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Among My Books by James Russell Lowell

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Oldham, whom Hallam, without reading him, I suspect, ranks next to
Dryden,[80] he says:--

"For sure our souls were near allied, and thine
Cast in the same poetic mould with mine;
One common note in either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorred alike."

His practice is not always so delicate as his theory; but if he was
sometimes rough, he never took a base advantage. He knocks his antagonist
down, and there an end. Pope seems to have nursed his grudge, and then,
watching his chance, to have squirted vitriol from behind a corner,
rather glad than otherwise if it fell on the women of those he hated or
envied. And if Dryden is never dastardly, as Pope often was, so also he
never wrote anything so maliciously depreciatory as Pope's unprovoked
attack on Addison. Dryden's satire is often coarse, but where it is
coarsest, it is commonly in defence of himself against attacks that were
themselves brutal. Then, to be sure, he snatches the first ready cudgel,
as in Shadwell's case, though even then there is something of the
good-humor of conscious strength. Pope's provocation was too often the
mere opportunity to say a biting thing, where he could do it safely. If
his victim showed fight, he tried to smooth things over, as with Dennis.
Dryden could forget that he had ever had a quarrel, but he never slunk
away from any, least of all from one provoked by himself.[81] Pope's
satire is too much occupied with the externals of manners, habits,
personal defects, and peculiarities. Dryden goes right to the rooted
character of the man, to the weaknesses of his nature, as where he says
of Burnet:--

"Prompt to assail, and careless of defence,
Invulnerable in his impudence,
He dares the world, and, eager of a name,
He thrusts about and _justles into fame_.
So fond of loud report that, not to miss
Of being known (his last and utmost bliss),
_He rather would be known for what he is_."

It would be hard to find in Pope such compression of meaning as in the
first, or such penetrative sarcasm as in the second of the passages I
have underscored. Dryden's satire is still quoted for its
comprehensiveness of application, Pope's rather for the elegance of its
finish and the point of its phrase than for any deeper qualities.[82] I
do not remember that Dryden ever makes poverty a reproach.[83] He was
above it, alike by generosity of birth and mind. Pope is always the
_parvenu_, always giving himself the airs of a fine gentleman, and, like
Horace Walpole and Byron, affecting superiority to professional
literature. Dryden, like Lessing, was a hack-writer, and was proud, as an
honest man has a right to be, of being able to get his bread by his
brains. He lived in Grub Street all his life, and never dreamed that
where a man of genius lived was not the best quarter of the town. "Tell
his Majesty," said sturdy old Jonson, "that his soul lives in an alley."

Dryden's prefaces are a mine of good writing and judicious criticism. His
_obiter dicta_ have often the penetration, and always more than the
equity, of Voltaire's, for Dryden never loses temper, and never
altogether qualifies his judgment by his self-love. "He was a more
universal writer than Voltaire," said Horne Tooke, and perhaps it is true
that he had a broader view, though his learning was neither so extensive
nor so accurate. My space will not afford many extracts, but I cannot
forbear one or two. He says of Chaucer, that "he is a perpetual fountain
of good sense,"[84] and likes him better than Ovid,--a bold confession in
that day. He prefers the pastorals of Theocritus to those of Virgil.
"Virgil's shepherds are too well read in the philosophy of Epicurus and
of Plato"; "there is a kind of rusticity in all those pompous verses,
somewhat of a holiday shepherd strutting in his country buskins";[85]
"Theocritus is softer than Ovid, he touches the passions more delicately,
and performs all this out of his own fund, without diving into the arts
and sciences for a supply. Even his Doric dialect has an incomparable
sweetness in his clownishness, like a fair shepherdess, in her country
russet, talking in a Yorkshire tone."[86] Comparing Virgil's verse with
that of some other poets, he says, that his "numbers are perpetually
varied to increase the delight of the reader, so that the same sounds are
never repeated twice together. On the contrary, Ovid and Claudian, though
they write in styles different from each other, yet have each of them but
one sort of music in their verses. All the versification and little
variety of Claudian is included within the compass of four or five lines,
and then he begins again in the same tenor, perpetually closing his sense
at the end of a verse, and that verse commonly which they call golden, or
two substantives and two adjectives with a verb betwixt them to keep the
peace. Ovid, with all his sweetness, has as little variety of numbers and
sound as he; he is always, as it were, upon the hand-gallop, and his
verse runs upon carpet-ground."[87] What a dreary half-century would have
been saved to English poetry, could Pope have laid these sentences to
heart! Upon translation, no one has written so much and so well as Dryden
in his various prefaces. Whatever has been said since is either expansion
or variation of what he had said before. His general theory may be stated
as an aim at something between the literalness of metaphrase and the
looseness of paraphase. "Where I have enlarged," he says, "I desire the
false critics would not always think that those thoughts are wholly mine,
but either _they are secretly in the poet_, or may be fairly deduced from
him." Coleridge, with his usual cleverness of _assimilation_, has
condensed him in a letter to Wordsworth: "There is no medium between a
prose version and one on the avowed principle of _compensation_ in the
widest sense, i.e. manner, genius, total effect."[88]

I have selected these passages, not because they are the best, but
because they have a near application to Dryden himself. His own
characterization of Chaucer (though too narrow for the greatest but one
of English poets) is the best that could be given of himself: "He is a
perpetual fountain of good sense." And the other passages show him a
close and open-minded student of the art he professed. Has his influence
on our literature, but especially on our poetry, been on the whole for
good or evil? If he could have been read with the liberal understanding
which he brought to the works of others, I should answer at once that it
had been beneficial. But his translations and paraphrases, in some ways
the best things he did, were done, like his plays, under contract to
deliver a certain number of verses for a specified sum. The
versification, of which he had learned the art by long practice, is
excellent, but his haste has led him to fill out the measure of lines
with phrases that add only to dilute, and thus the clearest, the most
direct, the most manly versifier of his time became, without meaning it,
the source (_fons et origo malorum_) of that poetic diction from which
our poetry has not even yet recovered. I do not like to say it, but he
has sometimes smothered the childlike simplicity of Chaucer under
feather-beds of verbiage. What this kind of thing came to in the next
century, when everybody ceremoniously took a bushel-basket to bring a
wren's egg to market in, is only too sadly familiar. It is clear that his
natural taste led Dryden to prefer directness and simplicity of style. If
he was too often tempted astray by Artifice, his love of Nature betrays
itself in many an almost passionate outbreak of angry remorse. Addison
tells us that he took particular delight in the reading of our old
English ballads. What he valued above all things was Force, though in his
haste he is willing to make a shift with its counterfeit, Effect. As
usual, he had a good reason to urge for what he did: "I will not excuse,
but justify myself for one pretended crime for which I am liable to be
charged by false critics, not only in this translation, but in many of my
original poems,--that I Latinize too much. It is true that when I find an
English word significant and sounding, I neither borrow from the Latin or
any other language; but when I want at home I must seek abroad. If
sounding words are not of our growth and manufacture, who shall hinder me
to import them from a foreign country? I carry not out the treasure of
the nation which is never to return; but what I bring from Italy I spend
in England: here it remains, and here it circulates; for if the coin be
good, it will pass from one hand to another. I trade both with the living
and the dead for the enrichment of our native language. We have enough in
England to supply our necessity; but if we will have things of
magnificence and splendor, we must get them by commerce.... Therefore, if
I find a word in a classic author, I propose it to be naturalized by
using it myself, and if the public approve of it the bill passes. But
every man cannot distinguish betwixt pedantry and poetry; every man,
therefore, is not fit to innovate."[89] This is admirably said, and with
Dryden's accustomed penetration to the root of the matter. The Latin has
given us most of our canorous words, only they must not be confounded
with merely sonorous ones, still less with phrases that, instead of
supplementing the sense, encumber it. It was of Latinizing in this sense
that Dryden was guilty. Instead of stabbing, he "with steel invades the
life." The consequence was that by and by we have Dr. Johnson's poet,
Savage, telling us,--

"In front, a parlor meets my entering view,
Opposed a room to sweet refection due";

Dr. Blacklock making a forlorn maiden say of her "dear," who is out

"Or by some apoplectic fit deprest
Perhaps, alas! he seeks eternal rest";

and Mr. Bruce, in a Danish war-song, calling on the vikings to "assume
their oars." But it must be admitted of Dryden that he seldom makes the
second verse of a couplet the mere trainbearer to the first, as Pope was
continually doing. In Dryden the rhyme waits upon the thought; in Pope
and his school the thought courtesies to the tune for which it is

Dryden has also been blamed for his gallicisms.[90] He tried some, it is
true, but they have not been accepted.

I do not think he added a single word to the language; unless, as I
suspect, he first used _magnetism_ in its present sense of moral
attraction. What he did in his best writing was to use the English as if
it were a spoken, and not merely an inkhorn language; as if it were his
own to do what he pleased with it, as if it need not be ashamed of

In this respect, his service to our prose was greater than any other man
has ever rendered. He says he formed his style upon Tillotson's (Bossuet,
on the other hand, formed _his_ upon Corneille's); but I rather think he
got it at Will's, for its great charm is that it has the various freedom
of talk.[92] In verse, he had a pomp which, excellent in itself, became
pompousness in his imitators. But he had nothing of Milton's ear for
various rhythm and interwoven harmony. He knew how to give new
modulation, sweetness, and force to the pentameter; but in what used to
be called pindarics, I am heretic enough to think he generally failed.
His so much praised "Alexander's Feast" (in parts of it, at least) has no
excuse for its slovenly metre and awkward expression, but that it was
written for music. He himself tells us, in the epistle dedicatory to
"King Arthur," "that the numbers of poetry and vocal music are sometimes
so contrary, that in many places I have been obliged to cramp my verses
and make them ragged to the reader that they may be harmonious to the
hearer." His renowned ode suffered from this constraint, but this is no
apology for the vulgarity of conception in too many passages.[93]

Dryden's conversion to Romanism has been commonly taken for granted as
insincere, and has therefore left an abiding stain on his character,
though the other mud thrown at him by angry opponents or rivals brushed
off so soon as it was dry. But I think his change of faith susceptible of
several explanations, none of them in any way discreditable to him. Where
Church and State are habitually associated, it is natural that minds even
of a high order should unconsciously come to regard religion as only a
subtler mode of police.[94] Dryden, conservative by nature, had
discovered before Joseph de Maistre, that Protestantism, so long as it
justified its name by continuing to be an active principle, was the
abettor of Republicanism. I think this is hinted in more than one passage
in his preface to "The Hind and Panther." He may very well have preferred
Romanism because of its elder claim to authority in all matters of
doctrine, but I think he had a deeper reason in the constitution of his
own mind. That he was "naturally inclined to scepticism in philosophy,"
he tells us of himself in the preface to the "Religio Laici"; but he was
a sceptic with an imaginative side, and in such characters scepticism and
superstition play into each other's hands. This finds a curious
illustration in a letter to his sons, written four years before his
death: "Towards the latter end of this month, September, Charles will
begin to recover his perfect health, according to his Nativity, which,
casting it myself, I am sure is true, and all things hitherto have
happened accordingly to the very time that I predicted them." Have we
forgotten Montaigne's votive offerings at the shrine of Loreto?

Dryden was short of body, inclined to stoutness, and florid of
complexion. He is said to have had "a sleepy eye," but was handsome and
of a manly carriage. He "was not a very genteel man, he was intimate with
none but poetical men.[95] He was said to be a very good man by all that
knew him: he was as plump as Mr. Pitt, of a fresh color and a down look,
and not very conversible." So Pope described him to Spence. He still
reigns in literary tradition, as when at Will's his elbow-chair had the
best place by the fire in winter, or on the balcony in summer, and when a
pinch from his snuff-box made a young author blush with pleasure as would
now-a-days a favorable notice in the "Saturday Review." What gave and
secures for him this singular eminence? To put it in a single word, I
think that his qualities and faculties were in that rare combination
which makes character. This gave _flavor_ to whatever he wrote,--a very
rare quality.

Was he, then, a great poet? Hardly, in the narrowest definition. But he
was a strong thinker who sometimes carried common sense to a height where
it catches the light of a diviner air, and warmed reason till it had
wellnigh the illuminating property of intuition. Certainly he is not,
like Spenser, the poets' poet, but other men have also their rights. Even
the Philistine is a man and a brother, and is entirely right so far as he
sees. To demand more of him is to be unreasonable. And he sees, among
other things, that a man who undertakes to write should first have a
meaning perfectly defined to himself, and then should be able to set it
forth clearly in the best words. This is precisely Dryden's praise,[96]
and amid the rickety sentiment looming big through misty phrase which
marks so much of modern literature, to read him is as bracing as a
northwest wind. He blows the mind clear. In ripeness of mind and bluff
heartiness of expression, he takes rank with the best. His phrase is
always a short-cut to his sense, for his estate was too spacious for him
to need that trick of winding the path of his thought about, and planting
it out with clumps of epithet, by which the landscape-gardeners of
literature give to a paltry half-acre the air of a park. In poetry, to be
next-best is, in one sense, to be nothing; and yet to be among the first
in any kind of writing, as Dryden certainly was, is to be one of a very
small company. He had, beyond most, the gift of the right word. And if he
does not, like one or two of the greater masters of song, stir our
sympathies by that indefinable aroma so magical in arousing the subtile
associations of the soul, he has this in common with the few great
writers, that the winged seeds of his thought embed themselves in the
memory and germinate there. If I could be guilty of the absurdity of
recommending to a young man any author on whom to form his style, I
should tell him that, next to having something that will not stay unsaid,
he could find no safer guide than Dryden.

Cowper, in a letter to Mr. Unwin (5th January, 1782), expresses what I
think is the common feeling about Dryden, that, with all his defects, he
had that indefinable something we call Genius. "But I admire Dryden most
[he had been speaking of Pope], who has succeeded by mere dint of genius,
and in spite of a laziness and a carelessness almost peculiar to himself.
His faults are numberless, and so are his beauties. His faults are those
of a great man, and his beauties are such (at least sometimes) as Pope
with all his touching and retouching could never equal." But, after all,
perhaps no man has summed him up so well as John Dennis, one of Pope's
typical dunces, a dull man outside of his own sphere, as men are apt to
be, but who had some sound notions as a critic, and thus became the
object of Pope's fear and therefore of his resentment. Dennis speaks of
him as his "departed friend, whom I infinitely esteemed when living for
the solidity of his thought, for the spring and the warmth and the
beautiful turn of it; for the power and variety and fulness of his
harmony; for the purity, the perspicuity, the energy of his expression;
and, whenever these great qualities are required, for the pomp and
solemnity and majesty of his style."[97]


[1] The Dramatick Works of John Dryden, Esq. In six volumes. London:
Printed for Jacob Tonson, in the Strand. MDCCXXXV. 18mo.

The Critical and Miscellaneous Prose-Works of John Dryden, now first
collected. With Notes and Illustrations. An Account of the Life and
Writings of the Author, grounded on Original and Authentick
Documents; and a Collection of his Letters, the greatest Part of
which has never before been published. By Edmund Malone, Esq. London:
T. Cadell and W. Davies, in the Strand. 4 vols. 8vo.

The Poetical Works of John Dryden. (Edited by Mitford.) London: W.
Pickering. 1832. 6 vols. 18mo.

[2] His "Character of a Happy Warrior" (1806), one of his noblest
poems, has a dash of Dryden in it,--still more his "Epistle to Sir
George Beaumont (1811)."

[3] He studied Dryden's versification before writing his "Lamia."

[4] On the Origin and Progress of Satire. See Johnson's
counter-opinion in his life of Dryden.

[5] Essay on Dramatick Posey.

[6] Life of Lucian.

[7] "The great man must have that intellect which puts in motion the
intellect of others."--Landor, _Im. Con._, Diogenes and Plato.

[8] Character of Polybius (1692).

[9] "For my own part, who must confess it to my shame that I never
read anything but for pleasure." Life of Plutarch (1683).

[10] Gray says petulantly enough that "Dryden was as disgraceful to
the office, from his character, as the poorest scribbler could have
been from his verses."--Gray to Mason, 19th December, 1757.

[11] Essay on the Origin and Progress of Satire.

[12] Dedication of the Georgics.

[13] Dryden's penetration is always remarkable. His general judgment
of Polybius coincides remarkably with that of Mommsen. (Roem. Gesch.
II. 448, _seq_.)

[14] "I have taken some pains to make it my masterpiece in English."
Preface to Second Miscellany. Fox said that it "was better than the
original." J.C. Scaliger said of Erasmus: "Ex alieno ingenio poeta,
ex suo versificator."

[15] In one of the last letters he ever wrote, thanking his cousin
Mrs. Steward for a gift of marrow-puddings, he says: "A chine of
honest bacon would please my appetite more than all the
marrow-puddings; for I like them better plain, having a very vulgar
stomach." So of Cowley he says: "There was plenty enough, but ill
sorted, whole pyramids of sweetmeats for boys and women, but little
of solid meat for men." The physical is a truer antitype of the
spiritual man than we are willing to admit, and the brain is often
forced to acknowledge the inconvenient country-cousinship of the

[16] In his preface to "All for Love," he says, evidently alluding to
himself: "If he have a friend whose hastiness in writing is his
greatest fault, Horace would have taught him to have minced the
matter, and to have called it readiness of thought and a flowing
fancy." And in the Preface to the Fables he says of Homer: "This
vehemence of his, I confess, is more suitable to my temper." He makes
other allusions to it.

[17] Preface to the Fables.

[18] _Wool_ is Sylvester's word. Dryden reminds us of Burke in this
also, that he always quotes from memory and seldom exactly. His
memory was better for things than for words. This helps to explain
the length of time it took him to master that vocabulary at last so
various, full, and seemingly extemporaneous. He is a large quoter,
though, with his usual inconsistency, he says, "I am no admirer of
quotations." (Essay on Heroic Plays.)

[19] In the _Epimetheus_ of a poet usually as elegant as Gray
himself, one's finer sense is a little jarred by the

"Spectral gleam their snow-white _dresses_."

[20] This probably suggested to Young the grandiose image in his
"Last Day" (B. ii.):--

"Those overwhelming armies....
Whose rear lay wrapt in night, while breaking dawn
Roused the broad front and called the battle on."

This, to be sure, is no plagiarism; but it should be carried to
Dryden's credit that we catch the poets of the next half-century
oftener with their hands in his pockets than in those of any one

[21] Essay on Satire.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Preface to Fables. Men are always inclined to revenge themselves
on their old idols in the first enthusiasm of conversion to a purer
faith. Cowley had all the faults that Dryden loads him with, and yet
his popularity was to some extent deserved. He at least had a theory
that poetry should soar, not creep, and longed for some expedient, in
the failure of natural wings, by which he could lift himself away
from the conventional and commonplace. By beating out the substance
of Pindar very thin, he contrived a kind of balloon which, tumid with
gas, did certainly mount a little, _into_ the clouds, if not above
them, though sure to come suddenly down with a bump. His odes,
indeed, are an alternation of upward jerks and concussions, and smack
more of Chapelain than of the Theban, but his prose is very
agreeable,--Montaigne and water, perhaps, but with some flavor of the
Gascon wine left. The strophe of his ode to Dr. Scarborough, in which
he compares his surgical friend, operating for the stone, to Moses
striking the rock, more than justifies all the ill that Dryden could
lay at his door. It was into precisely such mud-holes that Cowley's
Will-o'-the-Wisp had misguided him. Men may never wholly shake off a
vice but they are always conscious of it, and hate the tempter.

[24] Dedication of Georgics.

[25] In a letter to Dennis, 1693.

[26] Preface to Fables.

[27] More than half a century later, Orrery, in his "Remarks" on
Swift, says: "We speak and we write at random; and if a man's common
conversation were committed to paper, he would be startled _for_ _to_
find himself guilty in _so few_ sentences of so many solecisms and
such false English." I do not remember _for to_ anywhere in Dryden's
prose. _So few_ has long been denizened; no wonder, since it is
nothing more than _si peu_ Anglicized.

[28] Letter to the Lord High Treasurer.

[29] Ibid. He complains of "manglings and abbreviations." "What does
your Lordship think of the words drudg'd, disturb'd, rebuk'd,
fledg'd, and a thousand others?" In a contribution to the "Tatler"
(No. 230) he ridicules the use of _'um_ for _them_, and a number of
slang Footnote: phrases, among which is _mob_. "The war," he says,
"has introduced abundance of polysyllables, which will never be able
to live many more campaigns." _Speculations, operations,
preliminaries, ambassadors, pallisadoes, communication,
circumvallation, battalions_, are the instances he gives, and all are
now familiar. No man, or body of men, can dam the stream of language.
Dryden is rather fond of _'em_ for _them_, but uses it rarely in his
prose. Swift himself prefers _'tis_ to _it is_, as does Emerson
still. In what Swift says of the poets, he may be fairly suspected of
glancing at Dryden, who was his kinsman, and whose prefaces and
translation of Virgil he ridicules in the "Tale of a Tub." Dryden is
reported to have said of him, "Cousin Swift is no poet." The Dean
began his literary career by Pindaric odes to Athenian Societies and
the like,--perhaps the greatest mistake as to his own powers of which
an author was ever guilty. It was very likely that he would send
these to his relative, already distinguished, for his opinion upon
them. If this was so, the justice of Dryden's judgment must have
added to the smart. Swift never forgot or forgave: Dryden was
careless enough to do the one, and large enough to do the other.

[30] Both Malone and Scott accept this gentleman's evidence without
question, but I confess suspicion of a memory that runs back more
than eighty-one years, and recollects a man before he had any claim
to remembrance. Dryden was never poor, and there is at Oxford a
portrait of him painted in 1664, which represents him in a superb
periwig and laced band. This was "before he had paid his court with
success to the great." But the story is at least _ben trovato_, and
morally true enough to serve as an illustration. Who the "old
gentleman" was has never been discovered. Of Crowne (who has some
interest for us as a sometime student at Harvard) he says: "Many a
cup of metheglm have I drank with little starch'd Johnny Crown; we
called him so, from the stiff, unalterable primness of his long
cravat." Crowne reflects no more credit on his Alma Mater than
Downing. Both were sneaks, and of such a kind as, I think, can only
be produced by a debauched Puritanism. Crowne, as a rival of Dryden,
is contemptuously alluded to by Cibber in his "Apology."

[31] Diary, III. 390. Almost the only notices of Dryden that make him
alive to me I have found in the delicious book of this
Polonius-Montaigne, the only man who ever had the courage to keep a
sincere journal, even under the shelter of cipher.

[32] Tale of a Tub, Sect. V. Pepys also speaks of buying the "Maiden
Queen" of Mr. Dryden's, which he himself, in his preface, seems to
brag of, and indeed is a good play.--18th January, 1668.

[33] He is fond of this image. In the "Maiden Queen" Celadon tells
Sabina that, when he is with her rival Florimel, his heart is still
her prisoner, "it only draws a longer chain after it." Goldsmith's
fancy was taken by it; and everybody admires in the "Traveller" the
extraordinary conceit of a heart dragging a lengthening chain. The
smoothness of too many rhymed pentameters is that of thin ice over
shallow water; so long as we glide along rapidly, all is well; but if
we dwell a moment on any one spot, we may find ourselves knee-deep in
mud. A later poet, in trying to improve on Goldsmith, shows the
ludicrousness of the image:--

"And round my heart's leg ties its galling chain."

To write imaginatively a man should have--imagination!

[34] See his epistle dedicatory to the "Rival Ladies" (1664). For the
other side, see particularly a passage in his "Discourse on Epic
Poetry" (1697).

[35] In the same way he had two years before assumed that Shakespeare
"was the first who, to shun the pains of continued rhyming, invented
that kind of writing which we call blank verse!" Dryden was never, I
suspect, a very careful student of English literature. He seems never
to have known that Surrey translated a part of the "Aeneid" (and with
great spirit) into blank verse. Indeed, he was not a scholar, in the
proper sense of the word, but he had that faculty of rapid
assimilation without study, so remarkable in Coleridge and other rich
minds, whose office is rather to impregnate than to invent. These
brokers of thought perform a great office in literature, second only
to that of originators.

[36] Essay on Satire. What he has said just before this about Butler
is worth noting. Butler had had a chief hand in the "Rehearsal," but
Dryden had no grudges where the question was of giving its just
praise to merit.

[37] The conclusion of the second canto of Book Third is the best
continuously fine passage. Dryden's poem has nowhere so much meaning
in so small space as Davenant, when he says of the sense of honor

"Like Power, it grows to nothing, growing less."

Davenant took the hint of the stanza from Sir John Davies. Wyatt
first used it, so far as I know, in English.

[38] Perhaps there is no better lecture on the prevailing vices of
style and thought (if thought this frothy ferment of the mind may be
called) than in Cotton Mather's "Magnalia." For Mather, like a true
provincial, appropriates only the mannerism, and, as is usual in such
cases, betrays all its weakness by the unconscious parody of

[39] The Doctor was a capital judge of the substantial value of the
goods he handled, but his judgment always seems that of the thumb and
forefinger. For the shades, the disposition of colors, the beauty of
the figures, he has as good as no sense whatever. The critical parts
of his Life of Dryden seem to me the best of his writing in this
kind. There is little to be gleaned after him. He had studied his
author, which he seldom did, and his criticism is sympathetic, a
thing still rarer with him. As illustrative of his own habits, his
remarks on Dryden's reading are curious.

[40] Perhaps the hint was given by a phrase of Corneille, _monarque
en peinture_. Dryden seldom borrows, unless from Shakespeare, without
improving, and he borrowed a great deal. Thus in "Don Sebastian" of

"Brutus and Cato might discharge their souls,
And give them furloughs for the other world;
But we, like sentries, are obliged to stand
In starless nights and wait the appointed hour."

The thought is Cicero's, but how it is intensified by the "starless
nights"! Dryden, I suspect, got it from his favorite, Montaigne, who
says, "Que nous ne pouvons abandonner cette garnison du monde, sans
le commandement exprez de celuy qui nous y a mis." (L. ii. chap. 3.)
In the same play, by a very Drydenish verse, he gives new force to an
old comparison:--

"And I should break through laws divine and human.
And think 'em cobwebs spread for little man,
_Which all the bulky herd of Nature breaks_."

[41] Not his solemn historical droning under that title, but
addressed "To the Cambrio-Britons on their harp."

[42] "Les poetes euxmemes s'animent et s'echauffent par la lecture
des autres poetes. Messieurs de Malherbe, Corneille, &c., se
disposoient au travail par la lecture des poetes qui etoient de leur
gout."--Vigneul, Marvilliana, I. 64, 65.

[43] For example, Waller had said,

"Others may use the ocean as their road,
Only the English _make it their abode_;
* * * * *
We _tread on billows with a steady foot_"--

long before Campbell. Campbell helps himself to both thoughts,
enlivens them into

"Her march is o'er the mountain wave,
Her home is on the deep,"

and they are his forevermore. His "leviathans afloat" he _lifted_
from the "Annus Mirabilis"; but in what court could Dryden sue?
Again, Waller in another poem calls the Duke of York's flag

"His dreadful streamer, like a comet's hair";

and this, I believe, is the first application of the celestial
portent to this particular comparison. Yet Milton's "imperial ensign"
waves defiant behind his impregnable lines, and even Campbell flaunts
his "meteor flag" in Waller's face. Gray's bard might be sent to the
lock-up, but even he would find bail.

"C'est imiter quelqu'un que de planter des choux."

[44] Corneille's tragedy of "Pertharite" was acted unsuccessfully in
1659. Racine made free use of it in his more fortunate "Andromaque."

[45] Dryden's publisher.

[46] Preface to the Fables.

[47] I interpret some otherwise ambiguous passages in this charming
and acute essay by its title: "On the _artificial_ comedy of the last

[48] See especially his defence of the epilogue to the Second Part of
the "Conquest of Granada" (1672).

[49] Defence of an Essay on Dramatick Poesy.

[50] "The favor which heroick plays have lately found upon our
theatres has been wholly derived to them from the countenance and
approbation they have received at Court." (Dedication of "Indian
Emperor" to Duchess of Monmouth.)

[51] Dedication of "Rival Ladies."

[52] Defence of the Essay. Dryden, in the happiness of his
illustrative comparisons, is almost unmatched. Like himself, they
occupy a middle ground between poetry and prose,--they are a cross
between metaphor and simile.

[53] Discoveries.

[54] What a wretched rhymer he could be we may see in his
_alteration_ of the "Maid's Tragedy" of Beaumont and Fletcher:--

"Not long since walking in the field,
My nurse and I, we there beheld
A goodly fruit; which, tempting me,
I would have plucked: but, trembling, she,
Whoever eat those berries, cried,
In less than half an hour died!"

What intolerable seesaw! Not much of Byron's "fatal facility" in
_these_ octosyllabics!

[55] In more senses than one. His last and best portrait shows him
in his own gray hair.

[56] Essay on Dramatick Poesy.

[57] A French hendecasyllable verse runs exactly like our ballad

A cobbler there was and he lived in a stall, ...
_La raison, pour marcher, n'a souvent qu'une voye._

(Dryden's note.)

The verse is not a hendecasyllable. "Attended watchfully to her
recitative (Mile. Duchesnois), and find that, in nine lines out of
ten, 'A cobbler there was,' &c, is the tune of the French
heroics."--_Moore's Diary_, 24th April, 1821.

[58] "The language of the age is never the language of poetry, except
among the French, whose verse, where the thought or image does not
support it, differs in nothing from prose."--Gray to West.

[59] Diderot and Rousseau, however, thought their language unfit for
poetry, and Voltaire seems to have half agreed with them. No one has
expressed this feeling more neatly than Fauriel: "Nul doute que l'on
ne puisse dire en prose des choses eminemment poetiques, tout comme
il n'est que trop certain que l'on peut en dire de fort prosaiques en
vers, et meme en excellents vers, en vers elegamment tournes, et en
beau langage. C'est un fait dont je n'ai pas besoin d'indiquer
d'exemples: aucune litterature n'en fournirait autant que le
notre."--Hist. de la Poesie Provencale, II. 237.

[60] Parallel of Poetry and Painting.

[61] "Il y a seulement la scene de _Ventidius_ et d'_Antoine_ qui est
digne de Corneille. C'est la le sentiment de milord Bolingbroke et
de tous les bons auteurs; c'est ainsi que pensait
Addisson."--Voltaire to M. De Fromont, 15th November, 1735.

[62] Inst. X., i. 129.

[63] Conquest of Grenada, Second Part.

[64] In most he mingles blank verse.

[65] Conquest of Grenada.

[66] This recalls a striking verse of Alfred de Musset:--

"La muse est toujours belle.
Meme pour l'insense, meme pour l'impuissant,
_Car sa beaute pour nous, c'est notre amour pour elle._"

[67] Rival Ladies.

[68] Don Sebastian.

[69] Don Sebastian.

[70] Cleomenes.

[71] All for Love.

[72] Dryden, with his wonted perspicacity, follows Ben Jonson in
calling Donne "the greatest wit, though not the best poet, of our
nation." (Dedication of Eleonora.) Even as a poet Donne

"Had in him those brave translunary things
That our first poets had."

To open vistas for the imagination through the blind wall of the
senses as he could sometimes do, is the supreme function of poetry.

[73] My own judgment is my sole warrant for attributing these
extracts from Oedipus to Dryden rather than Lee.

[74] Recollections of Rogers, p. 165.

[75] Nicholls's Reminiscences of Gray. Pickering's edition of Gray's
Works, Vol. V. p. 35.

[76] Let one suffice for all. In the "Royal Martyr," Porphyrius.
awaiting his execution, says to Maximin, who had wished him for a

"Where'er thou stand'st, I'll level at that place
My gushing blood, and spout it at thy face;
Thus not by marriage we our blood will join;
Nay, more, my arms shall throw my head at thine."

"It is no shame," says Dryden himself, "to be a poet, though it is to
be a bad one."

[77] Gray, _ubi supra_, p. 38.

[78] Scott had never seen Pepys's Diary when he wrote this, or he
would have left it unwritten: "Fell to discourse of the last night's
work at Court, where the ladies and Duke of Monmouth acted the
'Indian Emperor,' wherein they told me these things most remarkable
that not any woman but the Duchess of Monmouth and Mrs. Cornwallis
did anything but like fools and stocks, but that these two did do
most extraordinary well: that not any man did anything well but
Captain O'Bryan, who spoke and did well, but above all things did
dance most incomparably."--14th January, 1668.

[79] See also that noble passage in the "Hind and Panther"
(1572-1591), where this is put into verse. Dryden always thought in

[80] Probably on the authority of this very epitaph, as if epitaphs
were to be believed even under oath! A great many authors live
because we read nothing but their tombstones. Oldham was, to borrow
one of Dryden's phrases, "a bad or, which is worse, an indifferent

[81] "He was of a nature exceedingly humane and compassionate easily
forgiving injuries, and capable of a prompt and sincere
reconciliation with them that had offended him."--Congress.

[82] Coleridge says excellently: "You will find this a good gauge or
criterion of genius,--whether it progresses and evolves, or only
spins upon itself. Take Dryden's Achitophel and Zimri; every line
adds to or modifies the character, which is, as it were, a-building
up to the very last verse; whereas in Pope's Timon, &c. the first two
or three couplets contain all the pith of the character, and the
twenty or thirty lines that follow are so much evidence or proof of
overt acts of jealousy, or pride, or whatever it may be that is
satirized." (Table-Talk, 192.) Some of Dryden's best satirical hits
are let fall by seeming accident in his prose, as where he says of
his Protestant assailants, "Most of them love all whores but her of
Babylon." They had first attacked him on the score of his private

[83] That he taxes Shadwell with it is only a seeming exception, as
any careful reader will see.

[84] Preface to Fables.

[85] Dedication of the Georgics.

[86] Preface to Second Miscellany.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Memoirs of Wordsworth, Vol. II. p. 74 (American edition).

[89] A Discourse of Epick Poetry "If the _public_ approve." "On ne
peut pas admettre dans le developpement des langues aucune revolution
artificielle et sciemment executee; il n'y a pour elles ni conciles,
ni assemblees deliberantes; on ne les reforme pas comme une
constitution vicieuse."--Renan, De l'Origine du Langage, p 95.

[90] This is an old complaint. Puttenham sighs over such innovation
in Elizabeth's time, and Carew in James's. A language grows, and is
not made. Almost all the new-fangled words with which Jonson taxes
Marston in his "Poetaster" are now current.

[91] Like most idiomatic, as distinguished from correct writers, he
knew very little about the language historically or critically. His
prose and poetry swarm with locutions that would have made Lindley
Murray's hair stand on end. _How_ little he knew is plain from his
criticising in Ben Jonson the use of _ones_ in the plural, of "Though
Heaven should speak with all _his_ wrath," and be "as false English
for _are_, though the rhyme hides it." Yet all are good English, and
I have found them all in Dryden's own writing! Of his sins against
idiom I have a longer list than I have room for. And yet he is one of
our highest authorities for _real_ English.

[92] To see what he rescued us from in pedantry on the one hand, and
vulgarism on the other, read Feltham and Tom Brown--if you can.

[93] "Cette ode mise en musique par Purcell (si je ne me trompe),
passe en Angleterre pour le chef-d'oeuvre de la poesie la plus
sublime et la plus variee; et je vous avoue que, comme je sais mieux
l'anglais que le grec, j'aime cent fois mieux cette ode que tout
Pindare."--Voltaire to M. De Chabanon, 9 mars, 1772.

Dryden would have agreed with Voltaire. When Chief-Justice Marlay,
then a young Templar, "congratulated him on having produced the
finest and noblest Ode that had ever been written in any language,
You are right, young gentleman' (replied Dryden), 'a nobler Ode never
_was_ produced, nor ever _will_.'"--Malone.

[94] This was true of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and still more of
Southey who in some respects was not unlike Dryden.

[95] Pope's notion of gentility was perhaps expressed in a letter
from Lord Cobham to him: "I congratulate you upon the fine weather.
'T is a strange thing that people of condition and men of parts must
enjoy it in common with the rest of the world." (Ruffhead's Pope, p
276, _note_.) His Lordship's naive distinction between people of
condition and men of parts is as good as Pope's between genteel and
poetical men. I fancy the poet grinning savagely as he read it.

[96] "Nothing is truly sublime," he himself said, "that is not just
and proper."

[97] Dennis in a letter to Tonson, 1715.


Credulity, as a mental and moral phenomenon, manifests itself in widely
different ways, according as it chances to be the daughter of fancy or
terror. The one lies warm about the heart as Folk-lore, fills moonlit
dells with dancing fairies, sets out a meal for the Brownie, hears the
tinkle of airy bridle-bells as Tamlane rides away with the Queen of
Dreams, changes Pluto and Proserpine into Oberon and Titania, and makes
friends with unseen powers as Good Folk; the other is a bird of night,
whose shadow sends a chill among the roots of the hair: it sucks with the
vampire, gorges with the ghoule, is choked by the night-hag, pines away
under the witch's charm, and commits uncleanness with the embodied
Principle of Evil, giving up the fair realm of innocent belief to a murky
throng from the slums and stews of the debauched brain. Both have
vanished from among educated men, and such superstition as comes to the
surface now-a-days is the harmless Jacobitism of sentiment, pleasing
itself with the fiction all the more because there is no exacting reality
behind it to impose a duty or demand a sacrifice. And as Jacobitism
survived the Stuarts, so this has outlived the dynasty to which it
professes an after-dinner allegiance. It nails a horseshoe over the door,
but keeps a rattle by its bedside to summon a more substantial watchman;
it hangs a crape on the beehives to get a taste of ideal sweetness, but
obeys the teaching of the latest bee-book for material and marketable
honey. This is the aesthetic variety of the malady, or rather, perhaps,
it is only the old complaint robbed of all its pain, and lapped in waking
dreams by the narcotism of an age of science. To the world at large it is
not undelightful to see the poetical instincts of friends and neighbors
finding some other vent than that of verse. But there has been a
superstition of very different fibre, of more intense and practical
validity, the deformed child of faith, peopling the midnight of the mind
with fearful shapes and phrenetic suggestions, a monstrous brood of its
own begetting, and making even good men ferocious in imagined

Imagination, has always been, and still is, in a narrower sense, the
great mythologizer; but both its mode of manifestation and the force with
which it reacts on the mind are one thing in its crude form of childlike
wonder, and another thing after it has been more or less consciously
manipulated by the poetic faculty. A mythology that broods over us in our
cradles, that mingles with the lullaby of the nurse and the
winter-evening legends of the chimney-corner, that brightens day with the
possibility of divine encounters, and darkens night with intimations of
demonic ambushes, is of other substance than one which we take down from
our bookcase, sapless as the shelf it stood on, and remote from all
present sympathy with man or nature as a town history. It is something
like the difference between live metaphor and dead personification.
Primarily, the action of the imagination is the same in the mythologizer
and the poet, that is, it forces its own consciousness on the objects of
the senses, and compels them to sympathize with its own momentary
impressions. When Shakespeare in his "Lucrece" makes

"The threshold grate the door to have him heard,"

his mind is acting under the same impulse that first endowed with human
feeling and then with human shape all the invisible forces of nature, and
called into being those

"Fair humanities of old religion,"

whose loss the poets mourn. So also Shakespeare no doubt projected
himself in his own creations; but those creations never became so
perfectly disengaged from him, so objective, or, as they used to say,
extrinsical, to him, as to react upon him like real and even alien
existences. I mean permanently, for momentarily they may and must have
done so. But before man's consciousness had wholly disentangled itself
from outward objects, all nature was but a many-sided mirror which gave
back to him a thousand images more or less beautified or distorted,
magnified or diminished, of himself, till his imagination grew to look
upon its own incorporations as having an independent being. Thus, by
degrees, it became at last passive to its own creations. You may see
imaginative children every day anthropomorphizing in this way, and the
dupes of that super-abundant vitality in themselves, which bestows
qualities proper to itself on everything about them. There is a period of
development in which grown men are childlike. In such a period the fables
which endow beasts with human attributes first grew up; and we luckily
read them so early as never to become suspicious of any absurdity in
them. The Finnic epos of "Kalewala" is a curious illustration of the same
fact. In that every thing has the affections, passions, and consciousness
of men. When the mother of Lemminkaeinen is seeking her lost son,--

"Sought she many days the lost one,
Sought him ever without finding;
Then the roadways come to meet her,
And she asks them with beseeching:
'Roadways, ye whom God hath shapen,
Have ye not my son beholden,
Nowhere seen the golden apple,
Him, my darling staff of silver?'
Prudently they gave her answer,
Thus to her replied the roadways:
'For thy son we cannot plague us,
We have sorrows too, a many,
Since our own lot is a hard one
And our fortune is but evil,
By dog's feet to be run over,
By the wheel-tire to be wounded,
And by heavy heels down-trampled.'"

It is in this tendency of the mind under certain conditions to confound
the objective with subjective, or rather to mistake the one for the
other, that Mr. Tylor, in his "Early History of Mankind," is fain to seek
the origin of the supernatural, as we somewhat vaguely call whatever
transcends our ordinary experience. And this, no doubt, will in many
cases account for the particular shapes assumed by certain phantasmal
appearances, though I am inclined to doubt whether it be a sufficient
explanation of the abstract phenomenon. It is easy for the arithmetician
to make a key to the problems that he has devised to suit himself. An
immediate and habitual confusion of the kind spoken of is insanity; and
the hypochondriac is tracked by the black dog of his own mind. Disease
itself is, of course, in one sense natural, as being the result of
natural causes; but if we assume health as the mean representing the
normal poise of all the mental facilities, we must be content to call
hypochondria subternatural, because the tone of the instrument is
lowered, and to designate as supernatural only those ecstasies in which
the mind, under intense but not unhealthy excitement, is snatched
sometimes above itself, as in poets and other persons of imaginative
temperament. In poets this liability to be possessed by the creations of
their own brains is limited and proportioned by the artistic sense, and
the imagination thus truly becomes the shaping faculty, while in less
regulated or coarser organizations it dwells forever in the _Nifelheim_
of phantasmagoria and dream, a thaumaturge half cheat, half dupe. What
Mr. Tylor has to say on this matter is ingenious and full of valuable
suggestion, and to a certain extent solves our difficulties. Nightmare,
for example, will explain the testimony of witnesses in trials for
witchcraft, that they had been hag-ridden by the accused. But to prove
the possibility, nay, the probability, of this confusion of objective
with subjective is not enough. It accounts very well for such apparitions
as those which appeared to Dion, to Brutus, and to Curtius Rufus. In such
cases the imagination is undoubtedly its own _doppel-gaenger_, and sees
nothing more than the projection of its own deceit. But I am puzzled, I
confess, to explain the appearance of the _first_ ghost, especially among
men who thought death to be the end-all here below. The thing once
conceived of, it is easy, on Mr. Tylor's theory, to account for all after
the first. If it was originally believed that only the spirits of those
who had died violent deaths were permitted to wander,[99] the conscience
of a remorseful murderer may have been haunted by the memory of his
victim, till the imagination, infected in its turn, gave outward reality
to the image on the inward eye. After putting to death Boetius and
Symmachus, it is said that Theodoric saw in the head of a fish served at
his dinner the face of Symmachus, grinning horribly and with flaming
eyes, whereupon he took to his bed and died soon after in great agony of
mind. It is not safe, perhaps, to believe all that is reported of an
Arian; but supposing the story to be true, there is only a short step
from such a delusion of the senses to the complete ghost of popular
legend. But, in some of the most trustworthy stories of apparitions, they
have shown themselves not only to persons who had done them no wrong in
the flesh, but also to such as had never even known them. The _eidolon_
of James Haddock appeared to a man named Taverner, that he might interest
himself in recovering a piece of land unjustly kept from the dead man's
infant son. If we may trust Defoe, Bishop Jeremy Taylor twice examined
Taverner, and was convinced of the truth of his story. In this case,
Taverner had formerly known Haddock. But the apparition of an old
gentleman which entered the learned Dr. Scott's study, and directed him
where to find a missing deed needful in settling what had lately been its
estate in the West of England, chose for its attorney in the business an
entire stranger, who had never even seen its original in the flesh.

Whatever its origin, a belief in spirits seems to have been common to all
the nations of the ancient world who have left us any record of
themselves. Ghosts began to walk early, and are walking still, in spite
of the shrill cock-crow of _wir haben ja aufgeklaert._ Even the ghost in
chains, which one would naturally take to be a fashion peculiar to
convicts escaped from purgatory, is older than the belief in that
reforming penitentiary. The younger Pliny tells a very good story to this
effect: "There was at Athens a large and spacious house which lay under
the disrepute of being haunted. In the dead of the night a noise
resembling the clashing of iron was frequently heared, which, if you
listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains; at first
it seemed at a distance, but approached nearer by degrees; immediately
afterward a spectre appeared, in the form of an old man, extremely meagre
and ghastly, with a long beard and dishevelled hair, rattling the chains
on his feet and hands.... By this means the house was at last deserted,
being judged by everybody to be absolutely uninhabitable; so that it was
now entirely abandoned to the ghost. However, in hopes that some tenant
might be found who was ignorant of this great calamity which attended it,
a bill was put up giving notice that it was either to be let or sold. It
happened that the philosopher Athenodorus came to Athens at this time,
and, reading the bill, inquired the price. The extraordinary cheapness
raised his suspicion; nevertheless, when he heared the whole story, he
was so far from being discouraged that he was more strongly inclined to
hire it, and, in short, actually did so. When it grew towards evening, he
ordered a couch to be prepared for him in the fore part of the house,
and, after calling for a light, together with his pen and tablets, he
directed all his people to retire. But that his mind might not, for want
of employment, be open to the vain terrors of imaginary noises and
spirits, he applied himself to writing with the utmost attention. The
first part of the night passed with usual silence, when at length the
chains began to rattle; however, he neither lifted up his eyes nor laid
down his pen, but diverted his observation by pursuing his studies with
greater earnestness. The noise increased, and advanced nearer, till it
seemed at the door, and at last in the chamber. He looked up and saw the
ghost exactly in the manner it had been described to him; it stood before
him, beckoning with the finger. Athenodorus made a sign with his hand
that it should wait a little, and threw his eyes again upon his papers;
but the ghost still rattling his chains in his ears, he looked up and saw
him beckoning as before. Upon this he immediately arose, and with the
light in his hand followed it. The ghost slowly stalked along, as if
encumbered with his chains, and, turning into the area of the house,
suddenly vanished. Athenodorus, being thus deserted, made a mark with
some grass and leaves where the spirit left him. The next day he gave
information of this to the magistrates, and advised them to order that
spot to be dug up. This was accordingly done, and the skeleton of a man
in chains was there found; for the body, having lain a considerable time
in the ground, was putrefied and mouldered away from the fetters. The
bones, being collected together, were publicly buried, and thus, after
the ghost was appeased by the proper ceremonies, the house was haunted no
more."[100] This story has such a modern air as to be absolutely
disheartening. Are ghosts, then, as incapable of invention as dramatic
authors? But the demeanor of Athenodorus has the grand air of the
classical period, of one _qui connait son monde_, and feels the
superiority of a living philosopher to a dead Philistine. How far above
all modern armament is his prophylactic against his insubstantial
fellow-lodger! Now-a-days men take pistols into haunted houses. Sterne,
and after him Novalis, discovered that gunpowder made all men equally
tall, but Athenodorus had found out that pen and ink establish a
superiority in spiritual stature. As men of this world, we feel our
dignity exalted by his keeping an ambassador from the other waiting till
he had finished his paragraph. Never surely did authorship appear to
greater advantage. Athenodorus seems to have been of Hamlet's mind:

"I do not set my life at a pin's fee,
And, for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal, as itself?"[101]

A superstition, as its name imports, is something that has been left to
stand over, like unfinished business, from one session of the world's
_witenagemot_ to the next. The vulgar receive it implicitly on the
principle of _omne ignotum pro possibili_, a theory acted on by a much
larger number than is commonly supposed, and even the enlightened are too
apt to consider it, if not proved, at least rendered probable by the
hearsay evidence of popular experience. Particular superstitions are
sometimes the embodiment by popular imagination of ideas that were at
first mere poetic figments, but more commonly the degraded and distorted
relics of religious beliefs. Dethroned gods, outlawed by the new dynasty,
haunted the borders of their old dominions, lurking in forests and
mountains, and venturing to show themselves only after nightfall. Grimm
and others have detected old divinities skulking about in strange
disguises, and living from hand to mouth on the charity of Gammer Grethel
and Mere l'Oie. Cast out from Olympus and Asgard, they were thankful for
the hospitality of the chimney-corner, and kept soul and body together by
an illicit traffic between this world and the other. While Schiller was
lamenting the Gods of Greece, some of them were nearer neighbors to him
than he dreamed; and Heine had the wit to turn them to delightful
account, showing himself, perhaps, the wiser of the two in saving what he
could from the shipwreck of the past for present use on this prosaic Juan
Fernandez of a scientific age, instead of sitting down to bewail it. To
make the pagan divinities hateful, they were stigmatized as cacodaemons;
and as the human mind finds a pleasure in analogy and system, an infernal
hierarchy gradually shaped itself as the convenient antipodes and
counterpoise of the celestial one. Perhaps at the bottom of it all there
was a kind of unconscious manicheism, and Satan, as Prince of Darkness,
or of the Powers of the Air, became at last a sovereign, with his great
feudatories and countless vassals, capable of maintaining a not unequal
contest with the King of Heaven. He was supposed to have a certain power
of bestowing earthly prosperity, but he was really, after all, nothing
better than a James II. at St. Germains, who could make Dukes of Perth
and confer titular fiefs and garters as much as he liked, without the
unpleasant necessity of providing any substance behind the shadow. That
there should have been so much loyalty to him, under these disheartening
circumstances, seems to me, on the whole, creditable to poor human
nature. In this case it is due, at least in part, to that instinct of the
poor among the races of the North, where there was a long winter, and too
often a scanty harvest,--and the poor have been always and everywhere a
majority,--which made a deity of Wish. The _Acheronta-movebo_ impulse
must have been pardonably strong in old women starving with cold and
hunger, and fathers with large families and a small winter stock of
provision. Especially in the transition period from the old religion to
the new, the temptation must have been great to try one's luck with the
discrowned dynasty, when the intruder was deaf and blind to claims that
seemed just enough, so long as it was still believed that God personally
interfered in the affairs of men. On his death-bed, says Piers Plowman,

"The poore dare plede and prove by reson
To have allowance of his lord; by the law he it claimeth;
* * * * *
Thanne may beggaris as beestes after boote waiten
That al hir lif han lyved in langour and in defaute
But God sente hem som tyme som manere joye,
Outher here or ellis where, kynde wolde it nevere."

He utters the common feeling when he says that it were against nature.
But when a man has his choice between here and elsewhere, it may be
feared that the other world will seem too desperately far away to be
waited for when hungry ruin has him in the wind, and the chance on earth
is so temptingly near. Hence the notion of a transfer of allegiance from
God to Satan, sometimes by a written compact, sometimes with the ceremony
by which homage is done to a feudal superior.

Most of the practices of witchcraft--such as the power to raise storms,
to destroy cattle, to assume the shape of beasts by the use of certain
ointments, to induce deadly maladies in men by waxen images, or love by
means of charms and philtres--were inheritances from ancient paganism.
But the theory of a compact was the product of later times, the result,
no doubt, of the efforts of the clergy to inspire a horror of any lapse
into heathenish rites by making devils of all the old gods. Christianity
may be said to have invented the soul as an individual entity to be saved
or lost; and thus grosser wits were led to conceive of it as a piece of
property that could be transferred by deed of gift or sale, duly signed,
sealed, and witnessed. The earliest legend of the kind is that of
Theophilus, chancellor of the church of Adana in Cilicia some time during
the sixth century. It is said to have been first written by Eutychianus,
who had been a pupil of Theophilus, and who tells the story partly as an
eyewitness, partly from the narration of his master. The nun Hroswitha
first treated it dramatically in the latter half of the tenth century.
Some four hundred years later Rutebeuf made it the theme of a French
miracle-play. His treatment of it is not without a certain poetic merit.
Theophilus has been deprived by his bishop of a lucrative office. In his
despair he meets with Saladin, _qui parloit au deable quant il voloit_.
Saladin tempts him to deny God and devote himself to the Devil, who, in
return, will give him back all his old prosperity and more. He at last
consents, signs and seals the contract required, and is restored to his
old place by the bishop. But now remorse and terror come upon him; he
calls on the Virgin, who, after some demur, compels Satan to bring back
his deed from the infernal muniment-chest (which must have been
fire-proof beyond any skill of our modern safe-makers), and the bishop
having read it aloud to the awe-stricken congregation, Theophilus becomes
his own man again. In this play, the theory of devilish compact is
already complete in all its particulars. The paper must be signed with
the blood of the grantor, who does feudal homage (_or joing tes mains, et
si devien mes hom_), and engages to eschew good and do evil all the days
of his life. The Devil, however, does not imprint any stigma upon his new
vassal, as in the later stories of witch-compacts. The following passage
from the opening speech of Theophilus will illustrate the conception to
which I have alluded of God as a liege lord against whom one might seek
revenge on sufficient provocation,--and the only revenge possible was to
rob him of a subject by going over to the great Suzerain, his deadly

"N'est riens que por avoir ne face;
Ne pris riens Dieu et sa manace.
Irai me je noier ou pendre?
Ie ne m'en puis pas a Dieu prendre,
C'on ne puet a lui avenir.
* * * * *
Mes il s'est en si haut lieu mis,
Por eschiver ses anemis
C'on n'i puet trere ni lancier.
Se or pooie a lui tancier,
Et combattre et escrimir,
La char li feroie fremir.
Or est la sus en son solaz,
Laz! chetis! et je sui es laz
De Povrete et de Soufrete."[102]

During the Middle Ages the story became a favorite topic with preachers,
while carvings and painted windows tended still further to popularize it,
and to render men's minds familiar with the idea which makes the nexus of
its plot. The plastic hands of Calderon shaped it into a dramatic poem
not surpassed, perhaps hardly equalled, in subtile imaginative quality by
any other of modern times.

In proportion as a belief in the possibility of this damnable
merchandising with hell became general, accusations of it grew more
numerous. Among others, the memory of Pope Sylvester II, was blackened
with the charge of having thus bargained away his soul. All learning fell
under suspicion, till at length the very grammar itself (the last volume
in the world, one would say, to conjure with) gave to English the word
_gramary_ (enchantment), and in French became a book of magic, under the
alias of _Grimoire_. It is not at all unlikely that, in an age when the
boundary between actual and possible was not very well defined, there
were scholars who made experiments in this direction, and signed
contracts, though they never had a chance to complete their bargain by an
actual delivery. I do not recall any case of witchcraft in which such a
document was produced in court as evidence against the accused. Such a
one, it is true, was ascribed to Grandier, but was not brought forward at
his trial. It should seem that Grandier had been shrewd enough to take a
bond to secure the fulfilment of the contract on the other side; for we
have the document in fac-simile, signed and sealed by Lucifer, Beelzebub,
Satan, Elimi, Leviathan, and Astaroth, duly witnessed by Baalberith,
Secretary of the Grand Council of Demons. Fancy the competition such a
state paper as this would arouse at a sale of autographs! Commonly no
security appears to have been given by the other party to these
arrangements but the bare word of the Devil, which was considered, no
doubt, every whit as good as his bond. In most cases, indeed, he was the
loser, and showed a want of capacity for affairs equal to that of an
average giant of romance. Never was comedy acted over and over with such
sameness of repetition as "The Devil is an Ass." How often must he have
exclaimed (laughing in his sleeve):--

"_I_ to such blockheads set my wit,
_I_ damn such fools!--go, go, you're bit!"

In popular legend he is made the victim of some equivocation so gross
that any court of equity would have ruled in his favor. On the other
hand, if the story had been dressed up by some mediaeval Tract Society,
the Virgin appears in person at the right moment _ex machina_, and
compels him to give up the property he had honestly paid for. One is
tempted to ask, Were there no attorneys, then, in the place he came from,
of whom he might have taken advice beforehand? On the whole, he had
rather hard measure, and it is a wonder he did not throw up the business
in disgust. Sometimes, however, he was more lucky, as with the unhappy
Dr. Faust; and even so lately as 1695, he came in the shape of a "tall
fellow with black beard and periwig, respectable looking and well
dressed," about two o'clock in the afternoon, to fly away with the
Marechal de Luxembourg, which, on the stroke of five, he punctually did
as per contract, taking with him the window and its stone framing into
the bargain. The clothes and wig of the involuntary aeronaut were, in the
handsomest manner, left upon the bed, as not included in the bill of
sale. In this case also we have a copy of the articles of agreement,
twenty-eight in number, by the last of which the Marechal renounces God
and devotes himself to the enemy. This clause, sometimes the only one,
always the most important in such compacts, seems to show that they first
took shape in the imagination, while the struggle between Paganism and
Christianity was still going on. As the converted heathen was made to
renounce his false gods, none the less real for being false, so the
renegade Christian must forswear the true Deity. It is very likely,
however, that the whole thing may be more modern than the assumed date of
Theophilus would imply, and if so, the idea of feudal allegiance gave the
first hint, as it certainly modified the particulars, of the ceremonial.

This notion of a personal and private treaty with the Evil One has
something of dignity about it that has made it perennially attractive to
the most imaginative minds. It rather flatters than mocks our feeling of
the dignity of man. As we come down to the vulgar parody of it in the
confessions of wretched old women on the rack, our pity and indignation
are mingled with disgust. One of the most particular of these confessions
is that of Abel de la Rue, convicted in 1584. The accused was a novice in
the Franciscan Convent at Meaux. Having been punished by the master of
the novices for stealing some apples and nuts in the convent garden, the
Devil appeared to him in the shape of a black dog, promising him his
protection, and advising him to leave the convent. Not long after going
into the sacristy, he saw a large volume fastened by a chain, and further
secured by bars of iron. The name of this book was _Grimoire_. Thrusting
his hands through the bars, he contrived to open it, and having read a
sentence (which Bodin carefully suppresses), there suddenly appeared to
him a man of middle stature, with a pale and very frightful countenance,
clad in a long black robe of the Italian fashion, and with faces of men
like his own on his breast and knees. As for his feet they were like
those of cows. He could not have been the most agreeable of companions,
_ayant le corps et haleine puante_. This man told him not to be afraid,
to take off his habit, to put faith in him, and he would give him
whatever he asked. Then laying hold of him below the arms, the unknown
transported him under the gallows of Meaux, and then said to him with a
trembling and broken voice, and having a visage as pale as that of a man
who has been hanged, and a very stinking breath, that he should fear
nothing, but have entire confidence in him, that he should never want for
anything, that his own name was Maitre Rigoux, and that he would like to
be his master; to which De la Rue made answer that he would do whatever
he commanded, and that he wished to be gone from the Franciscans.
Thereupon Rigoux disappeared, but returning between seven and eight in
the evening, took him round the waist and carried him back to the
sacristy, promising to come again for him the next day. This he
accordingly did, and told De la Rue to take off his habit, get him gone
from the convent, and meet him near a great tree on the high-road from
Meaux to Vaulx-Courtois. Rigoux met him there and took him to a certain
Maitre Pierre, who, after a few words exchanged in an undertone with
Rigoux, sent De la Rue to the stable, after his return whence he saw no
more of Rigoux. Thereupon Pierre and his wife made him good cheer,
telling him that for the love of Maitre Rigoux they would treat him well,
and that he must obey the said Rigoux, which he promised to do. About two
months after, Maitre Pierre, who commonly took him to the fields to watch
cattle, said to him there that they must go to the Assembly, because he
(Pierre) was out of powders, to which he made answer that he was willing.
Three days later, about Christmas eve, 1575, Pierre having sent his wife
to sleep out of the house, set a long branch of broom in the
chimney-corner, and bade De la Rue go to bed, but not to sleep. About
eleven they heard a great noise as of an impetuous wind and thunder in
the chimney: which hearing, Maitre Pierre told him to dress himself, for
it was time to be gone. Then Pierre took some grease from a little box
and anointed himself under the arm-pits, and De la Rue on the palms of
his hands, which incontinently felt as if on fire, and the said grease
stank like a cat three weeks or a month dead. Then, Pierre and he
bestriding the branch, Maitre Rigoux took it by the butt and drew it up
chimney as if the wind had lifted them. And, the night being dark, he saw
suddenly a torch before them lighting them, and Maitre Rigoux was gone
unless he had changed himself into the said torch. Arrived at a grassy
place some five leagues from Vaulx-Courtois, they found a company of some
sixty people of all ages, none of whom he knew, except a certain Pierre
of Dampmartin and an old woman who was executed, as he had heard, about
five years ago for sorcery at Lagny. Then suddenly he noticed that all
(except Rigoux, who was clad as before) were dressed in linen, though
they had not changed their clothes. Then, at command of the eldest among
them, who seemed about eighty years old, with a white beard and almost
wholly bald, each swept the place in front of himself with his broom.
Thereupon Rigoux changed into a great he-goat, black and stinking, around
whom they all danced backward with their faces outward and their backs
towards the goat. They danced about half an hour, and then his master
told him they must adore the goat who was the Devil _et ce fait et dict,
veit que ledict Bouc courba ses deux pieds de deuant et leua son cul en
haut, et lors que certaines menues graines grosses comme testes
d'espingles, qui se conuertissoient en poudres fort puantes, sentant le
soulphre et poudre a canon et chair puant meslees ensemble seroient
tombees sur plusieurs drappeaux en sept doubles._ Then the oldest, and so
the rest in order, went forward on their knees and gathered up their
cloths with the powders, but first each _se seroit incline vers le Diable
et iceluy baise en la partie honteuse de son corps._ They went home on
their broom, lighted as before. De la Rue confessed also that he was at
another assembly on the eve of St. John Baptist. With the powders they
could cause the death of men against whom they had a spite, or their
cattle. Rigoux before long began to tempt him to drown himself, and,
though he lay down, yet rolled him some distance towards the river. It is
plain that the poor fellow was mad or half-witted or both. And yet Bodin,
the author of the _De Republica,_ reckoned one of the ablest books of
that age, believed all this filthy nonsense, and prefixes it to his
_Demonomanie,_ as proof conclusive of the existence of sorcerers.

This was in 1587. Just a century later, Glanvil, one of the most eminent
men of his day, and Henry More, the Platonist, whose memory is still dear
to the lovers of an imaginative mysticism, were perfectly satisfied with
evidence like that which follows. Elizabeth Styles confessed, in 1664,
"that the Devil about ten years since appeared to her in the shape of a
handsome Man, and after of a black Dog. That he promised her Money, and
that she should live gallantly, and have the pleasure of the World for
twelve years, if she would with her Blood sign his Paper, which was to
give her soul to him and observe his Laws and that he might suck her
Blood. This after Four Solicitations, the Examinant promised him to do.
Upon which he pricked the fourth Finger of her right hand, between the
middle and upper Joynt (where the Sign at the Examination remained) and
with a Drop or two of her Blood, she signed the Paper with an O. Upon
this the Devil gave her sixpence and vanished with the Paper. That since
he hath appeared to her in the Shape of a _Man_, and did so on
_Wednesday_ seven-night past, but more usually he appears in the Likeness
of a _Dog_, and _Cat_, and a _Fly_ like a Millar, in which last he
usually sucks in the Poll about four of the Clock in the Morning, and did
so _Jan_. 27, and that it is pain to her to be so suckt. That when she
hath a desire to do harm she calls the Spirit by the name of _Robin_, to
whom, when he appeareth, she useth these words, _O Sathan, give me my
purpose_. She then tells him what she would have done. And that he should
so appear to her was part of her Contract with him." The Devil in this
case appeared as a black (dark-complexioned) man "in black clothes, with
a little band,"--a very clerical-looking personage. "Before they are
carried to their meetings they anoint their Foreheads and Hand-Wrists
with an Oyl the Spirit brings them (which smells raw) and then they are
carried in a very short time, using these words as they pass, _Thout,
tout a tout, throughout and about_. And when they go off from their
Meetings they say, _Rentum, Tormentum_. That at every meeting before the
Spirit vanisheth away, he appoints the next meeting place and time, and
at his departure there is a foul smell. At their meeting they have
usually Wine or good Beer, Cakes, Meat or the like. They eat and drink
really when they meet, in their Bodies, dance also and have some Musick.
The Man in black sits at the higher end, and _Anne Bishop_ usually next
him. He useth some words before meat, and none after; his Voice is
audible but very low. The Man in black sometimes plays on a Pipe or
Cittern, and the Company dance. At last the Devil vanisheth, and all are
carried to their several homes in a short space. At their parting they
say, _A Boy! merry meet, merry part!_" Alice Duke confessed "that Anne
Bishop persuaded her to go with her into the Churchyard in the
Night-time, and being come thither, to go backward round the Church,
which they did three times. In their first round they met a Man in black
Cloths who went round the second time with them; and then they met a
thing in the Shape of a great black Toad which leapt up against the
Examinant's Apron. In their third round they met somewhat in the shape of
a Rat, which vanished away." She also received sixpence from the Devil,
and "her Familiar did commonly suck her right Breast about seven at night
in the shape of a little Cat of a dunnish Colour, which is as smooth as a
Want [mole], and when she is suckt, she is in a kind of Trance." Poor
Christian Green got only fourpence half-penny for her soul, but her
bargain was made some years later than that of the others, and
quotations, as the stock-brokers would say, ranged lower. Her familiar
took the shape of a hedgehog. Julian Cox confessed that "she had been
often tempted by the Devil to be a Witch, but never consented. That one
Evening she walkt about a Mile from her own House and there came riding
towards her three Persons upon three Broomstaves, born up about a yard
and a half from the ground. Two of them she formerly knew, which was a
Witch and a Wizzard that were hanged for Witchcraft several years before.
The third person she knew not. He came in the shape of a black Man, and
tempted her to give him her Soul, or to that effect, and to express it by
pricking her Finger and giving her name in her Blood in token of it." On
her trial Judge Archer told the jury, "he had heard that a Witch could
not repeat that Petition in the Lord's Prayer, viz. _And lead us not into
temptation_, and having this occasion, he would try the Experiment." The
jury "were not in the least measure to guide their Verdict according to
it, because it was not legal Evidence." Accordingly it was found that the
poor old trot could say only, _Lead us into temptation, or Lead us not
into no temptation_. Probably she used the latter form first, and,
finding she had blundered, corrected herself by leaving out both the
negatives. The old English double negation seems never to have been heard
of by the court. Janet Douglass, a pretended dumb girl, by whose
contrivance five persons had been burned at Paisley, in 1677, for having
caused the sickness of Sir George Maxwell by means of waxen and other
images, having recovered her speech shortly after, declared that she "had
some smattering knowledge of the Lord's prayer, which she had heard the
witches repeat, it seems, by her vision, in the presence of the Devil;
and at his desire, which they observed, they added to the word _art_ the
letter _w_, which made it run, 'Our Father which wart in heaven,' by
which means the Devil made the application of the prayer to himself." She
also showed on the arm of a woman named Campbell "an _invisible_ mark
which she had gotten from the Devil." The wife of one Barton confessed
that she had engaged "in the Devil's service. She renounced her baptism,
and did prostrate her body to the foul spirit, and received his mark, and
got a new name from him, and was called _Margaratus_. She was asked if
she ever had any pleasure in his company? 'Never much,' says she, 'but
one night going to a dancing upon Pentland Hills, in the likeness of a
rough tanny [tawny] dog, playing on a pair of pipes; the spring he
played,' says she, 'was _The silly bit chicken, gar cast it a pickle, and
it will grow meikle._'"[103] In 1670, near seventy of both sexes, among
them fifteen children, were executed for witchcraft at the village of
Mohra in Sweden. Thirty-six children, between the ages of nine and
sixteen, were sentenced to be scourged with rods on the palms of their
hands, once a week for a year. The evidence in this case against the
accused seems to have been mostly that of children. "Being asked whether
they were sure that they were at any time carried away by the Devil, they
all declared they were, begging of the Commissioners that they might be
freed from that intolerable slavery." They "used to go to a Gravel pit
which lay hardby a Cross-way and there they put on a vest over their
heads, and then danced round, and after ran to the Cross-way and called
the Devil thrice, first with a still Voice, the second time somewhat
louder, and the third time very loud, with these words, _Antecessour,
come and carry us to Blockula_. Whereupon immediately he used to appear,
but in different Habits; but for the most part they saw him in a gray
Coat and red and blue Stockings. He had a red Beard, a highcrowned Hat,
with linnen of divers Colours wrapt about it, and long Garters upon his
Stockings." "They must procure some Scrapings of Altars and Filings of
Church-Clocks [bells], and he gives them a Horn with some Salve in it
wherewith they do anoint themselves." "Being asked whether they were sure
of a real personal Transportation, and whether they were awake when it
was done, they all answered in the Affirmative, and that the Devil
sometimes laid something down in the Place that was very like them. But
one of them confessed that he did only take away her Strength, and her
Body lay still upon the Ground. Yet sometimes he took even her Body with
him." "Till of late they never had that power to carry away Children, but
only this year and the last, and the Devil did at this time force them to
it. That heretofore it was sufficient to carry but one of their Children
or a Stranger's Child, which yet happened seldom, but now he did plague
them and whip them if they did not procure him Children, insomuch that
they had no peace or quiet for him; and whereas formerly one Journey a
Week would serve their turn from their own town to the place aforesaid,
now they were forced to run to other Towns and Places for Children, and
that they brought with them some fifteen, some sixteen Children every
night. For their journey they made use of all sorts of Instruments, of
Beasts, of Men, of Spits, and Posts, according as they had opportunity.
If they do ride upon Goats and have many Children with them," they have a
way of lengthening the goat with a spit, "and then are anointed with the
aforesaid Ointment. A little Girl of Elfdale confessed, That, naming the
name of JESUS, as she was carried away, she fell suddenly upon the Ground
and got a great hole in her Side, which the Devil presently healed up
again. The first thing they must do at Blockula was that they must deny
all and devote themselves Body and Soul to the Devil, and promise to
serve him faithfully, and confirm all this with an Oath. Hereupon they
cut their Fingers, and with their Bloud writ their Name in his Book. He
caused them to be baptized by such Priests as he had there and made them
confirm their Baptism with dreadful Oaths and Imprecations. Here-upon the
Devil gave them a Purse, wherein their filings of Clocks [bells], with a
Stone tied to it, which they threw into the Water, and then they were
forced to speak these words: _As these filings of the Clock do never
return to the Clock from which they are taken, so may my soul never
return to Heaven_. The diet they did use to have there was Broth with
Colworts and Bacon in it, Oatmeal-Bread spread with Butter, Milk, and
Cheese. Sometimes it tasted very well, sometimes very ill. After Meals,
they went to Dancing, and in the mean while Swore and Cursed most
dreadfully, and afterward went to fighting one with another. The Devil
had Sons and Daughters by them, which he did marry together, and they did
couple and brought forth Toads and Serpents. If he hath a mind to be
merry with them, he lets them all ride upon Spits before him, takes
afterwards the Spits and beats them black and blue, and then laughs at
them. They had seen sometimes a very great Devil like a Dragon, with fire
about him and bound with an Iron Chain, and the Devil that converses with
them tells them that, if they confess anything, he will let that great
Devil loose upon them, whereby all _Sweedland_ shall come into great
danger. The Devil taught them to milk, which was in this wise: they used
to stick a knife in the Wall and hang a kind of Label on it, which they
drew and stroaked, and as long as this lasted the Persons that they had
Power over were miserably plagued, and the Beasts were milked that way
till sometimes they died of it. The minister of Elfdale declared that one
Night these Witches were to his thinking upon the crown of his Head and
that from thence he had had a long-continued Pain of the Head. One of the
Witches confessed, too, that the Devil had sent her to torment the
Minister, and that she was ordered to use a Nail and strike it into his
Head, but it would not enter very deep. They confessed also that the
Devil gives them a Beast about the bigness and shape of a young Cat,
which they call a _Carrier_, and that he gives them a Bird too as big as
a Raven, but white. And these two Creatures they can send anywhere, and
wherever they come they take away all sorts of Victuals they can get.
What the Bird brings they may keep for themselves; but what the Carrier
brings they must reserve for the Devil. The Lords Commissioners were
indeed very earnest and took great Pains to persuade them to show some of
their Tricks, but to no Purpose; for they did all unanimously confess,
that, since they had confessed all, they found that all their Witchcraft
was gone, and that the Devil at this time appeared to them very terrible
with Claws on his Hands and Feet, and with Horns on his Head and a long
Tail behind." At Blockula "the Devil had a Church, such another as in the
town of Mohra. When the Commissioners were coming, he told the Witches
they should not fear them, for he would certainly kill them all. And they
confessed that some of them had attempted to murther the Commissioners,
but had not been able to effect it."

In these confessions we find included nearly all the particulars of the
popular belief concerning witchcraft, and see the gradual degradation of
the once superb Lucifer to the vulgar scarecrow with horns and tail. "The
Prince of Darkness _was_ a gentleman." From him who had not lost all his
original brightness, to this dirty fellow who leaves a stench, sometimes
of brimstone, behind him, the descent is a long one. For the dispersion
of this foul odor Dr. Henry More gives an odd reason. "The Devil also, as
in other stories, leaving an ill smell behind him, seems to imply the
reality of the business, those adscititious particles he held together in
his visible vehicle being loosened at his vanishing and so offending the
nostrils by their floating and diffusing themselves in the open Air." In
all the stories vestiges of Paganism are not indistinct. The three
principal witch gatherings of the year were held on the days of great
pagan festivals, which were afterwards adopted by the Church. Maury
supposes the witches' Sabbath to be derived from the rites of Bacchus
Sabazius, and accounts in this way for the Devil's taking the shape of a
he-goat. But the name was more likely to be given from hatred of the
Jews, and the goat may have a much less remote origin. Bodin assumes the
identity of the Devil with Pan, and in the popular mythology both of
Kelts and Teutons there were certain hairy wood-demons called by the
former _Dus_ and by the latter _Scrat_. Our common names of _Deuse_ and
_Old Scratch_ are plainly derived from these, and possibly _Old Harry_ is
a corruption of _Old Hairy_. By Latinization they became Satyrs. Here, at
any rate, is the source of the cloven hoof. The belief in the Devil's
appearing to his worshippers as a goat is very old. Possibly the fact
that this animal was sacred to Thor, the god of thunder, may explain it.
Certain it is that the traditions of Vulcan, Thor, and Wayland[104]
converged at last in Satan. Like Vulcan, he was hurled from heaven, and
like him he still limps across the stage in Mephistopheles, though
without knowing why. In Germany, he has a horse's and not a cloven
foot,[105] because the horse was a frequent pagan sacrifice, and
therefore associated with devil-worship under the new dispensation. Hence
the horror of hippophagism which some French gastronomes are striving to
overcome. Everybody who has read "Tom Brown," or Wordsworth's Sonnet on a
German stove, remembers the Saxon horse sacred to Woden. The raven was
also his peculiar bird, and Grimm is inclined to think this the reason
why the witch's familiar appears so often in that shape. It is true that
our _Old Nick_ is derived from _Nikkar_, one of the titles of that
divinity, but the association of the Evil One with the raven is older,
and most probably owing to the ill-omened character of the bird itself.
Already in the apocryphal gospel of the "Infancy," the demoniac Son of
the Chief Priest puts on his head one of the swaddling-clothes of Christ
which Mary has hung out to dry, and forthwith "the devils began to come
out of his mouth and to fly away as _crows_ and serpents."

It will be noticed that the witches underwent a form of baptism. As the
system gradually perfected itself among the least imaginative of men, as
the superstitious are apt to be, they could do nothing better than
describe Satan's world as in all respects the reverse of that which had
been conceived by the orthodox intellect as Divine. Have you an
illustrated Bible of the last century? Very good. Turn it upside down,
and you find the prints on the whole about as near nature as ever, and
yet pretending to be something new by a simple device that saves the
fancy a good deal of trouble. For, while it is true that the poetic fancy
plays, yet the faculty which goes by that pseudonyme in prosaic minds
(and it was by such that the details of this Satanic commerce were pieced
together) is hard put to it for invention, and only too thankful for any
labor-saving contrivance whatsoever. Accordingly, all it need take the
trouble to do was to reverse the ideas of sacred things already engraved
on its surface, and behold, a kingdom of hell with all the merit and none
of the difficulty of originality! "Uti olim Deus populo suo Hierosolymis
Synagogas erexit ut in iis ignarus legis divinae populus erudiretur,
voluntatemque Dei placitam ex verbo in iis praedicato hauriret; ita et
Diabolus in omnibus omnino suis actionibus simiam Dei agens, gregi suo
acherontico conventus et synagogas, quas satanica sabbata vocant,
indicit.... Atque de hisce Conventibus et Synagogis Lamiarum nullus
Antorum quos quidem evolvi, imo nec ipse Lamiarum Patronus [here he
glances at Wierus] scilicet ne dubiolum quidem movit. Adeo ut tuto
affirmari liceat conventus a diabolo certo institui. Quos vel ipse,
tanquam praeses collegii, vel per daemonem, qui ad cujuslibet sagae
custodiam constitutus est, ... vel per alios Magos aut sagas per unum aut
duos dies antequam fiat congregatio denunciat.... Loci in quibus solent a
daemone coetus et conventicula malefica institui plerumque sunt
sylvestres, occulti, subterranei, et ab hominum conversatione remoti....
Evocatae hoc modo et tempore Lamiae, ... daemon illis persuadet eas non
posse conventiculis interesse nisi nudum corpus unguento ex corpusculis
infantum ante baptismum necatorum praeparato illinant, idque propterea
solum illis persuadet ut ad quam plurimas infantum insontium caedes eas
alliciat.... Unctionis ritu peracto, abiturientes, ne forte a maritis in
lectis desiderantur, vel per incantationem somnum, aurem nimirum
vellicando dextra manu prius praedicto unguine illita, conciliant maritis
ex quo non facile possunt excitari; vel daemones personas quasdam
dormientibus adumbrant, quas, si contigeret expergisci, suas uxores esse
putarent; vel interea alius daemon in forma succubi ad latus maritorum
adjungitur qui loco uxoris est.... Et ita sine omni remora insidentes
baculo, furcae, scopis, aut arundini vel tauro, equo, sui, hirco, aut
cani, _quorum omnium exempla prodidit Remig_. L.I.c. 14, devehuntur a
daemone ad loca destinata.... Ibi daemon praeses conventus in solio sedet
magnifico, forma terrifica, ut plurimum hirci vel canis. Ad quem
advenientes viri juxta ac mulieres accedunt reverentiae exhibendae et
adorandi gratia, non tamen uno eodemque modo. Interdum complicatis
genubus supplices; interdum obverso incedentes tergo et modo retrogrado,
in oppositum directo illi reverentiae quam nos praestare solemus. In
signum homagii (sit honor castis auribus) Principem suum hircum in
[obscaenissimo quodam corporis loco] summa cum reverentia sacrilego ore
osculantur. Quo facto, sacrificia daemoni faciunt multis modis. Saepe
liberos suos ipsi offerunt. Saepe communione sumpta benedictam hostiam in
ore asservatam et extractam (horreo dicere) daemoni oblatam coram eo pede
conculcant. His et similibus flagitiis et abominationibus execrandis
commissis, incipiunt mensis assidere et convivari de cibis insipidis,
insulsis,[106] furtivis, quos daemon suppeditat, vel quos singulae
attulere, inderdum tripudiant ante convivium, interdum post illud.... Nec
mensae sua deest benedictio coetu hoc digna, verbis constans plane
blasphemis quibus ipsum Beelzebub et creatorem et datorem et
conservatorem omnium profitentur. Eadem sententia est gratiarum actionis.
Post convivium, dorsis invicem obversis ... choreas ducere et cantare
fescenninos in honorem daemonis obscaenissimos, vel ad tympanum
fistulamve sedentis alicujus in bifida arbore saltare ... tum suis
amasiis daemonibus foedissime commisceri. Ultimo pulveribus (quos aliqui
scribunt esse cineres hirci illis quem daemon assumpserat et quem adorant
subito coram illius flamma absumpti) vel venenis aliis acceptis, saepe
etiam cuique indicto nocendi penso, et pronunciato Pseudothei daemonis
decreto, ULCISCAMINI VOS, ALIOQUI MORIEMINI. Duabus aut tribus horis in
hisce ludis exactis circa Gallicinium daemon convivas suas
dimittit."[107] Sometimes they were baptized anew. Sometimes they
renounced the Virgin, whom they called in their rites _extensam
mulierem_. If the Ave Mary bell should ring while the demon is conveying
home his witch, he lets her drop. In the confession of Agnes Simpson the
meeting place was North Berwick Kirk. "The Devil started up himself in
the pulpit, like a meikle black man, and calling the row [roll] every one
answered, _Here_. At his command they opened up three graves and cutted
off from the dead corpses the joints of their fingers, toes, and nose,
and parted them amongst them, and the said Agnes Simpson got for her part
a winding-sheet and two joints. The Devil commanded them to keep the
joints upon them while [till] they were dry, and then to make a powder of
them to do evil withal." This confession is sadly memorable, for it was
made before James I., then king of Scots, and is said to have convinced
him of the reality of witchcraft. Hence the act passed in the first year
of his reign in England, and not repealed till 1736, under which, perhaps
in consequence of which, so many suffered.

The notion of these witch-gatherings was first suggested, there can be
little doubt, by secret conventicles of persisting or relapsed pagans, or
of heretics. Both, perhaps, contributed their share. Sometimes a
mountain, as in Germany the Blocksberg,[108] sometimes a conspicuous oak
or linden, and there were many such among both Gauls and Germans sacred
of old to pagan rites, and later a lonely heath, a place where two roads
crossed each other, a cavern, gravel-pit, or quarry, the gallows, or the
churchyard, was the place appointed for their diabolic orgies. That the
witch could be conveyed bodily to these meetings was at first admitted
without any question. But as the husbands of accused persons sometimes
testified that their wives had not left their beds on the alleged night
of meeting, the witchmongers were put to strange shifts by way of
accounting for it. Sometimes the Devil imposed on the husband by a
_deceptio visus_; sometimes a demon took the place of the wife; sometimes
the body was left and the spirit only transported. But the more orthodox
opinion was in favor of corporeal deportation. Bodin appeals triumphantly
to the cases of Habbakuk (now in the Apocrypha, but once making a part of
the Book of Daniel), and of Philip in the Acts of the Apostles. "I find,"
he says, "this ecstatic ravishment they talk of much more wonderful than
bodily transport. And if the Devil has this power, as they confess, of
ravishing the spirit out of the body, is it not more easy to carry body
and soul without separation or division of the reasonable part, than to
withdraw and divide the one from the other without death?" The author of
_De Lamiis_ argues for the corporeal theory. "The evil Angels have the
same superiority of natural power as the good, since by the Fall they
lost none of the gifts of nature, but only those of grace." Now, as we
know that good angels can thus transport men in the twinkling of an eye,
it follows that evil ones may do the same. He fortifies his position by a
recent example from secular history. "No one doubts about John Faust, who
dwelt at Wittenberg, in the time of the sainted Luther, and who, seating
himself on his cloak with his companions, was conveyed away and borne by
the Devil through the air to distant kingdoms."[109] Glanvin inclines
rather to the spiritual than the material hypothesis, and suggests "that
the Witch's anointing herself before she takes her flight may perhaps
serve to keep the body tenantable and in fit disposition to receive the
spirit at its return." Aubrey, whose "Miscellanies" were published in
1696, had no doubts whatever as to the physical asportation of the witch.
He says that a gentleman of his acquaintance "was in Portugal _anno_
1655, when one was burnt by the inquisition for being brought thither
from Goa, in East India, in the air, in an incredible short time." As to
the conveyance of witches through crevices, keyholes, chimneys, and the
like, Herr Walburger discusses the question with such comical gravity
that we must give his argument in the undiminished splendor of its
jurisconsult latinity. The first sentence is worthy of Magister
Bartholomaeus Kuckuk. "Haec realis delatio trahit me quoque ad illam
vulgo agitatam quaestionem: _An diabolus Lamias corpore per angusta
foramina parietum, fenestrarum, portarum aut per cavernas ignifluas ferre
queant?_" (Surely if _tace_ be good Latin for a candle, _caverna
igniflua_ should be flattering to a chimney.) "Resp. Lamiae praedicto
modo saepius fatentur sese a diabolo per caminum aut alia loca angustiora
scopis insidentes per aerem ad montem Bructerorum deferri. Verum
deluduntur a Satana istaec mulieres hoc casu egregie nec revera rimulas
istas penetrant, sed solummodo daemon praecedens latenter aperit et
claudit januas vel fenestras corporis earum capaces, per quas eas
intromittit quae putant se formam animalculi parvi, mustelae, catti,
locustae, et aliorum induisse. At si forte contingat ut per parietem se
delatam confiteatur Saga, tunc, si non totum hoc praestigiosum est,
daemonem tamen maxima celeritate tot quot sufficiunt lapides eximere et
sustinere aliosne ruant, et postea eadem celeritate iterum eos in suum
locum reponere, existimo: cum hominum adspectus hanc tartarei latomi
fraudem nequeat deprendere. Idem quoque judicium esse potest de
translatione per caminum. Siquidem si caverna igniflua justae
amplitudinis est ut nullo impedimento et haesitatione corpus humanum eam
perrepere possit, diabolo impossibile non esse per eam eas educere. Si
vero per inproportionatum (ut ita loquar) corporibus spatium eas educit
tunc meras illusiones praestigiosas esse censeo, nec a diabolo hoc unquam
effici posse. Ratio est, quoniam diabolus essentiam creaturae seu lamiae
immutare non potest, multo minus efficere ut majus corpus penetret per
spatium inproportionatum, alioquin corporum penetratio esset admittenda
quod contra naturam et omne Physicorum principium est." This is fine
reasoning, and the _ut ita loquar_ thrown in so carelessly, as if with a
deprecatory wave of the hand for using a less classical locution than
usual, strikes me as a very delicate touch indeed.

Grimm tells us that he does not know when broomsticks, spits, and similar
utensils were first assumed to be the canonical instruments of this
nocturnal equitation. He thinks it comparatively modern, but I suspect it
is as old as the first child that ever bestrode his father's staff, and
fancied it into a courser shod with wind, like those of Pindar. Alas for
the poverty of human invention! It cannot afford a hippogriff for an
everyday occasion. The poor old crones, badgered by inquisitors into
confessing they had been where they never were, were involved in the
further necessity of explaining how the devil they got there. The only
steed their parents had ever been rich enough to keep had been of this
domestic sort, and they no doubt had ridden in this inexpensive fashion,
imagining themselves the grand dames they saw sometimes flash by, in the
happy days of childhood, now so far away. Forced to give a _how_, and
unable to conceive of mounting in the air without something to sustain
them, their bewildered wits naturally took refuge in some such simple
subterfuge, and the broomstave, which might make part of the poorest
house's furniture, was the nearest at hand. If youth and good spirits
could put such life into a dead stick once, why not age and evil spirits
now? Moreover, what so likely as an _emeritus_ implement of this sort to
become the staff of a withered beldame, and thus to be naturally
associated with her image? I remember very well a poor half-crazed
creature, who always wore a scarlet cloak and leaned on such a stay,
cursing and banning after a fashion that would infallibly have burned her
two hundred years ago. But apart from any adventitious associations of
later growth, it is certain that a very ancient belief gave to magic the
power of imparting life, or the semblance of it, to inanimate things, and
thus sometimes making servants of them. The wands of the Egyptian
magicians were turned to serpents. Still nearer to the purpose is the
capital story of Lucian, out of which Goethe made his _Zauberlehrling_,
of the stick turned water-carrier. The classical theory of the witch's
flight was driven to no such vulgar expedients, the ointment turning her
into a bird for the nonce, as in Lucian and Apuleius. In those days, too,
there was nothing known of any camp-meeting of witches and wizards, but
each sorceress transformed herself that she might fly to her paramour.
According to some of the Scotch stories, the witch, after bestriding her
broomsticks must repeat the magic formula, _Horse and Hattork!_ The
flitting of these ill-omened night-birds, like nearly all the general
superstitions relating to witchcraft, mingles itself and is lost in a
throng of figures more august.[110] Diana, Bertha, Holda, Abundia,
Befana, once beautiful and divine, the bringers of blessing while men
slept, became demons haunting the drear of darkness with terror and
ominous suggestion. The process of disenchantment must have been a long
one, and none can say how soon it became complete. Perhaps we may take
Heine's word for it, that

"Genau bei Weibern
Weiss man niemals wo der Engel
Aufhoert und der Teufel anfaengt."

Once goblinized, Herodias joins them, doomed still to bear about the
Baptist's head; and Woden, who, first losing his identity in the Wild
Huntsman, sinks by degrees into the mere _spook_ of a Suabian baron,
sinfully fond of field-sports, and therefore punished with an eternal
phantasm of them, "the hunter and the deer a shade." More and more
vulgarized, the infernal train snatches up and sweeps along with it every
lawless shape and wild conjecture of distempered fancy, streaming away at
last into a comet's tail of wild-haired hags, eager with unnatural hate
and more unnatural lust, the nightmare breed of some exorcist's or
inquisitor's surfeit, whose own lie has turned upon him in sleep.

As it is painfully interesting to trace the gradual degeneration of a
poetic faith into the ritual of unimaginative Tupperism, so it is amusing
to see pedantry clinging faithfully to the traditions of its prosaic
nature, and holding sacred the dead shells that once housed a moral
symbol. What a divine thing the _out_side always has been and continues
to be! And how the cast clothes of the mind continue always to be in
fashion! We turn our coats without changing the cut of them. But was it
possible for a man to change not only his skin but his nature? Were there
such things as _versipelles, lycanthropi, werwolfs,_ and _loupgarous?_ In
the earliest ages science was poetry, as in the later poetry has become
science. The phenomena of nature, imaginatively represented, were not
long in becoming myths. These the primal poets reproduced again as
symbols, no longer of physical, but of moral truths. By and by the
professional poets, in search of a subject, are struck by the fund of
picturesque material lying unused in them, and work them up once more as
narratives, with appropriate personages and decorations. Thence they take
the further downward step into legend, and from that to superstition. How
many metamorphoses between the elder Edda and the Nibelungen, between
Arcturus and the "Idyls of the King"! Let a good, thorough-paced proser
get hold of one of these stories, and he carefully desiccates them of
whatever fancy may be left, till he has reduced them to the proper
dryness of fact. King Lycaon, grandson by the spindleside of Oceanus,
after passing through all the stages I have mentioned, becomes the
ancestor of the werwolf. Ovid is put upon the stand as a witness, and
testifies to the undoubted fact of the poor monarch's own

"Territus ipse fugit, nactusque silentia ruris
Exululat, frustraque loqui conatur."

Does any one still doubt that men may be changed into beasts? Call
Lucian, call Apuleius, call Homer, whose story of the companions of
Ulysses made swine of by Circe, says Bodin, _n'est pas fable_. If that
arch-patron of sorcerers, Wierus, is still unconvinced, and pronounces
the whole thing a delusion of diseased imagination, what does he say to
Nebuchadnezzar? Nay, let St. Austin be subpoenaed, who declares that "in
his time among the Alps sorceresses were common, who, by making
travellers eat of a certain cheese, changed them into beasts of burden
and then back again into men." Too confiding tourist, beware of
_Gruyere_, especially at supper! Then, there was the Philosopher
Ammonius, whose lectures were constantly attended by an ass,--a
phenomenon not without parallel in more recent times, and all the more
credible to Bodin, who had been professor of civil law.

In one case we have fortunately the evidence of the ass himself. In
Germany, two witches who kept an inn made an ass of a young actor,--not
always a very prodigious transformation it will be thought by those
familiar with the stage. In his new shape he drew customers by his
amusing tricks,--_voluptates mille viatoribus exhibebat_. But one day
making his escape (having overheard the secret from his mistresses), he
plunged into the water and was disasinized to the extent of recovering
his original shape. "Id Petrus Damianus, vir sua aetate inter primos
numerandus, cum rem sciscitatus est diligentissime ex hero, _ex asino_,
ex mulieribus sagis confessis factum, Leoni VII. Papae narravit, et
postquam diu in utramque partem coram Papa fuit disputatum, hoc tandem
posse fieri fuit constitum." Bodin must have been delighted with this
story, though perhaps as a Protestant he might have vilipended the
infallible decision of the Pope in its favor. As for lycanthropy, that
was too common in his own time to need any confirmation. It was notorious
to all men. "In Livonia, during the latter part of December, a villain
goes about summoning the sorcerers to meet at a certain place, and if
they fail, the Devil scourges them thither with an iron rod, and that so
sharply that the marks of it remain upon them. Their captain goes before;
and they, to the number of several thousands, follow him across a river,
which passed, they change into wolves, and, casting themselves upon men
and flocks, do all manner of damage." This we have on the authority of
Melancthon's son-in-law, Gaspar Peucerus. Moreover, many books published
in Germany affirm "that one of the greatest kings in Christendom, not
long since dead, was often changed into a wolf." But what need of words?
The conclusive proof remains, that many in our own day, being put to the
torture, have confessed the fact, and been burned alive accordingly. The
maintainers of the reality of witchcraft in the next century seem to have
dropped the _werwolf_ by common consent, though supported by the same
kind of evidence they relied on in other matters, namely, that of ocular
witnesses, the confession of the accused, and general notoriety. So
lately as 1765 the French peasants believed the "wild beast of the
Gevaudan" to be a _loupgarou_, and that, I think, is his last appearance.

The particulars of the concubinage of witches with their familiars were
discussed with a relish and a filthy minuteness worthy of Sanchez. Could
children be born of these devilish amours? Of course they could, said one
party; are there not plenty of cases in authentic history? Who was the
father of Romulus and Remus? nay, not so very long ago, of Merlin?
Another party denied the possibility of the thing altogether. Among these
was Luther, who declared the children either to be supposititious, or
else mere imps, disguised as innocent sucklings, and known as
_Wechselkinder_, or changelings, who were common enough, as everybody
must be aware. Of the intercourse itself Luther had no doubts.[111] A
third party took a middle ground, and believed that vermin and toads
might be the offspring of such amours. And how did the Demon, a mere
spiritual essence, contrive himself a body? Some would have it that he
entered into dead bodies, by preference, of course, those of sorcerers.
It is plain, from the confession of De la Rue, that this was the theory
of his examiners. This also had historical evidence in its favor. There
was the well-known leading case of the Bride of Corinth, for example. And
but yesterday, as it were, at Crossen in Silesia, did not Christopher
Monig, an apothecary's servant, come back after being buried, and do
duty, as if nothing particular had happened, putting up prescriptions as
usual, and "pounding drugs in the mortar with a mighty noise"?
Apothecaries seem to have been special victims of these Satanic pranks,
for another appeared at Reichenbach not long before, affirming that, "he
had poisoned several men with his drugs," which certainly gives an air of
truth to the story. Accordingly the Devil is represented as being
unpleasantly cold to the touch. "Caietan escrit qu'une sorciere demanda
un iour au diable pourquoy il ne se rechauffoit, qui fist response qu'il
faisoit ce qu'il pouuoit." Poor Devil! But there are cases in which the
demon is represented as so hot that his grasp left a seared spot as black
as charcoal. Perhaps some of them came from the torrid zone of their
broad empire, and others from the thrilling regions of thick-ribbed ice.
Those who were not satisfied with the dead-body theory contented
themselves, like Dr. More, with that of "adscititious particles," which
has, to be sure, a more metaphysical and scholastic flavor about it. That
the demons really came, either corporeally or through some diabolic
illusion that amounted to the same thing, and that the witch devoted
herself to him body and soul, scarce anybody was bold enough to doubt. To
these familiars their venerable paramours gave endearing nicknames, such
as My little Master, or My dear Martin,--the latter, probably, after the
heresy of Luther, and when the rack was popish. The famous witch-finder
Hopkins enables us to lengthen the list considerably. One witch whom he
convicted, after being "kept from sleep two or three nights," called in
five of her devilish servitors. The first was "_Holt_, who came in like a
white kitling"; the second "_Jarmara_, like a fat spaniel without any
legs at all"; the third, "_Vinegar Tom_, who was like a long-tailed
greyhound with an head like an oxe, with a long tail and broad eyes, who,
when this discoverer spoke to and bade him to the place provided for him

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