused herself with the supernatural gifts to which
Dee advanced his claim, and consoled the adversity and destitution
to which the old man, once so extensively honoured, was now reduced,
a scene of a very different complexion was played in the northern
part of the island. Trials for sorcery were numerous in the reign
of Mary queen of Scots; the comparative darkness and ignorance of
the sister kingdom rendered it a soil still more favourable than
England to the growth of these gloomy superstitions. But the mind
of James, at once inquisitive, pedantic and self-sufficient,
peculiarly fitted him for the pursuit of these narrow-minded and
obscure speculations. One combination of circumstances wrought up
this propensity within him to the greatest height.

James was born in the year 1566. He was the only direct heir to the
crown of Scotland; and he was in near prospect of succession to that
of England. The zeal of the Protestant Reformation had wrought up
the anxiety of men's minds to a fever of anticipation and forecast.
Consequently, towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth, a point which
greatly arrested the general attention was the expected marriage of
the king of Scotland. Elizabeth, with that petty jealousy which
obscured the otherwise noble qualities of her spirit, sought to
countermine this marriage, that her rival and expected successor might
not be additionally graced with the honours of offspring. James fixed
his mind upon a daughter of the king of Denmark. By the successful
cabals of Elizabeth he was baffled in this suit; and the lady was
finally married to the duke of Bavaria. The king of Denmark had
another daughter; and James made proposals to this princess. Still
he was counteracted; till at length he sent a splendid embassy, with
ample powers and instructions, and the treaty was concluded. The
princess embarked; but, when she had now for some time been expected
in Scotland, news was brought instead, that she had been driven back
by tempests on the coast of Norway. The young king felt keenly his
disappointment, and gallantly resolved to sail in person for the port,
where his intended consort was detained by the shattered condition
of her fleet. James arrived on the twenty-second of October 1589,
and having consummated his marriage, was induced by the invitation
of his father-in-law to pass the winter at Copenhagen, from whence
he did not sail till the spring, and, after having encountered a
variety of contrary winds and some danger, reached Edinburgh on the
first of May in the following year.

It was to be expected that variable weather and storms should
characterise the winter-season in these seas. But the storms were
of longer continuance and of more frequent succession, than was
usually known. And at this period, when the proposed consort of James
first, then the king himself, and finally both of them, and the hope
of Protestant succession, were committed to the mercy of the waves,
it is not wonderful that the process of the seasons should be
accurately marked, and that those varieties, which are commonly
ascribed to second causes, should have been imputed to extraordinary
and supernatural interference. It was affirmed that, in the king's
return from Denmark, his ship was impelled by a different wind from
that which acted on the rest of his fleet.

It happened that, soon after James's return to Scotland, one Geillis
Duncan, a servant-maid, for the extraordinary circumstances that
attended certain cures which she performed, became suspected of
witchcraft. Her master questioned her on the subject; but she would
own nothing. Perceiving her obstinacy, the master took upon himself
of his own authority, to extort confession from her by torture. In
this he succeeded; and, having related divers particulars of
witchcraft of herself, she proceeded to accuse others. The persons
she accused were cast into the public prison.

One of these, Agnes Sampson by name, at first stoutly resisted the
torture. But, it being more strenuously applied, she by and by became
extremely communicative. It was at this period that James personally
engaged in the examinations. We are told that he "took great delight
in being present," and putting the proper questions. The unhappy
victim was introduced into a room plentifully furnished with
implements of torture, while the king waited in an apartment at a
convenient distance, till the patient was found to be in a suitable
frame of mind to make the desired communications. No sooner did he
or she signify that they were ready, and should no longer refuse to
answer, than they were introduced, fainting, sinking under recent
sufferings which they had no longer strength to resist, into the royal
presence. And here sat James, in envied ease and conscious "delight,"
wrapped up in the thought of his own sagacity, framing the enquiries
that might best extort the desired evidence, and calculating with
a judgment by no means to be despised, from the bearing, the turn
of features, and the complexion of the victim, the probability whether
he was making a frank and artless confession, or had still the secret
desire to impose on the royal examiner, or from a different motive
was disposed to make use of the treacherous authority which the
situation afforded, to gratify his revenge upon some person towards
whom he might be inspired with latent hatred and malice.

Agnes Sampson related with what solicitude she had sought to possess
some fragment of the linen belonging to the king. If he had worn it,
and it had contracted any soil from his royal person, this would be
enough: she would infallibly, by applying her incantations to this
fragment, have been able to undermine the life of the sovereign. She
told how she with two hundred other witches had sailed in sieves from
Leith to North Berwick church, how they had there encountered the
devil in person, how they had feasted with him, and what obscenities
had been practised. She related that in this voyage they had drowned
a cat, having first baptised him, and that immediately a dreadful
storm had arisen, and in this very storm the king's ship had been
separated from the rest of his fleet. She took James aside, and, the
better to convince him, undertook to repeat to him the conversation,
the dialogue which had passed from the one to the other, between the
king and queen in their bedchamber on the wedding-night. Agnes Sampson
was condemned to the flames.


Another of the miserable victims on this occasion was John Fian, a
schoolmaster at Tranent near Edinburgh, a young man, whom the ignorant
populace had decorated with the style of doctor. He was tortured by
means of a rope strongly twisted about his head, and by the boots.
He was at length brought to confession. He told of a young girl, the
sister of one of his scholars, with whom he had been deeply enamoured.
He had proposed to the boy to bring him three hairs from the most
secret part of his sister's body, possessing which he should be
enabled by certain incantations to procure himself the love of the
girl. The boy at his mother's instigation brought to Fian three hairs
from a virgin heifer instead; and, applying his conjuration to them,
the consequence had been that the heifer forced her way into his
school, leaped upon him in amorous fashion, and would not be
restrained from following him about the neighbourhood.

This same Fian acted an important part in the scene at North Berwick
church. As being best fitted for the office, he was appointed recorder
or clerk to the devil, to write down the names, and administer the
oaths to the witches. He was actively concerned in the enchantment,
by means of which the king's ship had nearly been lost on his return
from Denmark. This part of his proceeding however does not appear
in his own confession, but in that of the witches who were his

He further said, that, the night after he made his confession, the
devil appeared to him, and was in a furious rage against him for his
disloyalty to his service, telling him that he should severely repent
his infidelity. According to his own account, he stood firm, and
defied the devil to do his worst. Meanwhile the next night he escaped
out of prison, and was with some difficulty retaken. He however
finally denied all his former confessions, said that they were
falshoods forced from him by mere dint of torture, and, though he
was now once more subjected to the same treatment to such an excess
as must necessarily have crippled him of his limbs for ever, he proved
inflexible to the last. At length by the king's order he was
strangled, and his body cast into the flames. Multitudes of unhappy
men and women perished in this cruel persecution. [212]


It was by a train of observations and experience like this, that James
was prompted seven years after to compose and publish his Dialogues
on Demonology in Three Books. In the Preface to this book he says,
"The fearfull abounding at this time in this countrey, of these
detestable slaves of the Diuel, the Witches or enchaunters, hath moved
me (beloued Reader) to dispatch in post this following Treatise of
mine, not in any wise (as I protest) to serue for a shew of my
learning and ingine, but onely (moued of conscience) to preasse
thereby, so farre as I can, to resolue the doubting hearts of many,
both that such assaults of Satan are most certainely practised, and
that the instruments thereof merits most seuerely to be punished."

In the course of the treatise he affirms, "that barnes, or wiues,
or neuer so diffamed persons, may serue for sufficient witnesses and
proofes in such trialls; for who but Witches can be prooves, and so
witnesses of the doings of Witches?" [213] But, lest innocent persons
should be accused, and suffer falsely, he tells us, "There are two
other good helps that may be used for their trial: the one is, the
finding of their marke [a mark that the devil was supposed to impress
upon some part of their persons], and the trying the insensibleness
thereof: the other is their fleeting on the water: for, as in a secret
murther, if the dead carkasse be at any time thereafter handled by
the murtherer, it will gush out of bloud, as if the bloud were crying
to the heauen for revenge of the murtherer, God hauing appointed that
secret supernaturall signe, for triall of that secret unnaturall
crime, so it appears that God hath appointed (for a supernaturall
signe of the monstrous impietie of Witches) that the water shall
refuse to receive them in her bosome, that haue shaken off them the
sacred water of Baptisme, and wilfully refused the benefite thereof:
No, not so much as their eyes are able to shed teares (threaten and
torture them as ye please) while first they repent (God not permitting
them to dissemble their obstinacie in so horrible a crime.)" [214]


In consequence of the strong conviction James entertained on the
subject, the English parliament was induced, in the first year of
his reign, to supersede the milder proceedings of Elizabeth, and to
enact that "if any person shall use, practice, or exercise any
invocation or conjuration of any evil and wicked spirit, or shall
consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil
and wicked spirit, to or for any intent and purpose; or take up any
dead man, woman, or child out of their grave, or the skin, bone, or
any part of any dead person, to be used in any manner of witchcraft,
sorcery or enchantment, or shall use any witchcraft, sorcery or
enchantment, whereby any person shall be killed, destroyed, wasted,
consumed, pined or lamed in his or her body, or any part thereof;
that then every such offender, their aiders, abettors and counsellors
shall suffer the pains of death." And upon this statute great numbers
were condemned and executed.


There is a story of necromancy which unfortunately makes too prominent
a figure in the history of the court and character of king James the
First. Robert earl of Essex, son of queen Elizabeth's favourite, and
who afterwards became commander in chief of the parliamentary forces
in the civil wars, married lady Frances Howard, a younger daughter
of the earl of Suffolk, the bride and bridegroom being the one
thirteen, the other fourteen years old at the time of the marriage.
The relatives of the countess however, who had brought about the
match, thought it most decorous to separate them for some time, and,
while she remained at home with her friends, the bridegroom travelled
for three or four years on the continent. The lady proved the greatest
beauty of her time, but along with this had the most libertine and
unprincipled dispositions.

The very circumstance that she had vowed her faith at the altar when
she was not properly capable of choice, inspired into the wayward
mind of the countess a repugnance to her husband. He came from the
continent, replete with accomplishments; and we may conclude, from
the figure he afterwards made in the most perilous times, not without
a competent share of intellectual abilities. But the countess shrank
from all advances on his part. He loved retirement, and woed the lady
to scenes most favourable to the development of the affections: she
had been bred in court, and was melancholy and repined in any other
scene. So capricious was her temper, that she is said at the same
time to have repelled the overtures of the accomplished and popular
prince Henry, the heir to the throne.

It happened about this period that a beautiful young man, twenty years
of age, and full of all martial graces, appeared on the stage. King
James was singularly partial to young men who were distinguished for
personal attractions. By an extraordinary accident this person, Robert
Carr by name, in the midst of a court-spectacle, just when it was
his cue to present a buckler with a device to the king, was thrown
from his horse, and broke his leg. This was enough: James naturally
became interested in the misfortune, attached himself to Carr, and
even favoured him again and again with a royal visit during his cure.
Presently the young man became an exclusive favourite; and no honours
and graces could be obtained of the sovereign but by his interference.

This circumstance fixed the wavering mind of the countess of Essex.
Voluptuous and self-willed in her disposition, she would hear of no
one but Carr. But her opportunities of seeing him were both short
and rare. In this emergency she applied to Mrs. Turner, a woman whose
profession it was to study and to accommodate the fancies of such
persons as the countess. Mrs. Turner introduced her to Dr. Forman,
a noted astrologer and magician, and he, by images made of wax, and
various uncouth figures and devices, undertook to procure the love
of Carr to the lady. At the same time he practised against the earl,
that he might become impotent, at least towards his wife. This however
did not satisfy the lady; and having gone the utmost lengths towards
her innamorato, she insisted on a divorce in all the forms, and a
legal marriage with the youth she loved. Carr appears originally to
have had good dispositions; and, while that was the case, had
assiduously cultivated the friendship of Sir Thomas Overbury, one
of the most promising young courtiers of the time. Sir Thomas
earnestly sought to break off the intimacy of Carr with lady Essex,
and told him how utterly ruinous to his reputation and prospects it
would prove, if he married her. But Carr, instead of feeling how much
obliged he was to Overbury for this example of disinterested
friendship, went immediately and told the countess what the young
man said.

From this time the destruction of Overbury was resolved on between
them. He was first committed to the Tower by an arbitrary mandate
of James for refusing an embassage to Russia, next sequestered from
all visitors, and finally attacked with poison, which, after several
abortive attempts, was at length brought to effect. Meanwhile a
divorce was sued for by the countess upon an allegation of impotence;
and another female was said to have been substituted in her room,
to be subjected to the inspection of a jury of matrons in proof of
her virginity. After a lapse of two years the murder was brought to
light, the inferior criminals, Mrs. Turner and the rest, convicted
and executed, and Carr, now earl of Somerset, and his countess, found
guilty, but received the royal pardon.--It is proper to add, in order
to give a just idea of the state of human credulity at this period,
that, Forman having died at the time that his services were deemed
most necessary, one Gresham first, and then a third astrologer and
enchanter were brought forward, to consummate the atrocious projects
of the infamous countess. It is said that she and her second husband
were ultimately so thoroughly alienated from each other, that they
resided for years under the same roof, with the most careful
precautions that they might not by any chance come into each other's
presence. [215]


It is worthy of remark however that king James lived to alter his
mind extremely on the question of witchcraft. He was active in his
observations on the subject; and we are told that "the frequency of
forged possessions which were detected by him wrought such an
alteration in his judgment, that he, receding from what he had written
in his early life, grew first diffident of, and then flatly to deny,
the working of witches and devils, as but falshoods and delusions."


A more melancholy tale does not occur in the annals of necromancy
than that of the Lancashire witches in 1612. The scene of this story
is in Pendlebury Forest, four or five miles from Manchester,
remarkable for its picturesque and gloomy situation. Such places were
not sought then as now, that they might afford food for the
imagination, and gratify the refined taste of the traveller. They
were rather shunned as infamous for scenes of depredation and murder,
or as the consecrated haunts of diabolical intercourse. Pendlebury
had been long of ill repute on this latter account, when a country
magistrate, Roger Nowel by name, conceived about this time that he
should do a public service, by rooting out a nest of witches, who
rendered the place a terror to all the neighbouring vulgar. The first
persons he seized on were Elizabeth Demdike and Ann Chattox, the
former of whom was eighty years of age, and had for some years been
blind, who subsisted principally by begging, though she had a
miserable hovel on the spot, which she called her own. Ann Chattox
was of the same age, and had for some time been threatened with the
calamity of blindness. Demdike was held to be so hardened a witch,
that she had trained all her family to the mystery; namely, Elizabeth
Device, her daughter, and James and Alison Device, her grandchildren.
In the accusation of Chattox was also involved Ann Redferne, her
daughter. These, together with John Bulcock, and Jane his mother,
Alice Nutter, Catherine Hewit, and Isabel Roby, were successively
apprehended by the diligence of Nowel and one or two neighbouring
magistrates, and were all of them by some means induced, some to make
a more liberal, and others a more restricted confession of their
misdeeds in witchcraft, and were afterwards hurried away to Lancaster
Castle, fifty miles off, to prison. Their crimes were said to have
universally proceeded from malignity and resentment; and it was
reported to have repeatedly happened for poor old Demdike to be led
by night from her habitation into the open air by some member of her
family, when she was left alone for an hour to curse her victim, and
pursue her unholy incantations, and was then sought, and brought again
to her hovel. Her curses never failed to produce the desired effect.

These poor wretches had been but a short time in prison, when
information was given, that a meeting of witches was held on Good
Friday, at Malkin's Tower, the habitation of Elizabeth Device, to
the number of twenty persons, to consult how by infernal machinations
to kill one Covel, an officer, to blow up Lancaster Castle, and
deliver the prisoners, and to kill another man of the name of Lister.
The last was effected. The other plans by some means, we are not told
how, were prevented.

The prisoners were kept in jail till the summer assizes; and in the
mean time it fortunately happened that the poor blind Demdike died
in confinement, and was never brought up to trial.

The other prisoners were severally indicted for killing by witchcraft
certain persons who were named, and were all found guilty. The
principal witnesses against Elizabeth Device were James Device and
Jennet Device, her grandchildren, the latter only nine years of age.
When this girl was put into the witness-box, the grandmother, on
seeing her, set up so dreadful a yell, intermixed with bitter curses,
that the child declared that she could not go on with her evidence,
unless the prisoner was removed. This was agreed to; and both brother
and sister swore, that they had been present, when the devil came
to their grandmother in the shape of a black dog, and asked her what
she desired. She said, the death of John Robinson; when the dog told
her to make an image of Robinson in clay, and after crumble it into
dust, and as fast as the image perished, the life of the victim should
waste away, and in conclusion the man should die. This evidence was
received; and upon such testimony, and testimony like this, ten
persons were led to the gallows, on the twentieth of August, Ann
Chattox of eighty years of age among the rest, the day after the
trials, which lasted two days, were finished. The judges who presided
on these trials were sir James Altham and sir Edward Bromley, barons
of the exchequer. [217]

From the whole of this story it is fair to infer, that these old women
had played at the game of commerce with the devil. It had flattered
their vanity, to make their simpler neighbours afraid of them. To
observe the symptoms of their rustic terror, even of their hatred
and detestation, had been gratifying to them. They played the game
so long, that in an imperfect degree they deceived themselves. Human
passions are always to a certain degree infectious. Perceiving the
hatred of their neighbours, they began to think that they were worthy
objects of detestation and terror, that their imprecations had a real
effect, and their curses killed. The brown horrors of the forest were
favourable to visions; and they sometimes almost believed, that they
met the foe of mankind in the night.--But, when Elizabeth Device
actually saw her grandchild of nine years old placed in the
witness-box, with the intention of consigning her to a public and
an ignominious end, then the reveries of the imagination vanished,
and she deeply felt the reality, that, where she had been somewhat
imposing on the child in devilish sport, she had been whetting the
dagger that was to take her own life, and digging her own grave. It
was then no wonder that she uttered a preternatural yell, and poured
curses from the bottom of her heart. It must have been almost beyond
human endurance, to hear the cry of her despair, and to witness the
curses and the agony in which it vented itself.

Twenty-two years elapsed after this scene, when a wretched man, of
the name of Edmund Robinson, conceived on the same spot the scheme
of making himself a profitable speculation from a similar source.
He trained his son, eleven years of age, and furnished him with the
necessary instructions. He taught him to say that one day in the
fields he had met with two dogs, which he urged on to hunt a hare.
They would not budge; and he in revenge tied them to a bush and
whipped them; when suddenly one of them was transformed into an old
woman and the other into a child, a witch and her imp. This story
succeeded so well, that the father soon after gave out that his son
had an eye that could distinguish a witch by sight, and took him round
to the neighbouring churches, where he placed him standing on a bench
after service, and bade him look round and see what he could observe.
The device, however clumsy, succeeded, and no less than seventeen
persons were apprehended at the boy's selection, and conducted to
Lancaster Castle. These seventeen persons were tried at the assizes,
and found guilty; but the judge, whose name has unfortunately been
lost, unlike sir James Altham and sir Edward Bromley, saw something
in the case that excited his suspicion, and, though the juries had
not hesitated in any one instance, respited the convicts, and sent
up a report of the affair to the government. Twenty-two years on this
occasion had not elapsed in vain. Four of the prisoners were by the
judge's recommendation sent for to the metropolis, and were examined
first by the king's physicians, and then by Charles the First in
person. The boy's story was strictly scrutinised. In fine he confessed
that it was all an imposture; and the whole seventeen received the
royal pardon. [218]


Eleanor Tuchet, daughter of George lord Audley, married sir John
Davies, an eminent lawyer in the time of James the First, and author
of a poem of considerable merit on the Immortality of the Soul. This
lady was a person of no contemptible talents; but what she seems most
to have valued herself upon, was her gift of prophecy; and she
accordingly printed a book of Strange and Wonderful Predictions. She
professed to receive her prophecies from a spirit, who communicated
to her audibly things about to come to pass, though the voice could
be heard by no other person. Sir John Davies was nominated lord chief
justice of the king's bench in 1626. Before he was inducted into the
office, lady Eleanor, sitting with him on Sunday at dinner, suddenly
burst into a passion of tears. Sir John asked her what made her weep.
To which she replied, "These are your funeral tears." Sir John turned
off the prediction with a merry answer. But in a very few days he
was seized with an apoplexy, of which he presently died. [219]--She
also predicted the death of the duke of Buckingham in the same year.
For this assumption of the gift of prophecy, she was cited before
the high-commission-court and examined in 1634. [220]


It is a painful task to record, that Edward Fairfax, the harmonious
and elegant translator of Tasso, prosecuted six of his neighbours
at York assizes in the year 1622, for witchcraft on his children.
"The common facts of imps, fits, and the apparition of the witches,
were deposed against the prisoners." The grand jury found the bill,
and the accused were arraigned. But, we are told, "the judge, having
a certificate of the sober behaviour of the prisoners, directed the
jury so well as to induce them to bring in a verdict of acquittal."
[221] The poet afterwards drew up a bulky argument and narrative in
vindication of his conduct.


Dr. Lamb was a noted sorcerer in the time of Charles the First. The
famous Richard Baxter, in his Certainty of the World of Spirits,
printed in 1691, has recorded an appropriate instance of the
miraculous performances of this man. Meeting two of his acquaintance
in the street, and they having intimated a desire to witness some
example of his skill, he invited them home with him. He then conducted
them into an inner room, when presently, to their no small surprise,
they saw a tree spring up in the middle of the apartment. They had
scarcely ceased wondering at this phenomenon, when in a moment there
appeared three diminutive men, with little axes in their hands for
the purpose of cutting down this tree. The tree was felled; and the
doctor dismissed his guests, fully satisfied of the solidity of his
pretensions. That very night however a tremendous hurricane arose,
causing the house of one of the guests to rock from side to side,
with every appearance that the building would come down, and bury
him and his wife in the ruins. The wife in great terror asked, "Were
you not at Dr. Lamb's to-day?" The husband confessed it was true.
"And did you not bring away something from his house?" The husband
owned that, when the little men felled the tree, he had been idle
enough to pick up some of the chips, and put them in his pocket.
Nothing now remained to be done, but to produce the chips, and get
rid of them as fast as they could. This ceremony performed, the
whirlwind immediately ceased, and the remainder of the night became
perfectly calm and serene.

Dr. Lamb at length became so odious by his reputation for these
infernal practices, that the populace rose upon him in 1640, and tore
him to pieces in the streets.--Nor did the effects of his ill fame
terminate here. Thirteen years after, a woman, who had been his
servant-maid, was apprehended on a charge of witchcraft, was tried,
and in expiation of her crime was executed at Tyburn.


A few years previously to the catastrophe of Dr. Lamb, there occurred
a scene in France which it is eminently to the purpose of this work
to record. Urbain Grandier, a canon of the church, and a popular
preacher of the town of Loudun in the district of Poitiers, was in
the year 1634 brought to trial upon the accusation of magic. The first
cause of his being thus called in question was the envy of his rival
preachers, whose fame was eclipsed by his superior talents. The second
cause was a libel falsely imputed to him upon cardinal Richelieu,
who with all his eminent qualities had the infirmity of being
inexorable upon the question of any personal attack that was made
upon him. Grandier, beside his eloquence, was distinguished for his
courage and resolution, for the gracefulness of his figure, and the
extraordinary attention he paid to the neatness of his dress and the
decoration of his person, which last circumstance brought upon him
the imputation of being too much devoted to the service of the fair.

About this time certain nuns of the convent of Ursulines at Loudun
were attacked with a disease which manifested itself by very
extraordinary symptoms, suggesting to many the idea that they were
possessed with devils. A rumour was immediately spread that Grandier,
urged by some offence he had conceived against these nuns, was the
author, by the skill he had in the arts of sorcery, of these
possessions. It unfortunately happened, that the same capuchin friar
who assured cardinal Richelieu that Grandier was the writer of the
libel against him, also communicated to him the story of the possessed
nuns, and the suspicion which had fallen on the priest on their
account. The cardinal seized with avidity on this occasion of private
vengeance, wrote to a counsellor of state at Loudun, one of his
creatures, to cause a strict investigation to be made into the charge,
and in such terms as plainly implied that what he aimed at was the
destruction of Grandier.

The trial took place in the month of August 1634; and, according to
the authorised copy of the trial, Grandier was convicted upon the
evidence of Astaroth, a devil of the order of Seraphims, and chief
of the possessing devils, of Easas, of Celsus, of Acaos, of Cedon,
of Asmodeus of the order of thrones, of Alex, of Zabulon, of
Naphthalim, of Cham, of Uriel, and of Achas of the order of
principalities, and sentenced to be burned alive. In other words,
he was convicted upon the evidence of twelve nuns, who, being asked
who they were, gave in these names, and professed to be devils, that,
compelled by the order of the court, delivered a constrained
testimony. The sentence was accordingly executed, and Grandier met
his fate with heroic constancy. At his death an enormous drone fly
was seen buzzing about his head; and a monk, who was present at the
execution, attested that, whereas the devils are accustomed to present
themselves in the article of death to tempt men to deny God their
Saviour, this was Beelzebub, which in Hebrew signifies the God of
flies, come to carry away to hell the soul of the victim. [222]


The supposed science of astrology is of a nature less tremendous,
and less appalling to the imagination, than the commerce with devils
and evil spirits, or the raising of the dead from the peace of the
tomb to effect certain magical operations, or to instruct the living
as to the events that are speedily to befal them. Yet it is well
worthy of attention in a work of this sort, if for no other reason,
because it has prevailed in almost all nations and ages of the world,
and has been assiduously cultivated by men, frequently of great
talent, and who were otherwise distinguished for the soundness of
their reasoning powers, and for the steadiness and perseverance of
their application to the pursuits in which they engaged.

The whole of the question was built upon the supposed necessary
connection of certain aspects and conjunctions or oppositions of the
stars and heavenly bodies, with the events of the world and the
characters and actions of men. The human mind has ever confessed an
anxiety to pry into the future, and to deal in omens and prophetic
suggestions, and, certain coincidences having occurred however
fortuitously, to deduce from them rules and maxims upon which to build
an anticipation of things to come.

Add to which, it is flattering to the pride of man, to suppose all
nature concerned with and interested in what is of importance to
ourselves. Of this we have an early example in the song of Deborah
in the Old Testament, where, in a fit of pious fervour and exaltation,
the poet exclaims, "They fought from heaven; the stars in their
courses fought against Sisera." [223]

The general belief in astrology had a memorable effect on the history
of the human mind. All men in the first instance have an intuitive
feeling of freedom in the acts they perform, and of consequence of
praise or blame due to them in just proportion to the integrity or
baseness of the motives by which they are actuated. This is in reality
the most precious endowment of man. Hence it comes that the good man
feels a pride and self-complacency in acts of virtue, takes credit
to himself for the independence of his mind, and is conscious of the
worth and honour to which he feels that he has a rightful claim. But,
if all our acts are predetermined by something out of ourselves, if,
however virtuous and honourable are our dispositions, we are overruled
by our stars, and compelled to the acts, which, left to ourselves,
we should most resolutely disapprove, our condition becomes slavery,
and we are left in a state the most abject and hopeless. And, though
our situation in this respect is merely imaginary, it does not the
less fail to have very pernicious results to our characters. Men,
so far as they are believers in astrology, look to the stars, and
not to themselves, for an account of what they shall do, and resign
themselves to the omnipotence of a fate which they feel it in vain
to resist. Of consequence, a belief in astrology has the most
unfavourable tendency as to the morality of man; and, were it not
that the sense of the liberty of our actions is so strong that all
the reasonings in the world cannot subvert it, there would be a fatal
close to all human dignity and all human virtue.


One of the most striking examples of the ascendancy of astrological
faith is in the instance of William Lilly. This man has fortunately
left us a narrative of his own life; and he comes sufficiently near
to our time, to give us a feeling of reality in the transactions in
which he was engaged, and to bring the scenes home to our business
and bosoms.

Before he enters expressly upon the history of his life, he gives
us incidentally an anecdote which merits our attention, as tending
strongly to illustrate the credulity of man at the periods of which
we treat.

Lilly was born in the year 1602. When certain circumstances led his
yet undetermined thoughts to the study of astrology as his principal
pursuit, he put himself in the year 1632 under the tuition of one
Evans, whom he describes as poor, ignorant, drunken, presumptuous
and knavish, but who had a character, as the phrase was, for erecting
a figure, predicting future events, discovering secrets, restoring
stolen goods, and even for raising a spirit when he pleased. Sir
Kenelm Digby was one of the most promising characters of these times,
extremely handsome and graceful in his person, accomplished in all
military exercises, endowed with high intellectual powers, and
indefatigably inquisitive after knowledge. To render him the more
remarkable, he was the eldest son of Everard Digby, who was the most
eminent sufferer for the conspiracy of the Gunpowder Treason.

It was, as it seems, some time before Lilly became acquainted with
Evans, that lord Bothwel and sir Kenelm Digby came to Evans at his
lodgings in the Minories, for the express purpose of desiring him
to shew them a spirit. Sir Kenelm was born in the year 1603; he must
have been therefore at this time a young man, but sufficiently old
to know what he sought, and to choose the subjects of his enquiry
with a certain discretion. Evans consented to gratify the curiosity
of his illustrious visitors. He drew a circle, and placed himself
and the two strangers within the circle. He began his invocations.
On a sudden, Evans was taken away from the others, and found himself,
he knew not how, in Battersea Fields near the Thames. The next morning
a countryman discovered him asleep, and, having awaked him, in answer
to his enquiries told him where he was. Evans in the afternoon sent
a messenger to his wife, to inform her of his safety, and to calm
the apprehensions she might reasonably entertain. Just as the
messenger arrived, sir Kenelm Digby came to the house, curious to
enquire respecting the issue of the adventure of yesterday. Lilly
received this story from Evans; and, having asked him how such an
event came to attend on the experiment, was answered that, in
practising the invocation, he had heedlessly omitted the necessary
suffumigation, at which omission the spirit had taken offence.

Lilly made some progress in astrology under Evans, and practised the
art in minor matters with a certain success; but his ambition led
him to aspire to the highest place in his profession. He made an
experiment to discover a hidden treasure in Westminster Abbey; and,
having obtained leave for that purpose from the bishop of Lincoln,
dean of Westminster, he resorted to the spot with about thirty persons
more, with divining rods. He fixed on the place according to the
rules, and began to dig; but he had not proceeded far, before a
furious storm came on, and he judged it advisable to "dismiss the
demons," and desist. These supernatural assistants, he says, had taken
offence at the number and levity of the persons present; and, if he
had not left off when he did, he had no doubt that the storm would
have grown more and more violent, till the whole structure would have
been laid level with the ground.

He purchased himself a house to which to retire in 1636 at Hersham
near Walton on Thames, having, though originally bred in the lowest
obscurity, twice enriched himself in some degree by marriage. He came
to London with a view to practise his favourite art in 1641; but,
having received a secret monition warning him that he was not yet
sufficiently an adept, he retired again into the country for two
years, and did not finally commence his career till 1644, when he
published a Prophetical Almanac, which he continued to do till about
the time of his death. He then immediately began to rise into
considerable notice. Mrs. Lisle, the wife of one of the commissioners
of the great seal, took to him the urine of Whitlocke, one of the
most eminent lawyers of the time, to consult him respecting the health
of the party, when he informed the lady that the person would recover
from his present disease, but about a month after would be very
dangerously ill of a surfeit, which accordingly happened. He was
protected by the great Selden, who interested himself in his favour;
and he tells us that Lenthal, speaker of the house of commons, was
at all times his friend. He further says of himself that he was
originally partial to king Charles and to monarchy: but, when the
parliament had apparently the upper hand, he had the skill to play
his cards accordingly, and secured his favour with the ruling powers.
Whitlocke, in his Memorials of Affairs in his Own Times, takes
repeated notice of him, says that, meeting him in the street in the
spring of 1645, he enquired of Lilly as to what was likely speedily
to happen, who predicted to him the battle of Naseby, and notes in
1648 that some of his prognostications "fell out very strangely,
particularly as to the king's fall from his horse about this time."
Lilly applied to Whitlocke in favour of his rival, Wharton, the
astrologer, and his prayer was granted, and again in behalf of
Oughtred, the celebrated mathematician.

Lilly and Booker, a brother-astrologer, were sent for in great form,
with a coach and four horses, to the head-quarters of Fairfax at
Windsor, towards the end of the year 1647, when they told the general,
that they were "confident that God would go along with him and his
army, till the great work for which they were ordained was perfected,
which they hoped would be the conquering their and the parliament's
enemies, and a quiet settlement and firm peace over the whole nation."
The two astrologers were sent for in the same state in the following
year to the siege of Colchester, which they predicted would soon fall
into possession of the parliament.

Lilly in the mean while retained in secret his partiality to Charles
the First. Mrs. Whorwood, a lady who was fully in the king's
confidence, came to consult him, as to the place to which Charles
should retire when he escaped from Hampton Court. Lilly prescribed
accordingly; but Ashburnham disconcerted all his measures, and the
king made his inauspicious retreat to the isle of Wight. Afterwards
he was consulted by the same lady, as to the way in which Charles
should proceed respecting the negociations with the parliamentary
commissioners at Newport, when Lilly advised that the king should
sign all the propositions, and come up immediately with the
commissioners to London, in which case Lilly did not doubt that the
popular tide would turn in his favour, and the royal cause prove
triumphant. Finally, he tells us that he furnished the saw and _aqua
fortis_, with which the king had nearly removed the bars of the
window of his prison in Carisbrook Castle, and escaped. But Charles
manifested the same irresolution at the critical moment in this case,
which had before proved fatal to his success. In the year 1649 Lilly
received a pension of one hundred pounds _per annum_ from the
council of state, which, after having been paid him for two years,
he declined to accept any longer. In 1659 he received a present of
a gold chain and medal from Charles X king of Sweden, in acknowledgment
of the respectful mention he had made of that monarch in his almanacs.

Lilly lived to a considerable age, not having died till the year 1681.
In the year 1666 he was summoned before a committee of the house of
commons, on the frivolous ground that, in his Monarchy or No Monarchy
published fifteen years before, he had introduced sixteen plates,
among which was one, the eighth, representing persons digging graves,
with coffins, and other emblems significative of mortality, and, in
the thirteenth, a city in flames. He was asked whether these things
referred to the late plague and fire of London. Lilly replied in a
manner to intimate that they did; but he ingenuously confessed that
he had not known in what year they would happen. He said, that he
had given these emblematical representations without any comment,
that those who were competent might apprehend their meaning, whilst
the rest of the world remained in the ignorance which was their
appointed portion.


Nothing can place the credulity of the English nation on the subject
of witchcraft about this time, in a more striking point of view, than
the history of Matthew Hopkins, who, in a pamphlet published in 1647
in his own vindication, assumes to himself the surname of the
Witch-finder. He fell by accident, in his native county of Suffolk,
into contact with one or two reputed witches, and, being a man of
an observing turn and an ingenious invention, struck out for himself
a trade, which brought him such moderate returns as sufficed to
maintain him, and at the same time gratified his ambition by making
him a terror to many, and the object of admiration and gratitude to
more, who felt themselves indebted to him for ridding them of secret
and intestine enemies, against whom, as long as they proceeded in
ways that left no footsteps behind, they felt they had no possibility
of guarding themselves. Hopkins's career was something like that of
Titus Oates in the following reign, but apparently much safer for
the adventurer, since Oates armed against himself a very formidable
party, while Hopkins seemed to assail a few only here and there, who
were poor, debilitated, impotent and helpless.

After two or three successful experiments, Hopkins engaged in a
regular tour of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and
Huntingdonshire. He united to him two confederates, a man named John
Stern, and a woman whose name has not been handed down to us. They
visited every town in their route that invited them, and secured to
them the moderate remuneration of twenty shillings and their expences,
leaving what was more than this to the spontaneous gratitude of those
who should deem themselves indebted to the exertions of Hopkins and
his party. By this expedient they secured to themselves a favourable
reception; and a set of credulous persons who would listen to their
dictates as so many oracles. Being three of them, they were enabled
to play the game into one another's hands, and were sufficiently
strong to overawe all timid and irresolute opposition. In every town
to which they came, they enquired for reputed witches, and having
taken them into custody, were secure for the most part of a certain
number of zealous abettors, who took care that they should have a
clear stage for their experiments. They overawed their helpless
victims with a certain air of authority, as if they had received a
commission from heaven for the discovery of misdeeds. They assailed
the poor creatures with a multitude of questions constructed in the
most artful manner. They stripped them naked, in search for the
devil's marks in different parts of their bodies, which were
ascertained by running pins to the head into those parts, that, if
they were genuine marks, would prove themselves such by their
insensibility. They swam their victims in rivers and ponds, it being
an undoubted fact, that, if the persons accused were true witches,
the water, which was the symbol of admission into the Christian
church, would not receive them into its bosom. If the persons examined
continued obstinate, they seated them in constrained and uneasy
attitudes, occasionally binding them with cords, and compelling them
to remain so without food or sleep for twenty-four hours. They walked
them up and down the room, two taking them under each arm, till they
dropped down with fatigue. They carefully swept the room in which
the experiment was made, that they might keep away spiders and flies,
which were supposed to be devils or their imps in that disguise.

The most plentiful inquisition of Hopkins and his confederates was
in the years 1644, 1645 and 1646. At length there were so many persons
committed to prison upon suspicion of witchcraft, that the government
was compelled to take in hand the affair. The rural magistrates before
whom Hopkins and his confederates brought their victims, were obliged,
willingly or unwillingly, to commit them for trial. A commission was
granted to the earl of Warwick and others to hold a sessions of
jail-delivery against them for Essex at Chelmsford, Lord Warwick was
at this time the most popular nobleman in England. He was appointed
by the parliament lord high admiral during the civil war. He was much
courted by the independent clergy, was shrewd, penetrating and active,
and exhibited a singular mixture of pious demeanour with a vein of
facetiousness and jocularity. With him was sent Dr. Calamy, the most
eminent divine of the period of the Commonwealth, to see (says Baxter
[224]) that no fraud was committed, or wrong done to the parties
accused. It may well be doubted however whether the presence of this
clergyman did not operate unfavourably to the persons suspected. He
preached before the judges. It may readily be believed, considering
the temper of the times, that he insisted much upon the horrible
nature of the sin of witchcraft, which could expect no pardon, either
in this world or the world to come. He sat on the bench with the
judges, and participated in their deliberations. In the result of
this inquisition sixteen persons were hanged at Yarmouth in Norfolk,
fifteen at Chelmsford, and sixty at various places in the county of

Whitlocke in his Memorials of English Affairs, under the date of 1649,
speaks of many witches being apprehended about Newcastle, upon the
information of a person whom he calls the Witch-finder, who, as his
experiments were nearly the same, though he is not named, we may
reasonably suppose to be Hopkins; and in the following year about
Boston in Lincolnshire. In 1652 and 1653 the same author speaks of
women in Scotland, who were put to incredible torture to extort from
them a confession of what their adversaries imputed to them.

The fate of Hopkins was such us might be expected in similar cases.
The multitude are at first impressed with horror at the monstrous
charges that are advanced. They are seized, as by contagion, with
terror at the mischiefs which seem to impend over them, and from
which no innocence and no precaution appear to afford them sufficient
protection. They hasten, as with an unanimous effort, to avenge
themselves upon these malignant enemies, whom God and man alike
combine to expel from society. But, after a time, they begin to
reflect, and to apprehend that they have acted with too much
precipitation, that they have been led on with uncertain appearances.
They see one victim led to the gallows after another, without stint
or limitation. They see one dying with the most solemn asseverations
of innocence, and another confessing apparently she knows not what,
what is put into her mouth by her relentless persecutors. They see
these victims, old, crazy and impotent, harassed beyond endurance
by the ingenious cruelties that are practised against them. They were
first urged on by implacable hostility and fury, to be satisfied with
nothing but blood. But humanity and remorse also have their turn.
Dissatisfied with themselves, they are glad to point their resentment
against another. The man that at first they hailed as a public
benefactor, they presently come to regard with jealous eyes, and begin
to consider as a cunning impostor, dealing in cool blood with the
lives of his fellow-creatures for a paltry gain, and, still more
horrible, for the lure of a perishable and short-lived fame. The
multitude, we are told, after a few seasons, rose upon Hopkins, and
resolved to subject him to one of his own criterions. They dragged
him to a pond, and threw him into the water for a witch. It seems
he floated on the surface, as a witch ought to do. They then pursued
him with hootings and revilings, and drove him for ever into that
obscurity and ignominy which he had amply merited.


There is a story of Cromwel recorded by Echard, the historian, which
well deserves to be mentioned, as strikingly illustrative of the
credulity which prevailed about this period. It takes its date from
the morning of the third of September, 1651, when Cromwel gained the
battle of Worcester against Charles the Second, which he was
accustomed to call by a name sufficiently significant, his "crowning
victory." It is told on the authority of a colonel Lindsey, who is
said to have been an intimate friend of the usurper, and to have been
commonly known by that name, as being in reality the senior captain
in Cromwel's own regiment. "On this memorable morning the general,"
it seems, "took this officer with him to a woodside not far from the
army, and bade him alight, and follow him into that wood, and to take
particular notice of what he saw and heard. After having alighted,
and secured their horses, and walked some little way into the wood,
Lindsey began to turn pale, and to be seized with horror from some
unknown cause. Upon which Cromwel asked him how he did, or how he
felt himself. He answered, that he was in such a trembling and
consternation, that he had never felt the like in all the conflicts
and battles he had ever been engaged in: but whether it proceeded
from the gloominess of the place, or the temperature of his body,
he knew not. 'How now?' said Cromwel, 'What, troubled with the
vapours? Come forward, man.' They had not gone above twenty yards
further, before Lindsey on a sudden stood still, and cried out, 'By
all that is good I am seized with such unaccountable terror and
astonishment, that it is impossible for me to stir one step further.'
Upon which Cromwel called him, 'Fainthearted fool!' and bade him,
'stand there, and observe, or be witness.' And then the general,
advancing to some distance from him, met a grave, elderly man with
a roll of parchment in his hand, who delivered it to Cromwel, and
he eagerly perused it, Lindsey, a little recovered from his fear,
heard several loud words between them: particularly Cromwel said,
'This is but for seven years; I was to have had it for one-and-twenty;
and it must, and shall be so.' The other told him positively, it could
not be for more than seven. Upon which Cromwel cried with great
fierceness, 'It shall however be for fourteen years.' But the other
peremptorily declared, 'It could not possibly be for any longer time;
and, if he would not take it so, there were others that would.' Upon
which Cromwel at last took the parchment: and, returning to Lindsey
with great joy in his countenance, he cried, 'Now, Lindsey, the battle
is our own! I long to be engaged.' Returning out of the wood, they
rode to the army, Cromwel with a resolution to engage as soon as
possible, and the other with a design to leave the army as soon. After
the first charge, Lindsey deserted his post, and rode away with all
possible speed day and night, till he came into the county of Norfolk,
to the house of an intimate friend, one Mr. Thoroughgood, minister
of the parish of Grimstone. Cromwel, as soon as he missed him, sent
all ways after him, with a promise of a great reward to any that
should bring him alive or dead. When Mr. Thoroughgood saw his friend
Lindsey come into his yard, his horse and himself much tired, in a
sort of a maze, he said, 'How now, colonel? We hear there is likely
to be a battle shortly: what, fled from your colours?' 'A battle,'
said the other; 'yes there has been a battle, and I am sure the king
is beaten. But, if ever I strike a stroke for Cromwel again, may I
perish eternally! For I am sure he has made a league with the devil,
and the devil will have him in due time.' Then, desiring his
protection from Cromwel's inquisitors, he went in, and related to
him the story in all its circumstances." It is scarcely necessary
to remind the reader, that Cromwel died on that day seven years,
September the third, 1658.

Echard adds, to prove his impartiality as an historian, "How far
Lindsey is to be believed, and how far the story is to be accounted
incredible, is left to the reader's faith and judgment, and not to
any determination of our own."


I find a story dated about this period, which, though it does not
strictly belong to the subject of necromancy or dealings with the
devil, seems well to deserve to be inserted in this work. The topic
of which I treat is properly of human credulity; and this infirmity
of our nature can scarcely be more forcibly illustrated than in the
following example. It is recorded by the well-known John Bunyan, in
a fugitive tract of his, entitled the Life and Death of Mr. Badman,
but which has since been inserted in the works of the author in two
volumes folio. In minuteness of particularity and detail it may vie
with almost any story which human industry has collected, and human
simplicity has ever placed upon record.

"There was," says my author, "a poor woman, by name Dorothy Mateley,
who lived at a small village, called Ashover, in the county of Derby.
The way in which she earned her subsistence, was by washing the
rubbish that came from the lead-mines in that neighbourhood through
a sieve, which labour she performed till the earth had passed the
sieve, and what remained was particles and small portions of genuine
ore. This woman was of exceedingly low and coarse habits, and was
noted to be a profane swearer, curser, liar and thief; and her usual
way of asserting things was with an imprecation, as, 'I would I might
sink into the earth, if it be not so,' or, 'I would that God would
make the earth open and swallow me up, if I tell an untruth.'

"Now it happened on the 23rd of March, 1660, [according to our
computation 1661], that she was washing ore on the top of a steep
hill about a quarter of a mile from Ashover, when a lad who was
working on the spot missed two-pence out of his pocket, and
immediately bethought himself of charging Dorothy with the theft.
He had thrown off his breeches, and was working in his drawers.
Dorothy with much seeming indignation denied the charge, and added,
as was usual with her, that she wished the ground might open and
swallow her up, if she had the boy's money.

"One George Hopkinson, a man of good report in Ashover, happened to
pass at no great distance at the time. He stood a while to talk to
the woman. There stood also near the tub a little child, who was
called to by her elder sister to come away. Hopkinson therefore took
the little girl by the hand to lead her to her that called her. But
he had not gone ten yards from Dorothy, when he heard her crying out
for help, and turning back, to his great astonishment he saw the
woman, with her tub and her sieve, twirling round and round, and
sinking at the same time in the earth. She sunk about three yards,
and then stopped, at the same time calling lustily for assistance.
But at that very moment a great stone fell upon her head, and broke
her skull, and the earth fell in and covered her. She was afterwards
digged up, and found about four yards under ground, and the boy's
two pennies were discovered on her person, but the tub and the sieve
had altogether disappeared."


One of the most remarkable trials that occur in the history of
criminal jurisprudence, was that of Amy Duny and Rose Cullender at
Bury St. Edmund's in the year 1664. Not for the circumstances that
occasioned it; for they were of the coarsest and most vulgar
materials. The victims were two poor, solitary women of the town of
Lowestoft in Suffolk, who had by temper and demeanour rendered
themselves particularly obnoxious to their whole neighbourhood.
Whenever they were offended with any one, and this frequently
happened, they vented their wrath in curses and ill language,
muttered between their teeth, and the sense of which could scarcely
be collected; and ever and anon they proceeded to utter dark
predictions of evil, which should happen in revenge for the ill
treatment they received. The fishermen would not sell them fish; and
the boys in the street were taught to fly from them with horror, or
to pursue them with hootings and scurrilous abuse. The principal
charges against them were, that the children of two families were
many times seized with fits, in which they exclaimed that they saw
Amy Duny and Rose Cullender coming to torment them. They vomited,
and in their vomit were often found pins, and once or twice a
two-penny nail. One or two of the children died; for the accusations
spread over a period of eight years, from 1656 to the time of the
trial. To back these allegations, a waggoner appeared, whose waggon
had been twice overturned in one morning, in consequence of the curses
of one of the witches, the waggon having first run against her hovel,
and materially injured it. Another time the waggon stuck fast in a
gate-way, though the posts on neither side came in contact with the
wheels; and, one of the posts being cut down, the waggon passed easily

This trial, as I have said, was no way memorable for the circumstances
that occasioned it, but for the importance of the persons who were
present, and had a share in the conduct of it. The judge who presided
was sir Matthew Hale, then chief baron of the exchequer, and who had
before rendered himself remarkable for his undaunted resistance to
one of the arbitrary mandates of Cromwel, then in the height of his
power, which was addressed to Hale in his capacity of judge. Hale
was also an eminent author, who had treated upon the abstrusest
subjects, and was equally distinguished for his piety and inflexible
integrity. Another person, who was present, and accidentally took
part in the proceedings, was sir Thomas Browne, the superlatively
eloquent and able author of the Religio Medici. (He likewise took
a part on the side of superstition in the trial of the Lancashire
witches in 1634.) A judge also who assisted at the trial was Keeling,
who afterwards occupied the seat of chief justice.

Sir Matthew Hale apparently paid deep attention to the trial, and
felt much perplexed by the evidence. Seeing sir Thomas Browne in
court, and knowing him for a man of extensive information and vast
powers of intellect, Hale appealed to him, somewhat extrajudicially,
for his thoughts on what had transpired. Sir Thomas gave it as his
opinion that the children were bewitched, and inforced his position
by something that had lately occured in Denmark. Keeling dissented
from this, and inclined to the belief that it might all be practice,
and that there was nothing supernatural in the affair.

The chief judge was cautious in his proceeding. He even refused to
sum up the evidence, lest he might unawares put a gloss of his own
upon any thing that had been sworn, but left it all to the jury. He
told them that the Scriptures left no doubt that there was such a
thing as witchcraft, and instructed them that all they had to do was,
first, to consider whether the children were really bewitched, and
secondly, whether the witchcraft was sufficiently brought home to
the prisoners at the bar. The jury returned a verdict of guilty; and
the two women were hanged on the seventeenth of March 1664, one week
after their trial. The women shewed very little activity during the
trial, and died protesting their innocence. [225]

This trial is particularly memorable for the circumstances that
attended it. It has none of the rust of ages: no obscurity arises
from a long vista of years interposed between. Sir Matthew Hale and
sir Thomas Browne are eminent authors; and there is something in such
men, that in a manner renders them the contemporaries of all times,
the living acquaintance of successive ages of the world. Names
generally stand on the page of history as mere abstract idealities;
but in the case of these men we are familiar with their tempers and
prejudices, their virtues and vices, their strength and their

They proceed in the first place upon the assumption that there is
such a thing as witchcraft, and therefore have nothing to do but with
the cogency or weakness of evidence as applied to this particular
case. Now what are the premises on which they proceed in this
question? They believe in a God, omniscient, all wise, all powerful,
and whose "tender mercies are over all his works." They believe in
a devil, awful almost as God himself, for he has power nearly
unlimited, and a will to work all evil, with subtlety, deep reach
of thought, vigilant, "walking about, seeking whom he may devour."
This they believe, for they refer to "the Scriptures, as confirming
beyond doubt that there is such a thing as witchcraft." Now what
office do they assign to the devil, "the prince of the power of the
air," at whose mighty attributes, combined with his insatiable
malignity, the wisest of us might well stand aghast? It is the first
law of sound sense and just judgment,

  --_servetur ad imum,
  Qualis ab incoepto processerit, et sibi constet_;

that every character which we place on the scene of things should
demean himself as his beginning promises, and preserve a consistency
that, to a mind sufficiently sagacious, should almost serve us in
lieu of the gift of prophecy. And how is this devil employed according
to sir Matthew Hale and sir Thomas Browne? Why in proffering himself
as the willing tool of the malice of two doting old women. In
afflicting with fits, in causing them to vomit pins and nails, the
children of the parents who had treated the old women with barbarity
and cruelty. In judgment upon these women sit two men, in some
respects the most enlightened of an age that produced Paradise Lost,
and in confirmation of this blessed creed two women are executed in
cool blood, in a country which had just achieved its liberties under
the guidance and the virtues of Hampden.

What right we have in any case to take away the life of a human being
already in our power, and under the forms of justice, is a problem,
one of the hardest that can be proposed for the wit of man to solve.
But to see some of the wisest of men, sitting in judgment upon the
lives of two human creatures in consequence of the forgery and tricks
of a set of malicious children, as in this case undoubtedly it was,
is beyond conception deplorable. Let us think for a moment of the
inexpressible evils which a man encounters when dragged from his
peaceful home under a capital accusation, of his arraignment in open
court, of the orderly course of the evidence, and of the sentence
awarded against him, of the "damned minutes and days he counts over"
from that time to his execution, of his being finally brought forth
before a multitude exasperated by his supposed crimes, and his being
cast out from off the earth as unworthy so much as to exist among
men, and all this being wholly innocent. The consciousness of
innocence a hundred fold embitters the pang. And, if these poor women
were too obtuse of soul entirely to feel the pang, did that give their
superiors a right to overwhelm and to crush them?


The story of witchcraft, as it is reported to have passed in Sweden
in the year 1670, and has many times been reprinted in this country,
is on several accounts one of the most interesting and deplorable
that has ever been recorded. The scene lies in Dalecarlia, a country
for ever memorable as having witnessed some of the earliest adventures
of Gustavus Vasa, his deepest humiliation, and the first commencement
of his prosperous fortune. The Dalecarlians are represented to us
as the simplest, the most faithful, and the bravest of the sons of
men, men undebauched and unsuspicious, but who devoted themselves
in the most disinterested manner for a cause that appeared to them
worthy of support, the cause of liberty and independence against the
cruelest of tyrants. At least such they were in 1520, one hundred
and fifty years before the date of the story we are going to
recount.--The site of these events was at Mohra and Elfdale in the
province that has just been mentioned.

The Dalecarlians, simple and ignorant, but of exemplary integrity
and honesty, who dwelt amidst impracticable mountains and spacious
mines of copper and iron, were distinguished for superstition among
the countries of the north, where all were superstitious. They were
probably subject at intervals to the periodical visitation of alarms
of witches, when whole races of men became wild with the infection
without any one's being well able to account for it.

In the year 1670, and one or two preceding years, there was a great
alarm of witches in the town of Mohra. There were always two or three
witches existing in some of the obscure quarters of this place. But
now they increased in number, and shewed their faces with the utmost
audacity. Their mode on the present occasion was to make a journey
through the air to Blockula, an imaginary scene of retirement, which
none but the witches and their dupes had ever seen. Here they met
with feasts and various entertainments, which it seems had particular
charms for the persons who partook of them. The witches used to go
into a field in the environs of Mohra, and cry aloud to the devil
in a peculiar sort of recitation, "Antecessor, come and carry us to
Blockula!" Then appeared a multitude of strange beasts, men, spits,
posts, and goats with spits run through their entrails and projecting
behind that all might have room. The witches mounted these beasts
of burthen or vehicles, and were conveyed through the air over high
walls and mountains, and through churches and chimneys, without
perceptible impediment, till they arrived at the place of their
destination. Here the devil feasted them with various compounds and
confections, and, having eaten to their hearts' content, they danced,
and then fought. The devil made them ride on spits, from which they
were thrown; and the devil beat them with the spits, and laughed at
them. He then caused them to build a house to protect them against
the day of judgment, and presently overturned the walls of the house,
and derided them again. All sorts of obscenities were reported to
follow upon these scenes. The devil begot on the witches sons and
daughters: this new generation intermarried again, and the issue of
this further conjunction appears to have been toads and serpents.
How all this pedigree proceeded in the two or three years in which
Blockula had ever been heard of, I know not that the witches were
ever called on to explain.

But what was most of all to be deplored, the devil was not content
with seducing the witches to go and celebrate this infernal sabbath;
he further insisted that they should bring the children of Mohra along
with them. At first he was satisfied, if each witch brought one; but
now he demanded that each witch should bring six or seven for her
quota. How the witches managed with the minds of the children we are
at a loss to guess. These poor, harmless innocents, steeped to the
very lips in ignorance and superstition, were by some means kept in
continual alarm by the wicked, or, to speak more truly, the insane
old women, and said as their prompters said. It does not appear that
the children ever left their beds, at the time they reported they
had been to Blockula. Their parents watched them with fearful anxiety.
At a certain time of the night the children were seized with a strange
shuddering, their limbs were agitated, and their skins covered with
a profuse perspiration. When they came to themselves, they related
that they had been to Blockula, and the strange things they had seen,
similar to what had already been described by the women. Three hundred
children of various ages are said to have been seized with this

The whole town of Mohra became subject to the infection, and were
overcome with the deepest affliction. They consulted together, and
drew up a petition to the royal council at Stockholm, intreating that
they would discover some remedy, and that the government would
interpose its authority to put an end to a calamity to which otherwise
they could find no limit. The king of Sweden was at that time Charles
the Eleventh, father of Charles the Twelfth, and was only fourteen
years of age. His council in their wisdom deputed two commissioners
to Mohra, and furnished them with powers to examine witnesses, and
to take whatever proceedings they might judge necessary to put an
end to so unspeakable a calamity.

They entered on the business of their commission on the thirteenth
of August, the ceremony having been begun with two sermons in the
great church of Mohra, in which we may be sure the damnable sin of
witchcraft was fully dilated on, and concluding with prayers to
Almighty God that in his mercy he would speedily bring to an end the
tremendous misfortune, with which for their sins he had seen fit to
afflict the poor people of Mohra. The next day they opened their
commission. Seventy witches were brought before them. They were all
at first stedfast in their denial, alleging that the charges were
wantonly brought against them, solely from malice and ill will. But
the judges were earnest in pressing them, till at length first one,
and then another; burst into tears, and confessed all. Twenty-three
were prevailed on thus to disburthen their consciences; but nearly
the whole, as well those who owned the justice of their sentence,
as those who protested their innocence to the last, were executed.
Fifteen children confessed their guilt, and were also executed.
Thirty-six other children (who we may infer did not confess), between
the ages of nine and sixteen, were condemned to run the gauntlet,
and to be whipped on their hands at the church-door every Sunday for
a year together. Twenty others were whipped on their hands for three
Sundays. [226]

This is certainly a very deplorable scene, and is made the more so
by the previous character which history has impressed on us, of the
simplicity, integrity, and generous love of liberty of the
Dalecarlians. For the children and their parents we can feel nothing
but unmingled pity. The case of the witches is different. That three
hundred children should have been made the victims of this imaginary
witchcraft is doubtless a grievous calamity. And that a number of
women should have been found so depraved and so barbarous, as by their
incessant suggestions to have practised on the minds of these
children, so as to have robbed them of sober sense, to have frightened
them into fits and disease, and made them believe the most odious
impossibilities, argued a most degenerate character, and well merited
severe reprobation, but not death. Add to which, many of these women
may be believed innocent, otherwise a great majority of those who
were executed, would not have died protesting their entire freedom
from what was imputed to them. Some of the parents no doubt, from
folly and ill judgment, aided the alienation of mind in their children
which they afterwards so deeply deplored, and gratified their
senseless aversion to the old women, when they were themselves in
many cases more the real authors of the evil than those who suffered.


As a story of witchcraft, without any poetry in it, without any thing
to amuse the imagination, or interest the fancy, but hard, prosy,
and accompanied with all that is wretched, pitiful and withering,
perhaps the well known story of the New England witchcraft surpasses
every thing else upon record. The New Englanders were at this time,
towards the close of the seventeenth century, rigorous Calvinists,
with long sermons and tedious monotonous prayers, with hell before
them for ever on one side, and a tyrannical, sour and austere God
on the other, jealous of an arbitrary sovereignty, who hath "mercy
on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." These
men, with long and melancholy faces, with a drawling and sanctified
tone, and a carriage that would "at once make the most severely
disposed merry, and the most cheerful spectators sad," constituted
nearly the entire population of the province of Massachuset's Bay.

The prosecutions for witchcraft continued with little intermission
principally at Salem, during the greater part of the year 1692. The
accusations were of the most vulgar and contemptible sort, invisible
pinchings and blows, fits, with the blastings and mortality of cattle,
and wains stuck fast in the ground, or losing their wheels. A
conspicuous feature in nearly the whole of these stories was what
they named the "spectral sight;" in other words, that the profligate
accusers first feigned for the most part the injuries they received,
and next saw the figures and action of the persons who inflicted them,
when they were invisible to every one else. Hence the miserable
prosecutors gained the power of gratifying the wantonness of their
malice, by pretending that they suffered by the hand of any one whose
name first presented itself, or against whom they bore an ill will.
The persons so charged, though unseen by any but the accuser, and
who in their corporal presence were at a distance of miles, and were
doubtless wholly unconscious of the mischief that was hatching against
them, were immediately taken up, and cast into prison. And what was
more monstrous and incredible, there stood at the bar the prisoner
on trial for his life, while the witnesses were permitted to swear
that his spectre had haunted them, and afflicted them with all manner
of injuries. That the poor prosecuted wretch stood astonished at what
was alleged against him, was utterly overwhelmed with the charges,
and knew not what to answer, was all of it interpreted as so many
presumptions of his guilt. Ignorant as they were, they were unhappy
and unskilful in their defence; and, if they spoke of the devil, as
was but natural, it was instantly caught at as a proof how familiar
they were with the fiend that had seduced them to their damnation.

The first specimen of this sort of accusation in the present instance
was given by one Paris, minister of a church at Salem, in the end
of the year 1691, who had two daughters, one nine years old, the other
eleven, that were afflicted with fits and convulsions. The first
person fixed on as the mysterious author of what was seen, was Tituba,
a female slave in the family, and she was harassed by her master into
a confession of unlawful practices and spells. The girls then fixed
on Sarah Good, a female known to be the victim of a morbid melancholy,
and Osborne, a poor man that had for a considerable time been bed-rid,
as persons whose spectres had perpetually haunted and tormented them:
and Good was twelve months after hanged on this accusation.

A person, who was one of the first to fall under the imputation, was
one George Burroughs, also a minister of Salem. He had, it seems,
buried two wives, both of whom the busy gossips said he had used ill
in their life-time, and consequently, it was whispered, had murdered
them. This man was accustomed foolishly to vaunt that he knew what
people said of him in his absence; and this was brought as a proof
that he dealt with the devil. Two women, who were witnesses against
him, interrupted their testimony with exclaiming that they saw the
ghosts of the murdered wives present (who had promised them they would
come), though no one else in the court saw them; and this was taken
in evidence. Burroughs conducted himself in a very injudicious way
on his trial; but, when he came to be hanged, made so impressive a
speech on the ladder, with fervent protestations of innocence, as
melted many of the spectators into tears.

The nature of accusations of this sort is ever found to operate like
an epidemic. Fits and convulsions are communicated from one subject
to another. The "spectral sight," as it was called, is obviously a
theme for the vanity of ignorance. "Love of fame," as the poet
teaches, is an "universal passion." Fame is placed indeed on a height
beyond the hope of ordinary mortals. But in occasional instances it
is brought unexpectedly within the reach of persons of the coarsest
mould; and many times they will be apt to seize it with proportionable
avidity. When too such things are talked of, when the devil and
spirits of hell are made familiar conversation, when stories of this
sort are among the daily news, and one person and another, who had
a little before nothing extraordinary about them, become subjects
of wonder, these topics enter into the thoughts of many, sleeping
and waking: "their young men see visions, and their old men dream

In such a town as Salem, the second in point of importance in the
colony, such accusations spread with wonderful rapidity. Many were
seized with fits, exhibited frightful contortions of their limbs and
features, and became a fearful spectacle to the bystander. They were
asked to assign the cause of all this; and they supposed, or pretended
to suppose, some neighbour, already solitary and afflicted, and on
that account in ill odour with the townspeople, scowling upon,
threatening, and tormenting them. Presently persons, specially gifted
with the "spectral sight," formed a class by themselves, and were
sent about at the public expence from place to place, that they might
see what no one else could see. The prisons were filled with the
persons accused. The utmost horror was entertained, as of a calamity
which in such a degree had never visited that part of the world. It
happened, most unfortunately, that Baxter's Certainty of the World
of Spirits had been published but the year before, and a number of
copies had been sent out to New England. There seemed a strange
coincidence and sympathy between vital Christianity in its most
honourable sense, and the fear of the devil, who appeared to be "come
down unto them, with great wrath." Mr. Increase Mather, and Mr. Cotton
Mather, his son, two clergymen of highest reputation in the
neighbourhood, by the solemnity and awe with which they treated the
subject, and the earnestness and zeal which they displayed, gave a
sanction to the lowest superstition and virulence of the ignorant.

All the forms of justice were brought forward on this occasion. There
was no lack of judges, and grand juries, and petty juries, and
executioners, and still less of prosecutors and witnesses. The first
person that was hanged was on the tenth of June, five more on the
nineteenth of July, five on the nineteenth of August, and eight on
the twenty-second of September. Multitudes confessed that they were
witches; for this appeared the only way for the accused to save their
lives. Husbands and children fell down on their knees, and implored
their wives and mothers to own their guilt. Many were tortured by
being tied neck and heels together, till they confessed whatever was
suggested to them. It is remarkable however that not one persisted
in her confession at the place of execution.

The most interesting story that occurred in this affair was of Giles
Cory, and Martha, his wife. The woman was tried on the ninth of
September, and hanged on the twenty-second. In the interval, on the
sixteenth, the husband was brought up for trial. He said, he was not
guilty; but, being asked how he would be tried? he refused to go
through the customary form, and say, "By God and my country." He
observed that, of all that had been tried, not one had as yet been
pronounced not guilty; and he resolutely refused in that mode to
undergo a trial. The judge directed therefore that, according to the
barbarous mode prescribed in the mother-country, he should be laid
on his back, and pressed to death with weights gradually accumulated
on the upper surface of his body, a proceeding which had never yet
been resorted to by the English in North America. The man persisted
in his resolution, and remained mute till he expired.

The whole of this dreadful tragedy was kept together by a thread.
The spectre-seers for a considerable time prudently restricted their
accusations to persons of ill repute, or otherwise of no consequence
in the community. By and by however they lost sight of this caution,
and pretended they saw the figures of some persons well connected,
and of unquestioned honour and reputation, engaged in acts of
witchcraft. Immediately the whole fell through in a moment. The
leading inhabitants presently saw how unsafe it would be to trust
their reputations and their lives to the mercy of these profligate
accusers. Of fifty-six bills of indictment that were offered to the
grand-jury on the third of January, 1693, twenty-six only were found
true bills, and thirty thrown out. On the twenty-six bills that were
found, three persons only were pronounced guilty by the petty jury,
and these three received their pardon from the government. The prisons
were thrown open; fifty confessed witches, together with two hundred
persons imprisoned on suspicion, were set at liberty, and no more
accusations were heard of. The "afflicted," as they were technically
termed, recovered their health; the "spectral sight" was universally
scouted; and men began to wonder how they could ever have been the
victims of so horrible a delusion. [227]


The volume of records of supposed necromancy and witchcraft is
sufficiently copious, without its being in any way necessary to trace
it through its latest relics and fragments. Superstition is so
congenial to the mind of man, that, even in the early years of the
author of the present volume, scarcely a village was unfurnished with
an old man or woman who laboured under an ill repute on this score;
and I doubt not many remain to this very day. I remember, when a
child, that I had an old woman pointed out to me by an ignorant
servant-maid, as being unquestionably possessed of the ominous gift
of the "evil eye," and that my impulse was to remove myself as quickly
as might be from the range of her observation.

But witchcraft, as it appears to me, is by no means so desirable a
subject as to make one unwilling to drop it. It has its uses. It is
perhaps right that we should be somewhat acquainted with this
repulsive chapter in the annals of human nature. As the wise man says
in the Bible, "It is good for us to resort to the house of those that
mourn;" for there is a melancholy which is attended with beneficial
effects, and "by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made
better." But I feel no propensity to linger in these dreary abodes,
and would rather make a speedy exchange for the dwellings of
healthfulness and a certain hilarity. We will therefore with the
reader's permission at length shut the book, and say, "Lo, it is

There is no time perhaps at which we can more fairly quit the subject,
than when the more enlightened governments of Europe have called for
the code of their laws, and have obliterated the statute which annexed
the penalty of death to this imaginary crime.

So early as the year 1672, Louis XIV promulgated an order of the
council of state, forbidding the tribunals from proceeding to judgment
in cases where the accusation was of sorcery only. [228]

In England we paid a much later tribute to the progress of
illumination and knowledge; and it was not till the year 1736 that
a statute was passed, repealing the law made in the first year of
James I, and enacting that no capital prosecution should for the
future take place for conjuration, sorcery and enchantment, but
restricting the punishment of persons pretending to tell fortunes
and discover stolen goods by witchcraft, to that appertaining to a

As long as death could by law be awarded against those who were
charged with a commerce with evil spirits, and by their means
inflicting mischief on their species, it is a subject not unworthy
of grave argument and true philanthropy, to endeavour to detect the
fallacy of such pretences, and expose the incalculable evils and the
dreadful tragedies that have grown out of accusations and prosecutions
for such imaginary crimes. But the effect of perpetuating the silly
and superstitious tales that have survived this mortal blow, is
exactly opposite. It only serves to keep alive the lingering folly
of imbecile minds, and still to feed with pestiferous clouds the
thoughts of the ignorant. Let us rather hail with heart-felt gladness
the light which has, though late, broken in upon us, and weep over
the calamity of our forefathers, who, in addition to the inevitable
ills of our sublunary state, were harassed with imaginary terrors,
and haunted by suggestions,

  Whose horrid image did unfix their hair,
  And make their seated hearts knock at their ribs,
  Against the use of nature.



[1] Joshua, vii. 16, _et seq_.

[2] De Arte Poetica, v. 150.

[3] Romans, xi. 32.

[4] Comte de Gabalis.

[5] Genesis xli, 8, 25, &c.

[6] Exodus, vii. 11; viii. 19.

[7] Ibid, xxii. 18.

[8] Deuteronomy, xviii. 10,11.

[9] Leviticus, xx. 27.

[10] Numbers, xxii. 5,6,7.

[11] Numbers, xxiv, 1.

[12] Ibid, xxiii. 23.

[13] 1 Sam. xxviii. 6, _et seq_.

[14] 2 Kings, xxi. 6.

[15] 1 Kings, xxii. 20, _et seqq_.

[16] 1 Chron. xxi. 1,7,14.

[17] 2 Kings, i. 2,3,4.

[18] Matthew, xii. 24.

[19] Genesis, xliv. 5.

[20] Genesis, xliv. 15.

[21] Brewster on Natural Magic, Letter IX.

[22] De Natura Deorum, Lib. I, c. 38.

[23] Plato, De Republica, Lib. X, _sub finem_.

[24] Batrachos, v. 1032.

[25] De Arte Poetica, v.391.

[26] Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, Tom. V, p. 117.

[27] De Arte Poetica, v. 391, 2, 3.

[28] Virgil, Georgiea, Lib. IV. v. 461, _et seqq_.

[29] Georgiea, iv, 525.

[30] Metamorphoses, xi, 55.

[31] Philostratus, Heroica, cap. v.

[32] Horat, de Arte Poetica, v. 394. Pausanias.

[33] Odyssey, Lib. XI, v. 262.

[34] Statius, Thebais, Lib. X. v. 599.

[35] Ibid, Lib. IV, v. 599.

[36] Ibid, Lib. IV, v. 409, _et seqq_.

[37] Lib. IV, c. 36.

[38] Iamblichus.

[39] Julius Firmicus, _apud_ Scaliger, in Eusebium.

[40] Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorae.

[41] Pluto, Charmides.

[42] Chronological Account of Pythagoras and his Contemporaries.

[43] Laertius, Lib. VIII, c. 3.

[44] Lloyd, _ubi supra_.

[45] Iamblichus, c. 17.

[46] Iamblichus, c. 29.

[47] Ibid, c. 7.

[48] Laertius, c. 15.

[49] Ibid, c. 11.

[50] Plutarchus, Symposiaca, Lib. VIII, Quaestio 2.

[51] Aulus Gellius, Lib. I, c. 1, from Plutarch.

[52] Laertius, c.19.

[53] Bailly, Histoire de l'Astronomie, Lib VIII, S.3.

[54] Plutarchus, de Esu Carnium. Ovidius, Metamorphoses, Lib. XV.
Laertius, c. 12.

[55] Iamblichus, c. 16.

[56] Laertius, c. 6.

[57] Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata, Lib. I, p. 302.

[58] Iamblichus, c.17.

[59] Laertius, c. 8. Iamblichus, c. 17.

[60] Cicero de Natura Deorum, Lib. I, c. 5.

[61] Laertius, c. 9.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Iamblichus, c. 19.

[64] Laertius, c.1.

[65] Ibid, c. 18.

[66] Iamblichus, c. 8.

[67] Ibid, c. 13.

[68] Laertius, c. 9. Iamblichus, c. 28.

[69] Laertius, c. 9. Iamblichus, c. 18.

[70] Ibid, c. 28.

[71] Laertius, c.21.

[72] Iamblichus, c.17.

[73] Iamblichus, c. 35. Laertius, c. 21.

[74] Laertius, c. 21.

[75] Laertius, Lib. I, c. 109. Plinius, Lib. VII, c. 52.

[76] Laertius, c. 113.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Ibid. c. 111.

[79] Plutarch, Vita Solonis. Laertius, Lib. I, c. 109.

[80] Plutarch, Vita Solonis. Laertius, Lib. I, c. 110.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Laertius, Lib. VIII, c. 51, 64.

[83] Ibid, c. 57.

[84] Ibid, c. 66.

[85] Ibid, c. 73.

[86] Plinius, Lib. VII, c. 52. Laertius, c. 61.

[87] Laertius, c. 77.

[88] Ibid, c. 59.

[89] Ibid, c. 62.

[90] Laertias, c. 69. Horat, De Arte Poetica, v. 463.

[91] Herodotus, Lib. III, c. 14, 15. Plinius, Lib. VII, c. 52.

[92] Plutarch, De Genio Socratis. Lucian, Muscae Encomium. Plinius,
Lib. VII, c. 52. [Errata: _dele_ Plinius]

[93] Plinius, Lib. III, c, 61, 62.

[94] Herodotus, Lib. VIII, c. 36, 37, 38, 39.

[95] Herodotus, Lib. VIII, c. 140, _et seqq_.

[96] Historia Naturalis, Lib. X, c. 40.

[97] Plinius, Lib. XXVIII. c. 8.

[98] Pseudomantis, c. 17. See also Philopseudes, c. 32.

[99] Theages.

[100] Plutarch, De Genio Socratis.

[101] Xenophon, Memorabilia, Lib. I, c. 1.

[102] Plutarch, _ubi supra_.

[103] Plato, Theages.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Livius, Lib. I, c. 16.

[106] Dionysius Halicarnassensis.

[107] Livius, Lib. I, c. 19, 21.

[108] Livius, Lib. I, c. 31.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Livius, Lib. I, c. 36.

[111] Livius, Lib. I, c. 39.

[112] Livius, Lib. III, c. 6, _et seqq_.

[113] Epod. V.

[114] Metamorphoses, Lib. VII.

[115] Lib. VI.

[116] Horat., de Arte Poetica, v. 150.

[117] Plutarch, North's Translation.

[118] Matt. c. xii, v. 24, 27.

[119] Acts, c. viii.

[120] Clemens Romanus, Recognitiones, Lib. II, cap. 9. Anastasius
Sinaita, Quaestiones; Quaestio 20.

[121] Clemens Romanus, Constitutiones Apostolici, Lib. VI, cap. 7.

[122] Acts, c. xiii.

[123] Ibid, c. xix.

[124] Suetonius, Lib. VI, cap. 14.

[125] Tacitus, Historiae, Lib. IV, cap. 81. Suetonius, Lib. VIII,
cap. 7.

[126] Hume, Essays, Part III, Section X.

[127] Philostratus, Vita Apollonii, Lib. I, cap. 5, 6.

[128] Philostratus, Vita Apollonii, Lib. I, c. 10.

[129] Ibid, c.13.

[130] Ibid, c. 13, 14.

[131] Philostratus, Lib. IV, c. 10.

[132] Philostratus, Lib. IV, c. 25.

[133] Philostratus, Lib. IV, c. 45.

[134] Philostratus, Lib. VIII, c. 5.

[135] Ibid, c. 26.

[136] Philostratus, Lib. VIII, c. 29, 30.

[137] Ibid, c. 29.

[138] Lampridius, in Vita Alex. Severi, c. 29.

[139] C. 24.

[140] Philostratus, Lib. I, c. 3.

[141] Zosimus, Lib, IV, cap. 13. Gibbon observes, that the name of
Theodosius, who actually succeeded, begins with the same letters which
were indicated in this magic trial.

[142] Zosimus, Lib. IV, cap.  14.

[143] Gibbon, Chap. VIII.

[144] This word is of Sanscrit original.

[145] "They cut themselves with knives and lancets, till the blood
gushed out upon them." I Kings, xviii, 28.

[146] Otherwise, Deeves.

[147] D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale.

[148] D'Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale.

[149] It is in Selden's Collection of Ballads in the Bodleian Library.
See Letters from the Bodleian, Vol. I, p. 120 to 126.

[150] Spenser, Fairy Queen, Book III, Canto III, stanza 9, _et seqq_.

[151] William of Malmesbury, Lib. II, c. 10.

[152] William of Malmesbury, Lib. II, c. 10.

[153] Naudé, Apologie des Grands Hommes Accusés de Magie. Malmesbury,
_ubi supra_.

[154] Naudé, Apologie des Grands Hommes Accusés de Magie, chap. 19.

[155] Mornay, Mysterium Iniquitalis, p. 258. Coeffeteau, Reponse à
ditto, p. 274.

[156] Ibid.

[157] Hollinshed, History of Scotland, p. 206, 207.

[158] Ibid. p. 207, 208.

[159] Hollinshed, History of Scotland, p. 243, 244.

[160] Hollinshed, History of Scotland, p. 244, 245.

[161] Hollinshed, History of Scotland, p. 246.

[162] Ibid, p. 248, 249.

[163] Hollinshed, History of Scotland, p. 249.

[164] Ibid.

[165] Hollinshed, History of Scotland, p. 251.

[166] Naudé.

[167] Godwin, Praesulibus, art. Gronthead.

[168] Naudé c. 18.

[169] Johannes de Becka, _apud_ Trithemii Chronica, ann. 1254.

[170] Freind, History of Physick, Vol. II, p. 234 to 239.

[171] Bacon, Epist. ad Clement. IV.

[172] Ubi supra.

[173] See page 261.

[174] Naudé, Cap. 17.

[175] Ibid.

[176] Commentaries, Book IV. chap. vi.

[177] Life of Chaucer, c. xviii.

[178] Wotton, Reflections on Learning, Chap. X.

[179] See above, p. 29.

[180] Biographic Universelle.

[181] Naudé.

[182] Moreri.

[183] Enfield, History of Philosophy, Book VIII, chapter i.

[184] Moreri.

[185] Watson, Chemical Essays, Vol. I.

[186] Fuller, Worthies of England.

[187] Watson, _ubi supra_.

[188] Sir Thomas More, History of Edward the Fifth.

[189] Buck, Life and Reign of Richard III.

[190] Hutchinson on Witchcraft.

[191] I Samuel, xv, 23.

[192] Doctrine of Divorce, Preface.

[193] Delrio, Disquisitiones Magicae, p. 746.

[194] Alciatus, Parergon Juris, L. VIII, cap. 22.

[195] Danaeus, _apud_ Delrio, Proloquium.

[196] Bartholomaeus de Spina, De Strigibus, c. 13.

[197] Biographie Universelle.

[198] Biographie Universelle.

[199] Hospinian, Historia Sacramentaria, Part II, fol. 131.

[200] Bayle.

[201] Paulus Jovius, Elogia Doctorum Virorum, c.101.

[202] Delrio, Disquisitiones Magicae, Lib. II, Quaestio xi, S. 18.

[203] Delrio, Lib. II, Quaestio xxix. S. 7.

[204] Wierus, Lib. II, c.v. S. 11, 12.

[205] Cent. I, cap. 70.

[206] De Praestigiis Demonum, Lib. II, cap. iv, sect. 8.

[207] Durrius, _apud_ Schelhorn, Amoenitates Literariae, Tom. V,
p.50, _et seqq_.

[208] Memoirs, p. 14.

[209] Brewster, Letters on Natural Magic, Letter IV.

[210] Appendix to Johannes Glastoniensis, edited by Hearne.

[211] Camden, anno 1693, 1694.

[212] Pitcairn, Trials in Scotland in Five Volumes, 4to.

[213] King James's Works, p. 135.

[214] King James's Works, p. 135, 136.

[215] Truth brought to Light by Time. Wilson, History of James I.

[216] Fuller, Church History of Britain, Book X, p. 74. See also
Osborn's Works, Essay I: where the author says, he "gave charge to
his judges, to be circumspect in condemning those, committed by
ignorant justices for diabolical compacts. Nor had he concluded his
advice in a narrower circle, as I have heard, than the denial of any
such operations, but out of reason of state, and to gratify the
church, which hath in no age thought fit to explode out of the common
people's minds an apprehension of witchcraft." The author adds, that
he "must confess James to have been the promptest man living in his
dexterity to discover an imposture," and subjoins a remarkable story
in confirmation of this assertion.

[217] Discovery of the Witches, 1612, printed by order of the Court.

[218] History of Whalley, by Thomas Dunham Whitaker, p. 215.

[219] Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, Vol. II, p. 507.

[220] Heylyn, Life of Laud.

[221] Hutchinson on Witchcraft.

[222] Menagiana, Tom. II, p. 252, _et seqq_.

[223] Judges, v, 20.

[224] Certainty of the World of Spirits.

[225] Trial of the Witches executed at Bury St. Edmund's.

[226] Narrative translated by Dr. Horneck, _apud_ Satan's
Invisible World by Sinclair, and Sadducismus Triumphatus by

[227] Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World; Calef, More
Wonders of the Invisible World; Neal, History of New England.

[228] Menagiana, Tom II, p. 264. Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV, Chap.

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