Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Jenner's Stages of Sin, 1635



These admonitory images are from Thomas Jenner's The ages of sin, or Sinnes birth & groweth With the stepps, and degrees of sin, from thought to finall impenitencie.  

The book appeared in 1635, and seems to have been popular enough for two further editions to appear in 1655, and what appears on EEBO to be a single sheet version in 1675, suitable for pasting up to edify the godly members of your godly household while they are in your godly privy.

It looks as if the woodcuts were local versions of a continental emblem book. The final image is signed with 'Ja. v. L. fecit'. Jan van Leyden came to mind, though 1635 seems to be rather early for the marine artist. A Dutch name anyway.

The book takes a seven ages of man format, and re-applies it to illustrate seven ages, or rather steps of sin, progressing from sinful thoughts to the sinful act, and so onwards to the latter stages of decline into a permanent sinful state.

My interest was fired by a student, who is going to be working on personifications of Thought in Shakespeare. Taking the subject quite literally, I reflected that the poet often writes about his or her thoughts in Petrachistic poetry, thoughts being apostrophised as unquiet, restless, etc. Then Sidney's pastoral lyric "My sheep are thoughts, which I both guide and serve" came to mind, and so to this set of images, where sinful thoughts are personified, or embodied, as various kinds of animals.





1 Suggestion.


Original-Concupiscence doth make 
Our Nature like a foul great-Bellied Snake: 
For, were not Sathan apt to tempt to Sin; 
Yet, Lustful-Thoughts would breed & brood, within: 
But, happy he, that takes these Little-Ones, 
To dash their Brains (Soon) 'gainst repentant-Stones. 

So, in this cheering opening image and verse about 'Suggestion' (we'd use 'Temptation'), original sin makes us like a pregnant viper, a snake of the non-oviparous kind. We hardly need Satan tempting us,because we breed sins within, like baby snakes (not the tinned pasta kind). Well, we must dash their brains out, before they grow up to be dangerous.



2. Rumination.
When Lust hath (thus) conceived, it brings forth Sin, 
And ruminating-thoughts its Shape begin. 
Like as the Bears oft-licking of her whelps. 
That foul deformed Creatures shape much helps. 
The dangers great, our Sinful thoughts to Cherish, 
Stop their growth, or thy poor Soul will perish.

Here we are like mother bears,in the Plinian natural history of the day, licking our newly arrived sinful thought into shape, maybe planning how we will not just covet our neighbour's ass, or his wife, but actually carry out some theft or abduction.

Here's a picture of me in the former church at Castle Richard in Shropshire, thinking penitently about how often I have indeed coveted my neighbour's ass, and trying to resolve to do better:






DELECTATION. 3
If Sinful Thoughts (once) nestle in man’s heart, 
The Sluice is ope, Delight (then) plays its part: 
Then, like the old-Ape hugging in his arms, 
His apish-young-ones, sin the Soul becharms: 
And, when our apish impious-thoughts delight us, 
Oh, then, (alas) most mortally they bite us. 

Here we are, then, our sin resolved upon, our scheme to carry it out fully formed. Now we are like an old ape hugging its offspring, delighted with it. (But we will get bitten.)



CONSENT. 4
For, where Sin works Content, Consent will follow; 
And, this, the Soul, into Sin’s Gulf, doth swallow. 
For, as two rav'ning Wolves (for, tis their kind) 
To suck Lambs-blood, do hunt with equal-mind: 
Even so, the Soul & Sin Consent, in One, 
Till, Soul & Body be quite overthrown. 

Pleased with the sin we contemplate, we give in to it. Content and Consent are two wolves ravening a lamb. Jenner does concede that to do such a thing is only natural to wolves. This whole publication does quite ruthlessly treat animals as merely present to be moral examples to human beings, making them embody sinful human thoughts which of course, as Jenner concedes here, they simply do not have.



5 Act.
Sin and the Soul (thus) having stricken Hands, 
The Sinner (now) for Action ready stands; 
And Tyger-like swallows-up, at one-bit, 
Whatever impious Prey his Heart doth fit: 
Committing Sin, with eager greediness, 
Selling his Soul to work all wickedness. 

Sin in action is this splendid 'Tyger' (I suppose Blake scholars might have put the point that Blake might have seen this engraving), gobbling down its prey, boots, spurs and all.



Iteration. 6
From eager-acting Sin, comes Iteration, 
Or, frequent Custom of Sins perpetration; 
Which, like great Flesh-Flies' lighting on raw-Flesh, 
Though oft beat-off, (if not killed) come afresh: 
Hence, Be'lzebub is termed Prince of flesh-flies, 
'Cause Sin, still Acts, until (by Grace) It Dies. 

This unsavoury image of a menace to public health is a butcher trying to keep flies off his meat with a fly-flap. Our sins are now like flies, they will not go away, but, chased off, come buzzing right back.



GLORIATION. 7

Custom in Sin takes Sense of Sin away, 
This makes All-Sin seem but a Sport, a play: 
Yea, like a rampant-Lyon, proud and Stout, 
Insulting  o're his Prey, stalking about, 
The Saucy-Sinner boasts & brags of Sin. 
As One (oh woe) that doth a City win. 

'Gloriation', rare or obsolete says the OED, a splendid word meaning, or course, boasting of our actions, proud as a lion over what we have done.



8 Obduration.

When Sin brings Sinners to this fearful pass, 
What follows, but a hard heart, brow of brass· 
A Heart (I say) more hard then Tortoise-back; 
Which, nether Sword nor Axe can hew or hack; 
Judgements nor mercies, treats nor threats can cause 
To leave-off Sin, to love or fear Gods Laws. 

Oh dear, now we are hardened in sin. Like a tortoise, nothing can get through to us, we are obdurated in it (OED says 'obdurate' was a word to express hardening of the soul before it had anything to do with anything merely material in nature simply being made harder).



9 FINAL IMPENITENCY.
And (now, alas) what is Sins last Extent? 
A hard-Heart makes a Heart impenitent. 
For, can a Leopard change his Spotted Skin? 
No, nor a Heart accustomed (thus), his Sin. 
Then, Conscience, headlong, casts impenitence, 
With horrid frights of Hellish Recompense.

Can a leopard change his spots? Neither can a sinner. The leopard/sinner is I think meant to be committing suicide, driven by conscience into a final sin.

Setting off with original sin, and ending with conscience leading us to kill ourselves, 'The stages of sin' has little space for positives (but it does manage to mention repentance and grace). The animals are, however, quite jolly in some of the illustrations, and are generally doing what's natural to them



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The evil eye in early modern England



I had always rather casually assumed that Elizabeth Sawyer, in The Witch of Edmonton, could have been seen as a particularly striking example of a witch possessed of an evil eye - through having just the one. The play mentions that she's one-eyed, though rather in passing ("let her curse her t'other eye out"), and it's not necessarily the case that the actor went through with being consistent with this when preparing to go on stage and actually played her while wearing an eye patch.

The play does, on the other hand, seem conscious about eyes, and offers its own version of cruentation when the corpse of the murdered Susan Carter opens an eye to glare accusingly at Frank Thorney. So, in that moment of occult resemblance between the good and bad woman of the play, we understand that a spirit is doing this to Susan's body to bring Frank to justice.

But does the text show any awareness of the evil eye? According to the OED, it should not be thought to do so:

This took me slightly aback. The notion of the evil eye seems so ubiquitous in human cultures. There's a very good Wikipedia entry, giving a sense of how wide-spread the idea was and is:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_eye

This said, there's no great mystery as to why the evil eye could not be confined to witches: the English Bible translations had not only Solomon (in Proverbs chapters 23 and 28) but also, and crucially, Jesus using the idiom in a generalised fashion:

In the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew, 20):

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

And in Mark, 7:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.


Therefore English early modern culture is full of moralised reflections on evil eyes. I particularly enjoyed finding John Sheffeild's The sinfulnesse of evil thoughts, 1650, who attempts a full taxonomy:

1. The Eye of envy, is a very bad and sore Eye
2. There is an evil Eye of disdain
3. The evil Eye of suspicion
4. The Censorious Eye, is another evil eye
5. The Covetous and Greedy Eye, is another evil Eye
6. The Eye of adultery is another evil eye
7. The malicious and revengefull Eye is a devilish evil Eye
8. The Unnaturall and Ungracious Eye of children to their parents

I dragged myself away from all this useful wisdom (you have to imagine that he moralises upon each of his eight categories, in this kind of vein: "The harlots eye-lids are very dangerous").


Is it possible to move an association of evil eyes and witches closer to the date of the play? In some senses, yes, it is. Authors writing about classical witches use the idea.

W. L., Gent, in his 1628 translation of Virgil's Eclogues, says that "Such an Eye the Shepherd in the third Eglogue complaines had looked upon his Lambs: this kind of mischievous looking he calls Fascination: Pliny (out of Cicero,) reports, that there are some women born with Eyes, having duplices papillas, the apples or pupils of their eyes double: & that such doe naturally faescinum circumferre, beare about them this kind of Eyewitchcraft, (as I may term it.)" After various examples of eye power (Basilisks and the like), he concludes that "wee may easily believe the witchcraft, and mischief of an  evil Eye, to be a most true conclusion."

John Gaule, a witch-believer, but a critic of Matthew Hopkins, wrote in his Select cases of conscience touching witches and witchcrafts (1646) about the ways that witches bewitch their victims (this is just the start of his list):

"Let me instance more expressly in a few particulars, 1. Some work their bewitchings only by way of Invocation, or Imprecation. They wish it, or will it; and so it falls out. 2. Some by way of Emissary; sending out their Imps, or Familiars, to cross the way, justle, affront, flash in the Face, bark, howl, bite, scratch, or otherwise infest. 3. Some by Inspecting, or looking on, but to glare, or squint, or peep at with an envious and evil eye."

The respected Scottish divine John Weemes produced (oh dear) A TREATISE OF THE FOURE DEGENERATE SONNES, The ATHEIST, the MAGITIAN, the IDOLATER, and the JEW in 1636. He has a lot to say about evil eyes:







But Weemes would have so much to say, because he was Scottish, and Gaelic cultures seem to have a more extensive repertoire of folklore about the evil eye. In English authors, the term 'eye-biting' is used, and associated with Irish beliefs by the tireless Reginald Scot::

"The Irishmen addict themselves wonderfully to the credit and practise hereof; insomuch as they affirm, that not only their children, but their cattle, are (as they call it) eye-bitten, when they fall suddenly sick, and term one sort of their Witches eye-biters".

Thomas Ady, a sceptic like Scot, describes the bad consequences:

"Master Scot in his Discovery telleth us, That our English people in Ireland, whose posterity were lately barbarously cut off, were much given to this Idolatry in the Queens time, insomuch that there being a Disease amongst their Cattel that grew blind, being a common Disease in that Country, they did commonly execute people for it, calling them eye-biting Witches."

Scot gives a summary of beliefs about how the evil eye operated based on Leonardus Varius, De fascino libri tres. In quibus omnes fascini species et causae optima methodo describuntur, et ex philosophorum ac theologorum sententiis scitè et eleganter explicantur: nec non contra praestigias, imposturas, illusionesque daemonum, cautiones et amuleta praescribuntur: ac denique nugae, quae de iisdem narrari solent, dilucidè confutantur. (Venice, 1589, and Paris, 1583).


Varius gave a whole process for fascination, an account of how it works at the bodily level. Scot reports this account of how a human being, usually female, can focus and intensify natural influences, holding it (as is his manner) at arm's length as an interestingly awful of thinking before moving in to the kill at the end: 

"But I may not omit here the reasons which they bring to prove what bodies. are the more apt and effectual to execute the art of fascination. And that is first they say, the force of celestial bodies, which indifferently communicated their virtues unto Men, Beasts, Trees, Stones, &c. But this gift and natural influence of fascination may be increased in man, Note in marg:  L. Vair. lib. de fascin. 1. c. 12. according to his affections and perturbations, as through anger, fear, love, hate, &c. For by hate (saith Varius) entereth a fiery inflammation into the eye of man, which being violently sent out by beams and streams, &c. infect and bewitch those bodies against whom they are opposed. And therefore he saith (in the favour of women) that is the cause that women are oftener found to be Witches than men. For (saith he) they have an unbridled force of fury and concupiscence naturally, that by no means it is possible for them to temper or moderate the same. So as upon every trifling occasion, they (like brute beast) fix their furious eyes upon the party whom they bewitch.  Note in marg:  Much like the Eye-biting Witches, of whom we have elsewhere spoken. Hereby it cometh to pass, that whereas women having a marvellous fickle nature, what grief soever happeneth unto them, immediately all peaceableness of mind departeth; and they are so troubled with evil humours, that outgo their venemous exhalation, engendered through their ill-favoured diet; and increased by means of their pernicious excrements which they expel. Women are also (saith he) monthly filled full of superfluous humors, and with them the melancholic blood boileth; whereof spring vapours, and are carried up, and conveyed through the nostrils and mouth, &c. to the bewitching of whatsoever it meeteth: For they belch up a certain breath, wherewith they bewitch whomsoever they list.  Note in marg:  Who are most likely to bewitch bewitch and to be bewitched. And of all other women, lean, hollow-eyed, old, beetle-browed women (saith he) are the most infectious. Marry he saith, that hot, subtil, and thin bodies are most subject to be bewitched, if they be moist, and all they generally, whose veins, pipes, and passages of their bodies are open. And finally he saith, that all beautiful things whatsoever, are soon subject to be bewitched; as namely goodly young men, fair women, such as are naturally born to be rich, goodly Beasts, fair Horses, rank Corn, beautiful Trees, &c. Yea a friend of his told him, that he saw one with his eye break a precious stone in pieces. And all this he telleth as soberly, as though it were true. And if it were true, honest women may be Witches, in despite of all Inquisitors: neither can any avoid being a Witch, except she lock herself up in a chamber."

Or we have William Bishop in 1608: "Phisitions tel us of a perilous eye-sore called in Latin Fascinatio, Englished the Eye-biting: it appeareth most, when from a cancered stomach boiling with malice, certain venomous vapours ascend into the eyes, and flowing from them doe infect young and tender things, whereof the Poët [he means Virgil] speaketh: Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos; 'I wote not what biting eye hath blasted my tender lambs'. This contagious eye-malady, is to our purpose described more properly in the book of Wisdom".

This is Philemon Holland translating Pliny (1634), and talking about apotropaic charms: "We see it is an ordinary thing, that if a stranger come in place where a babe lieth in the cradle, or look upon the said infant whiles it is asleep, the nurse useth to spit thrice: although I am not ignorant that there is a religious opinion of this syllable 'Mu', that it is able to defend such young sucklings; as also of the foolish puppet Fascinus; both which are of power to put back any witchcraft from them, and return the mischief upon the eye-biting witch." 

They were fully aware of the phallic amulets used by the Romans to protect children from the evil eye (image from the Wikipedia 'evil eye' entry, the phallus of the dwarfish figure swings behind him):






So, did 'witches' in England have the evil eye? I think, not till the mid 17th century. John Gaule seems to be the first secure instance I have found (1646). That's a 150 year OED antedating. Yet they seem to have some repertoire of charms against the evil eye, and were willing to hang Irish 'eye-biters'.

This is William Hooke, in his New Englands teares for old Englands feares (1640): "it is commonly observed, that men and women who have turned Witches, and been in league with the devil, thereby to doe mischief, are never given over so to doe, till they begin to have an evil eye, which grieveth at the Prosperity, and rejoyceth at the misery of others. Hence Witchcraft is described by an evil eye." 

He's talking about witches, but envisages a process in which pacted witches acquire an evil eye after the moralised and generalised fashion given in Solomon and in the gospels.

Yet eyes do crop up witchcraft accusations. This was Goodcole's really strange note about Elizabeth Sawyer. He's asking about how she came to be deprived of an eye, because he must have heard that one of her parents had suffered similarly (his syntax in the marginal note is muddled). His question seems to be connected to his next question, which is about whether she actually touched as well as saw the devil - there was nothing wrong with her eye, the devil was also there to be touched:



In 1612, Thomas Potts wrote this about Janet Device: "This odious Witch was branded with a preposterous mark in Nature, even from her birth, which was her left eye, standing lower then the other; the one looking down, the other looking up, so strangely deformed, as the best that were present in that Honorable Assembly, and great Audience, did affirm, they had not often seen the like."

It looks to me as though Jesus using 'evil eye' (as something any self-seeking or malignant person might have) kept the notion of a witch's evil eye in the background in the bible-fixated culture of early modern England. The witch fitted well enough to the idea, though, as a conduit for intensified 'influence'. The notion that you could simply be born with the evil eye (seventh daughter of a seventh daughter type of category) and only use it by accident, or even spend your life carefully NOT looking at things you might inadvertently kill is also around, especially in Ireland. A witch acquires an evil eye from the devil, and means to use it.

Wikipedia explains that evil eyes are blue. (But we all knew that.)




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Troublesome disguises: the Goddard monument at East Woodhay Church




Over to this slightly remote church (for the area) last night
http://www.stmartinschurch.hampshire.org.uk/rental.htm
at East Woodhay, justly rated for its acoustics and the total quiet outside, to listen to Stile Antico perform this concert
http://www.stileantico.co.uk/concerts/2016/05/10/the-touches-of-sweet-harmony-6
of Shakespearean or Shakespeare-inspired music. No plans, apparently, to release a CD, which I was very sorry to hear. Byrd's 'Tristitia et anxietas' was new to me, and overwhelming. They must at some time (surely) release Nico Muhly's 'Gentle sleep', a setting of words - snatches of text- from Henry V (IV i), a clever reduction of Henry's self-serving orotundities into something moving, with wonderful writing for high soprano and bass.

But the surprise in the church was this memorial to the left of the altar:


The inscriptions tell you all I know:

"Near this place lies the body of Edward GODDARD Esq, son of Wm GODDARD Esq, late of this parish, by Elizabeth his wife who was the daughter of John D’OYLE Esq, an ancient and honourable family in the county of Oxford. He married Elizabeth the daughter of Edward GODDARD Esquire of Ogbourne St Andrews in the County
of Wilts, by whom he had no issue.
He was a person of sober life and conversation, constant in his devotions both publick and private, whom neither the pleasures of the age did lead into excess, nor the vices corrupt.
By his last will he testified his respect for the House of God both in this parish and in that of his Manor of Castle Eaton in the County of Wilts in both of which parishes the poor also will receive lasting tokens of his charity
He died the 7th day of October 1724 aged 65.

Elizabeth GODDARD, relict of Edward GODDARD Esq, a pious and charitable lady, by her last will left one hundred pounds, the interest whereof to be layd out by the Minister and Church Wardens in Linen for the poor of this parish.
With this money and twenty pounds added were purchased lands in Ashmansworth viz one toft and eight acres of bond land in the fields there and Redland Coppice and lands in Privet Field, Wm RIME, Tennant in Trust, for the uses aforesaid.

She died the 30th day of September 1732 aged 72."

The couple must have been related, outside the regulations about consanguinity, a Hampshire Goddard marrying a Wiltshire one. Their full-length figures are slightly smaller than life-size, but so raised up as to suggest the grand manner. 


Edward and Elizabeth are a Gainsborough couple before Gainsborough; squirearchy out of Fielding or Hogarth. As the inscription tells us, Edward married Elizabeth "by whom he had no issue", so the memorial lacks the usual rising tide of offspring. To validate themselves, Edward has his sword and books:



He looks out into the world. Elizabeth is given no extra attributes: she is just herself (except that she looks at her husband, so that in some senses he validates her). But she is striking, erect and proud, rising from her drapery like an English Minerva:





The eyes, undrilled, make her remote. I'm interested in the contrast of their clothes: hers, tempestuous, make his look geometrical. The sculptor gave full detail:



I suggested 'Minerva', but further reflection might suggest that these attires, these 'troublesome disguises which we wear' cast him as reason, her as passion. He has her (however), safely corralled off at the church's east end.



I liked the self-approval, the complacency: they were no doubt charitable and pious, but they loom over the altar in proprietorial fashion. "He testified his respect for the House of God" by condescending to be there, in life and thereafter.


In this review of an exhibition of swagger portraits, Andrew Graham-Dixon  speaks of a "streak of solemn, anti-theatrical, empirical grand manner portraiture": 

Here it is in a Hampshire Church monument. I wonder what they were like! Absorbed, really, in the specifics of land-ownership, I guess.




Monday, May 09, 2016

Typographical terror in later works on witchcraft



The bad news about witchcraft and the devil raging in the last days was spread by print. Some of the earliest works about witchcraft were formidable accomplishments on the page, oceanic commentary lapping around islands of text:

(An image from the Gale Witchcraft database, as reviewed on this blog in 2010). 

Works in English on witchcraft tend to be far more haphazard printing jobs: written up in self-justificatory haste, printed at full speed without much in the way of editing. Over in Boston, Cotton Mather's printers manage to suggest (appropriately enough) a hyperventilating author, in a state of typographical terror:


I was interested to look at how Joseph Glanvill had his Blow at Modern Sadducism printed in 1668: particularly this little trick: the word 'witchcraft' starts to be set in large case black letter capitals:


while 'The Royal Society' gets the dignity of full caps. Roman:


As the land of spirits is a kind of unexplored new world

Glanvill encourages the members to pursue (in a strange pun) 'luciferous enquiries'


Inquiries both light-bringing and Satanic in subject matter.

Yet the black letter for 'Witchcraft': the intended contrast has to be between the beautiful clarity of the Royal Society's thinking, and the black nature of witchcraft (the OED has "black letter" from 1639, though it appears to be present as early as 1584 in The cauteles, canon, and ceremonies, of the most blasphemous, abhominable, and monstrous popish Masse. Black letter days are inauspicious days in the church calendar (as opposed, of course, to red letter days). So, his choice of an Old English typeface (as Black Letter would also be called) for WITCHCRAFT contrasts blackness and evil against lucidity and good. It has (incidentally) to be by Glanvill's direction, these are the only uses of black letter in the book.

All this said, 'Black Letter' would also become 'Gothic': even as he wants to argue that witchcraft is a real and present danger, there's an effect of something dated, slipping into the past, while THE ROYAL SOCIETY owns the future.

I must look out more attentively for typographical devices in witchcraft texts. Richard Bernard's Guide to Grand Jury-Men switched its final diagram of 'What the Lord Doth' versus 'What Satan Doth' from two columns on a page to facing pages between 1627 and 1629 editions, that might be a start.



Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On this day in 1621: remembering Elizabeth Sawyer, convicted witch.


Three hundred and ninety five years ago today, Elizabeth Sawyer was led out to her hanging at Tyburn, after having been found guilty of the murder by witchcraft of Agnes Ratcleife.

Candidly described in the sole surviving report of her life and death as 'a very ignorant woman', Sawyer had lost her temper during her trial: 

"she was not able to speake a sensible or ready word for her defense, but sends out in the hearing of the Judge, Jury, and all good people that stood by, many most fearefull imprecations for destruction against her selfe then to happen, as heretofore she had wished and indeavoured to happen on divers of her neighbours: the which the righteous Judge of Heaven, whom she thus invocated, to judge then and discerne her cause, did reveale."

There's a sense that what she said in court (in this fashion) was the reason for her conviction. Certainly Henry Goodcole, the Chaplain of Newgate, who hastily wrote up his account of her conviction and the confession he finally got from her  ("though with great labour it was extorted from her"), shaped up and framed her story as a caution for all against blaspheming. He concludes: 

"Deare Christians, lay this to heart, namely the cause, and first time, that the Divell came unto her, then, even then when she was cursing, swearing, and blaspheming ... Stand on your guard and watch with sobrietie to resist him, the Divell your adversary, who waiteth on you continually, to subvert you that so you, that doe detest her abhominable wordes, and wayes, may never taste of the cup nor wages of shame and destruction, of which she did in this life..."



Her blasphemies seem to have caught everybody's attention. These days, we are fascinated by familiars, but plenty of witches had plenty of familiars in animal form without getting a play written about them. You can see their interest: Goodcole has her say:

"The first time that the Divell came unto me was, when I was cursing, swearing and blaspheming; he then rushed in upon me ... the first words that hee spake unto me were these: 'Oh! have I now found you cursing, swearing, and blaspheming? now you are mine.'"

And he adds a side note, reporting a spectator's extraordinary interest - he can't seem to get over it:

"A Gentleman by name Mr. Maddox standing by, and hearing of her say the word blaspheming, did aske of her, three or foure times, whether the Divell sayd 'Have I found you blaspheming?', and shee confidently sayd', 'Ay'."

Mr Maddox then disappears. He ought properly to appear among the list of names who attest to the truth that what is recorded was her confession. Goodcole promises this a couple of times in his text, but the names never got added. Doubtless Goodcole ran out of time.

Blasphemy as the moment of diabolic access went directly into the play Dekker, Ford and Rowley wrote about her.

But enough: almost 400 years later, that play has featured largely in my professional life as a university teacher. I think I know just about everything one can know, through the strange refractions of the pamphlet and the play. It is like peering into a fog, in which you can just about hear a voice, angry and lost.



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Meditation VIII: 'Upon a crumb going down the wrong way', 1666.




Meditation VIII. Upon a Crum going the wrong way.

What more mean and contemptible thing can there be then a single Crum, either in regard of its doing the least hurt, or effecting the least good; and yet, like the Tongue, which St. James saith, is a little Member, ex ollit sese, it boasteth great Matters: in the Mouth (it is true) it hath scarce substance enough to be felt; but, in the Throat, it is such as can hardly be endured. If it descend into the Stomach, it can contribute nothing to the support of Life; but, if it miss the due passage to it, how often doth it threaten Death? and sometimes also effect it: O, how frail and mutable is the Life of Man; which is not only Jeopardised by Instruments of War and Slaughter, which are made to destroy, but by an Hair, a Raisin Stone, a Feather, a Crum, and a thousand such inconsiderable things, which have a power to extinguish Life, but none to preserve it? How necessary then is it to get Grace into the Heart, when the Life that we have hangs thus continually in suspence before us? and, how circumspect should we be of small sins, which create as great dangers to the Soul, as the other things can to the Body? They that live in the Pale of the Church perish more by silent and Whispering Sins, then by Crying and Loud Sins, in which, though there be less Infamie, there is ofttimes the greater danger, in regard they are most easily fallen into, and most hardly repented of; like knots in fine Silk, which are sooner made then in a Cord or Cable, but with far more difficulty are unloosed again. Let us therefore (who often say that a Man may live of a little) think also of how much less a Man may Die, and miscarry, not in his Body only but in his Soul also.



From the Preface:

William Spurstow, who as he lived beloved of his friends, so he died of all his friends much lamented

First, His profound, and real humility, and that is a root-grace that hath many in it; and this is the true ascension of the soul:

…especially in that humbleness of mind he shewed after any large receits, or performances, wherein he shewed himself like Moses, though his face shone he knew it not.

Secondly, His Charity both in giving and forgiving, the latter of which, as it is most noble, so it is the most difficult, and that which is peculiar to Christ Disciples. …

Thirdly, To this may be added his Meekness, and Patience, the natural result of Humility, in which graces he was eminent, being seldom or never transported by passion, or if at any time those passions which do repugn that grace did arise, they soon had a counterbuff from the divine principle was in him. He alwaies had an innocent, and grateful chearfulness in his Converse, that rendred it very acceptable, being very free from that morosity of spirit which many times is like a cloud in a Diamond, and like a Curtain before a Picture. And yet as the sweetest Rose hath its prickles, and the industrious Bee (that makes the healing and mollifying Honey and Wax) her sting: So he had a sting of holy Zeal, which wisdom had the conduct of, that it was not put forth upon every trivial provocation;he knew when, and where, and how far to shew it; and in Gods Cause his Zeal was better tempered, than, like a brittle blade, to fly in shivers, and wound by-standers; but it was true mettal, and would cut deep, so as to leave impressions behind it ...

Fourthly, Add to this his peaceable disposition,

But I remember I am to write a Preface, not a Narrative of his life. He was a lover of goodmen. Loving and faithful in his Relations; a good Child, a good Father, a good Husband, a good Brother, a good Master, a good neighbour, a good Friend, a good Governor, a good Subject, a good minister: and all because he was a good Christian...

(But not, I would venture, a very good writer.)

There are more in his posthumous volume:






Sunday, April 03, 2016

Spirited away, early modern style


The passage above is taken from the incorrigible Joseph Glanvill's work, A Blow at Modern Sadducism (1668) - a work whose boundless conviction somehow failed to extend to its own rather underwhelming title, which hardly lives up to the 'Beacon Lit'/'The Beacon Quenched' style of ding-dong that was so characteristic of the age. But that by the way.

Glanvill has just surmised that "The Laws and affairs of the other world ... are vastly differing from those of our Regions". Forgetting what he's just said, he goes on to make one of his frequent close analogies: he cannot conceive of Hell except as a place with differing social classes, and laws applicable to all the fallen spirits.

He has been puzzling at the motivations of those fallen angels who become familiar spirits. One surmise he makes is that such beings are in fact spirits of the malignant dead. Or then, they might be conceived of, he suggests, as the socially most lowly demons, spirits of a working class kind, who alone would tolerate the probably painful business of inhabiting the body of a small animal. Glanvill then arrives at a surmise that apparently satisfies him as his final suggestion, based on property rights: perhaps these demonic lowest-of-the-low are prepared to give so much effort to winning witches, soul and body, because they thereby acquire property rights over them, after the completion of pact, in Hell.

Glanvill makes analogies with the right of the successful hunter to the dead body of his animal quarry, slave-owners to slaves, and if these things were not chilling enough reflections on the non-diabolic state of things, he suddenly sees these low and deceiving devils as being like "the seducing fellows we call Spirits, who inveigle Children by their false and flattering promises, and carry them away to the Plantations of America, to be servilly employed there".


This was a new form of early modern moral awfulness to me. The OED recognises the usage, under its entry for 'spirit':


The first quotation from Bulstrode Whitlocke actually records a Parliamentary ordinance passed in 1645. This is the full passage:

"May, 1645: 9. An  Ordinance against such who are called Spirits, and use to steal away, and take up children,  and bereave their Parents of them, and convey them away. And they ordered another Ordinance to be brought in to make this Offence Felony."

Despite attempts to regulate, the professional child abductor was a long-lived evil. The OED's 1690 quotation comes from this passage, which appears to be arguing that such abductions were in the end a lesser evil:

"Virginia and Barbadoes were first peopled by a sort of loose vagrant People, vicious and destitute of means to live at home (being either unfit for labour, or such as could find none to employ themselves about, or had so misbehaved themselves by Whoring, Thieving, or other Debauchery, that none would set them on work) which Merchants and Masters of Ships by their Agents (or  Spirits, as they were called) gathered up about the Streets of London, and other places, clothed and transported, to be employed upon Plantations; and these I say were such, as had there been no English foreign Plantation in the World, could probably never have lived at home to do Service for their Country, but must have come to be hanged or starved, or dyed untimely of some of those miserable Diseases, that proceed from want and Vice; or else have sold themselves for Soldiers, to be knocked on the Head or starved in the Quarrels of our Neighbours, as many thousands of brave English men were in the low Countries, as also in the Wars of Germany, France, and Sweden, &c. or else if they could, by begging, or otherwise, arrive to the Stock of 2s.6d. to waft them over to Holland, become Servants to the Dutch, who refuse none."

This was the text of the Restoration attempt at regulation of this trade in minors in 1685. Interestingly, the bias of the legislation is to create legal protections for the 'Merchants and Planters', who have been taken to law by people who had taken the money, and then complained of abduction by 'spirits'.




[A transcript of the ordinance]:

"Whereas it has been Represented to His Majesty, That by reason of the frequent Abuses of a  lewd sort of People, called Spirits, in Seducing many of His Majesties Subjects to go on Shipboard, where they have been seized, and carried by force to His Majesties Plantations in America; and that many idle Persons who have Listed themselves Voluntarily to be Transported thither, and have received Money upon their Entering into Service for that purpose, have afterwards pretended they were betrayed, and carried away against their Wills, and procured their Friends to Prosecute the Merchants who Transported them, or in whose Service they are, by Indictments, or Informations in the Crown Office in His Majesties Name, which is a great Discouragement to them, and an Hindrance to the Management of the Trade of the said Plantations, and Navigation of this Kingdom; And several Merchants and Planters having made humble Applications to His Majesty, That he would be Graciously pleased to Direct such Methods for their Retaining of Servants to Serve in His Majesties Plantations, as in His Royal Wisdom he should think meet, whereby His Majesty may be so satisfied of their Fair Dealing, as to take off all Prosecutions against them at His Majesties Suit; And also that the Scandal that now lies upon them in general, by reason of such Evil-disposed persons, may not remain upon such as shall for the future follow such Methods as His Majesty shall think fit to be pursued.

His Majesty taking into His Royal Consideration the said Request, is Graciously pleased to Declare, That such Merchants, Factors, Masters of Ships, or other Persons that shall use the Method hereafter following, in the Hiring of Servants for His Majesties Plantations, shall not be Disquieted by any Suit on His Majesties behalf, but upon Certificate thereof, that He will cause all such Suits to be stopped, to the end they may receive no further Molestation thereby.

I. Such Servants as are to be taken by Indenture, to be Executed by the Servant, in the presence of the Magistrate, or Magistrates hereafter appointed; One part thereof Signed by such Servant, and also Underwritten, or Endorsed with the Name and Hand-writing of such Magistrate, which is to remain with the Clerk of the Peace, to be Returned to the next Sessions, there to be Filed upon a distinct File, and Numbered, and kept with the Records.

II. The Clerk of the Peace is to keep a Fair Book, wherein the Name of the Person so Bound, and the Magistrates Name before whom the same was done, and the time and place of doing thereof, and the Number of the File shall be Entered: And for the more easy finding the same, the Entries are to be made Alphabetically, according to the first Letter of the Surname.

III. All Persons above the Age of One and twenty years, or who shall, upon View and Examination, appear to be so in the Judgment of the Magistrate, may be Bound in the presence of One Justice of the Peace, or of the Mayor, or Chief Magistrate of the Place where they shall go on Shipboard; who is to be fully satisfied from him, of his free and voluntary Agreement, to enter into the said Service.

IV. If any Person be under the Age of One and Twenty years, or shall appear so to be, he shall be Bound in the presence of the Lord Mayor of London, or One of the Judges, or an Alderman of London, being a Justice of Peace, or the Recorder, or Two Justices of the Peace of any other County, or Place, who shall carefully Examine whether the Person so to be Bound, have any Parents, or Masters; And if he be not Free, they are not to take such Indenture, unless the Parents, or Masters give their Consents, and some Person that knows the said Servant to be of the Name, and Addition mentioned in the Indenture, is to Attest his said knowledge upon the said Indenture.

V. If the Person be under the Age of Fourteen years, unless his Parents shall be present, and Consent, he is not to be carried on Shipboard, till a Fortnight at least, after he becomes Bound, to the intent that if there be any Abuse, it may be discovered before he be Transported. And where his Parents do not appear before the Magistrate, Notice is to be sent to them; or where they cannot be found, to the Church-Wardens, or Overseers of the Parish where he was last Settled, in such manner as the said Magistrates shall think fit, and Direct.

And because Clerks of the Peace may conceive this not to be any part of the Duty of their Office, and may therefore exact unreasonable Rewards for their trouble and pains therein, His Majesty doth Declare, That if any Merchants, or other Persons shall be aggrieved thereby, and upon Complaint to the Justices cannot obtain Relief, His Majesty will take such further care for their ease herein, as in His Royal Wisdom He shall think meet. And His Majesties further Pleasure is, That this Order be Printed and Published, to the end all Persons whom it may concern, may take Notice thereof, and govern themselves accordingly."


This all seems quite sensible, whether such provisions were observed is another matter. The legislation is all reasonable carrot and no stick; the last paragraph rather ominously anticipates the recalcitrance of some of the state officials for whom all this was a new area of duty.

Behind the terminology, 'spirits', for those who inveigled minors and other to go as servants and workers to New England was an equation, utterly pessimistic about America as a prospect, with those supernatural spirits who'd try to induce you to go to hell. The same equation is lurking too in the robust response that those who end up in New England were going to hell anyway, being idlers and good-for-nothings. Promoters of the plantations had tried to represent North America as a new Eden, a paradise on earth, not a new hell (for example William Bullock's VIRGINIA Impartially examined, 1649, or Samuel Clarke's A true and faithful account of the four chiefest plantations of the English in America to wit, of Virginia, New-England, Bermudus, Barbados (1670), while others were vehement to dispel any such notion (for instance, George Gardyner, A description of the new world (1651).

The better informed, not young people deluded by 'spirits', do seem to have been wary of the risks. I've always been struck by Old Seeley, returned to his sense at the end of The Late Lancashire Witches, threatening his whole family with deportation to the colony unless they behave themselves better in future: "I’ll ship you all for New England else."