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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 late,–

“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 written.

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 itself.[91]

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 stomach.

[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 else.

[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 that,

“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 exaggeration.

[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 suicide:–

“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 century.”

[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 measure:–

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 son-in-law:–

“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 prose.

[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 poet.”

[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 morals.

[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 self-defence.

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 foe:–

“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 metamorphosis:–

“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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