Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Swarms of flies, and a holy exterminator




My images are of stained glass now in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Shrewsbury. The panels, purchased by the Reverend William Gorsuch Rowland in the second quarter of the 19th century, were originally in the Altenberger Dom (North Rhine, Westphalia). When the Abbey was suppressed in the secularisation of Germany in 1803, the windows were removed, and available for purchase by the Reverend.


The panels depict the life and some of the miracles of St Bernard of Clairvaux. St Bernard, especially during the headlong rush to catastrophe that the Second Crusade he so fervently promoted proved to be, had many miracles associated with him. We do not have here the lactation of St Bernard, when breast milk from a statue of the virgin flew into his eye and cured him of an eye infection, but what is presumably one of the lesser of the reputed 840 miracles, the miracle of the flies.

On July 11th 1121, St Bernard had gone to dedicate a new Abbey for his Cistercian Order at Foigny. It proved to be infested with flies, so the saint excommunicated the flies. and they were dead by the next morning.


Here, the saint pronounces his malediction. I love the stupefied Medieval faces. Equally good is the face of the chap tasked with sweeping out the bodies of the flies. An angel with a holy feather duster seems to have helped, but is letting the peasant chap get on with the dirty work:





Swarms of flies were of course taken as portents, like unusual atmospheric effects, landslides, lightning strikes, etc. Nobody would be so rude as to say to the Saint that these ephemeroptera usually died within hours.

EEBO provides this Royalist ballad of 1647. A swarm of flies in Bodmin is seen as a preludes to the plagues of Egypt that will be visited by the Lord upon the nation
Strange and true Newes of an Ocean of Flies dropping out of a Cloud, upon the Towne of Bodnam in Cornwall.


To the Tune of Cheevy Chase.
When Kings have lost their Reignes and Power, 
Then Clouds upon us judgements showre. 

Some talke of battailes in the aire, 
And Comets in the skies, 
But now wee·ll tell a tale more rare, 
Of great and monstrous flies. 

In Cornwall this strange sight was seen, 
At Bodman Towne by name, 
Which will be justified still 
By a Lawyer of great fame. 

At mid-day· when the skie was cleare, 
A thick cloud did arise, 
Which failing downe upon the earth, 
Dissolved into flies. 

The hell-bred Cloud did look so big, 
So black and did so loure, 
It could not rest untill her Panch 
Those flies all out did poure. 

They in such mighty numbers fell 
Upon the green grasse ground, 
And did so cover all the earth, 
That nought else could be found. 

Their numbers did increase so fast, 
Almost a whole houres space, 
That they a foot and more were seen, 
To cover all that place. 

No grasse, nor flowers for the time, 
Were seen for to appeare, 
The like was not in England knowne, 
God knowes this many a yeare. 

Their bodys green, their wings were white 
As it appeares most true, 
By Letters sent from Bodnam Towne, 
By those we never knew. 

These flies as soon as they were borne 
Fell dead upon the ground; 
And to say truth· they lay so thick, 
The like was never found. 

Which made the people all to muse, 
To see that gastly sight, 
Which did continue on the ground 
All that whole day and night. 

The second Part,
To the same Tune. 

So when the Lord was pleas'd to frowne, 
And shew his powerfull hand 
He rained Frogs and Lice upon 
All the Aegyptian land. 

All which was for their sinnes so great, 
So wicked, fowle and dire, 
They did deserve the judgement just 
Of Brimstone and of fire. 

And yet they never did rebell 
Against their King and Crowne· 
Nor had such vices in their streets 
As hath our London Towne, 

Who hath maintain'd this bloudy warre 
Against a Cause so just; 
And have destroyed their gracious Prince 
For to maintaine their lust. 

Wherefore repent you Citizens, 
And take you warning all· 
Lest that the Heavens in discontent 
In Thunder on you fall. 

In Lice and Locusts Wormes and Frogs, 
In Raine in Haile and Stormes· 
In Lightning Plague and Pestilence, 
In Poxes and in Hornes. 

Now if these Plagues you will prevent, 
Which will your corne destroy, 
See that you presently repent, 
And sing Vive le Roy. 

God grant us Peace, which will not be 
Unlesse our gracious King 
Enjoy his rights and dignities, 
His Queen and every thing. 

God send Sir Thomas Fairfax right, 
And send us our Areares, 
And bring the King to Towne againe 
Sans jealousies and feares. 

In Henry Jessey's 1660 pamphlet, The Lords loud call to England: being a true relation of some late, various, and wonderful judgments, or handy-works of God, by earthquake, lightening, whirlewind, great multitudes of toads and flyes, both hatchling toads and flies act of direct rebukes from heaven on a lord of the manor who allowed die-hard Puritans to be abused:


A Company of Christians going to a meeting, and at their private meeting at Fairford in Glocestershire, which is about four miles on this side Cirencester, (called Ciceter) on the 24. of Iune 1660. Being the first day of the week, they were much abused by some of that Town, in a rude manner.

The Lord of the Manor there stood looking on, and did not in the least suppress the rude multitude, but appeared rather to countenance them.

In the Evening of that same 24 day, there was seen coming up from the Mill-lane great multitudes of small Toads, they that saw them said, that there might have been taken up many Cowls full of them. And as they were going they divided themselves into two bodies. First, one Body, or Division of them, went to the Lord of the Mannors house, (which was about one Acers Length, from the place where they were first seen) They come up through his Orchard, and went under Illegible word Gate into the inward court, and some did indeavour to pre|vent their coming into his house, but could not, though they killed many of them. They Illegible word into his Kithin, and Cellar: and the next morning there went an honest man to the house, about business, and did see the servants looking on them, and took notice of them, that they lay thick on the ground, and being smal, judged they were many thousands of them.
And Secondly, The other Body or Division of the Toads, went to a Iustice of the peace his house, a little way off; and went into his Barn, to his amazement, there being by providence also an honest man the next morning, who saw the Toads in great abundance, and heard the Iustice say, that it was a judgment upon them for suffering the boyes to abuse those honest men in the Town, and no man can tell whence these Toads came.

About a Fortnight after in the same Town, these Christians were again sorely abused, and the next Friday fortnight after, there appeared in the Lord of the Manors Orchard, a great swarme of Flyes, about the bigness of Caddus Flies, with long wings; they that saw them said they might have taken up baskets of them, and the same day also, an honest Christian man saw the Lord of the Mannors Garden covered with these Flies, in heaps like unto swarms of Bees


This single sheet newsletter of 1675 is content to treat a swarm as a prodigy






















Here, the gentle-spirited microscopist Jan Swammerdam describes his experience of the nymph of the mayfly, and below that, its unique double moult, from subimago to imago:

"Concerning the Nature of this Creature, I pretend to little experience thereof, only I can assure you that among all the diverse sorts of Insects I have been acquainted with, I never met with one better natured and more harmless than this; for how often or how much soever it is touched or handled, it seemeth always to be well pleased; and left at rest, it immediately betaketh to its work of making its Cell. Only I have ob|served in the smallest sort, that when they are handled somewhat too hard, they bend their head toward their breast, and thereby make themselves as it were stiffer: Among all its actions, none is more strange than the motion of its Gills, of which it hath on each side of its body
Six, which are moved so orderly and continually trembling, that it is admirable.

Being in the year 1670. in the Village Slouton by Amsterdam in the month of June, where as I walked towards the Evening through the Fields, I met with such an infinite number of small Insects somewhat bigger than Gnats, which rested on my body, that I was even covered therewith. Every one of these while resting on my body shed a thin Film, which done they immediately repaired again to the waters, where they, like the greater Ephemeron sport above the Surface of the water. The Original of these Insects is not much unlike that of our Ephemeron, for that they also live in Ditches and Trenches of water, which also at their set times Change by shedding two Skins; the one in the water, the other on Land.


Ephemeri vita, or, The natural history and anatomy of the Ephemeron, a fly that lives but five hours written originally in Low-Dutch by Jo. Swammerdam ... 1681


We still report a good swarming:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-scotland-39902688/huge-swarm-of-non-biting-midges-around-loch-leven

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pasque flowers, April 19th



I never really thought I'd ever see such a rarity. Last year I heard reports of a couple of flowers at the Hartslock Nature Reserve. My wife and I went along on the 17th, and though we saw an unhybridised Lady Orchid, no Pasque flowers were to be seen.

Better information came via a friend who had found a FB group. The directions took me off the nature reserve, and round into the neighbouring sheep pasture. There were 25 or 26 flowers on maybe 15 different plants. I love that moment of disbelief: you see a flower of the right colour, approach half expecting it to be a violet (in this case), but there they were.





Gerard's Herbal:

The herball or Generall historie of plantes. Gathered by Iohn Gerarde of London Master in Chirurgerie very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Iohnson citizen and apothecarye of London (1597).

(THE SECOND BOOKE OF THE HISTORIE OF PLANTS)

CHAP. 79. Of Bastard Anemones, or Pasque floures. 


The Description.

1 The first of these Pasque floures hath many small leaves finely cut or jagged, like those of Carrots: among which rise up naked stalkes, rough and hairie; whereupon doe grow beautifull floures bell fashion, of a bright delaied purple colour: in the bottome whereof groweth a tuft of yellow thrums, and in the middle of the thrums it thrusteth forth a small purple pointell: when the whole floure is past there succeedeth an head or knop compact of many gray hairy lockes, and in the solide parts of the knops lieth the seed flat and hoarie, every seed having his owne small haire hanging at it. The root is thicke and knobby, of a finger long, running right downe, and therefore not like unto those of the Anemone, which it doth in all other parts very notably resemble, and whereof no doubt this is a kinde.

2 There is no difference at all in the leaves, roots, or seedes, betweene this red Pasque floure and the precedent, nor in any other point, but in the colour of the floures: for whereas the other are of a purple colour, these are of a bright red, which setteth forth the difference.

3 The white Passe floures hath many fine jagged leaves, closely couched or thrust together, which resemble an Holi-water sprinckle, agreeing with the others in rootes, seedes, and shape of floures, saving that these are of a white colour, wherein chiefely consisteth the difference.

†† 4 This also in shape of roots and leaves little differs from the precedent, but the floures are lesser, of a darker purple colour, and seldome open or shew themselues so much abroad as the other of the first described, to which in all other respects it is very like.

5 There is also another kinde with leaves lesse divided, but in other parts like those already described, saving that the floure is of a yellow colour something inclining to a red. ††

The Place. Ruellius writeth, that the Passe floure groweth in France in untoiled places: in Germanie they grow in rough and stonie places, and oftentimes on rockes.
Those with purple floures doe grow verie plentifully in the pasture or close belonging to the parsonage house of a small village six miles from Cambridge, called Hildersham: the Parsons name that lived at the impression hereof was Mr. Fuller, a very kind and loving man, and willing to shew unto any man the said close, who desired the same.

The Time. They floure for the most part about Easter, which hath mooved mee to name it Pasque Floure, or Easter floure: and often they doe floure againe in September. †† The yellow kinde floures in May. ††


The Names. † Passe floure is called commonly in Latine Pulsatilla: and of some, Apium risus, & herba venti. Daleschampius would haue it to be Anemone Limonia & Samolus of Pliny: in French, Coquelourdes: in Dutch, kneckenschell: in English, Pasque floure, or Passe floure, and after the Latine name Pulsatill, or Flaw floure: in Cambridge-shire where they grow, they are named Couentrie bels.


The Temperature. Passe floure doth extremely bite, and exulcerateth and eateth into the skinne if it be stamped and applied to any part of the body; whereupon it hath been taken of some to be a kinde of Crowfoot, and not without reason, for that it is not inferiour to the Crowfoots: and therefore it is hot and drie.

The Vertues. There is nothing extant in writing among Authours of any peculiar vertue, but they serve onely for the adorning of gardens and garlands, being floures of great beautie.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The orphanage full of witches: Lille, 1652-1662



I return to George Garden’s An apology for M. Antonia Bourignon in four parts, published in London in 1699.


The portrait of Antoinette Bourignon above comes from the National Portrait Gallery:


The NPG simply lists this as anonymous, 18th century. It is one of the English copies of this portrait: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/RP-P-OB-51.082

The NPG do not note that the quotation that has been added above the portrait is rather interesting in itself, being from Paradise Lost Book VI, 29ff:
Servant of God, well done, well hast thou fought
The better fight, who single hast maintaind
Against revolted multitudes the Cause
Of Truth, in word mightier then they in Armes;
And for the testimonie of Truth hast born
Universal reproach, far worse to beare
Then violence: for this was all thy care
To stand approv'd in sight of God, though Worlds
Judg'd thee perverse…
Abdiel has deserted and rebuked Satan: at his arrival back in heaven, he is welcomed by God saying this from a golden cloud.


But my interest is in the episode when Bourignon discovered that every girl in the orphanage in Lille she had founded in 1653 was a pacted witch. In Garden's hagiographic life, this is a defensively written episode. Settled belief in Bourignon (which adversely affected Garden's career), means that this has to be a very late expression of belief in pacted witches, attending sabbats, seduced by Satan.

The rest of the post will be the full account as given in Garden’s book. I have done some re-lineation of the text, lightly modernised spellings (‘-ed’ for -’d endings), and added some speech markings. My own comments will use a different font and colour. I have inserted these as sectional headings.

Belotte, the first young witch to reveal herself in the orphanage


About three years after  she was thus shut up, one of the Girls of Fifteen Years having done some Fault, was shut close up for a Penance in the Prison of the House. Within an Hour after she came into the Work-House where all the rest were, though the Provisor had locked her up within Three Gates, and was gone to the Market, and had the Keys at her Girdle. A[ntonia]. B[ourignon]. upon enquiry, finding all this to be true, asked her ‘How she got out?’
She said, ‘A Man had taken her out.’
And after dinner having called her to her, and she giving the same answer.
She asked If she knew him. 
She said, ‘Very well, it was the Devil.’
At this A. B. trembled, saying, The Devil is a Spirit, not a Man.
The Girl said, ‘He comes to me in the form of a Man, and I calling him to help me when shut up, he opened the Door and took me out.’ 
A. B. asked if she had known this Man of a long time. 
She said, ‘Yes, all her Life, that her Mother from her Childhood had carried her to the Sabbath of the Witches, which is kept in the Night, and that she being a little Child, this Devil Man was then also a Young Boy, and grew up as she did, being always her Lover, and caressed her Day and Night.’
A. B. could not conceive this, for she had never heard of such things.
She immediately wrote for the Three Pastors, the Overseers of the House, to whom the Maid declared that she had given her Soul to the Devil, and denied God, and to confirm the Gift had received a Mark in her Foot, which she did freely when Twelve Years of Age, though long before this Lover had still entertained her and carried her to the Sabbaths of Sorcerers in great Castles, where they met to eat, drink, dance, sing, and do a thousand other Insolencies.
She put her out of the House the same Day, fearing least the other Girls should be corrupted. It grieved her to see the Devil had such Power, and yet she could not believe that this Bellotte (for the Girl was so called) was a Witch, for she still thought they were filthy and deformed Creatures, as she had heard they transformed themselves into Cats or other Animals. She prayed to God to discover her unknown Sins, and continued in her pious Exercises, believing she had purged the House of such Persons.


The second and third witches are discovered


About Three Months after, another Girl of Fifteen Years was going to be imprisoned for Stealing, she said the Devil made her do it; and she was immediately put out of the House that it might be purged of such. But Three Months after, another of Eleven Years was going to be whipped for the same Fault, and she said ‘Do it not, and I will tell who made me do this Evil.’ And A. B. taking her to her Chamber, she said it was the Devil; that being Young and playing with the Girls of the Town, they asked her if she would go with them to the Dedication, that she should have good Cheer and a Lover, how soon she was Content, the Lover came on a little Horse, and took her by the Hand, asking if she would be his Mistress; she consenting, was carried through the Air with him, and the other Girls, into a great Castle, where they had all sort of Feasting and Mirth, that she has been there ever since, Three or Four times a Week: That at the Age of Ten Years she gave her Soul to the Devil, renounced God and her Baptism, and received a Mark in her Head, which was afterwards found to be insensible; for they put a Pin the length of ones Finger into her Head without her feeling any Pain.

Every young woman in the orphanage is a witch


The Pastors having examined this Girl, thought not fit to put her out of the House, till it were discovered from whence his Evil might arise. She was kept in a Chamber apart, and Peter Salmon, Pastor of St. Sauvear, undertook to examine her daily, and to endeavour her Conversion; and asking her one Day, if there were any other in the House like to her, she said there were Two who went with her daily to the Sabbath. They being called, and spoke with separately in private, confessed ingenuously that they were in Covenant with the Devil. These Two said, there were yet other Two in the House, and being desired to name them, each of them named Two different Persons, who being called, confessed, each of these naming yet Two different Persons who were of the same Crew: So that from Two to Four, from Four to Eight, it was discovered that all the Two and Thirty Girls which were then in the House, were all in general, and each one in particular bound to the Devil, of their own Free-will, having contracted it diversely; some from their Fathers, others from their Mothers, some had learned it by little Girls in playing together, as they declared both to A. B. and to the said Pastor, who put in Writing all they said to him.

The pastors think that the young women can be saved, as they were so young when they made their promises to the devil. Eight months of failed efforts follow; their repentances are not sincere, so alluring are the pleasures offered by the devil


A. B. was in no little Perplexity to be shut up in a House, from whence she could not get out, with Thirty Two Persons who declared they had given their Souls to the Devil, and that she must eat and drink with them, or what they made ready. She proposed to dismiss them by degrees, but then feared to be guilty of the Mischiefs they would do to others, for they confessed they had made both Men and Beasts die. The Pastors thought it fittest to keep them; said there were Hopes they might be converted to God, having been engaged to the Devil before the Use of their Reason, and promised to come every Day to admonish and exercise them, and pray for their Conversion. This was done for the space of Eight Months, in which the Girls made great shews of Conversion, by Tears, repeated Confessions, Prayers, and attending to the Admonitions given them, but without Sincerity. Their Hearts were wedded to the sensual Pleasures which the Devil gave them. So that they had not the Desire to change or leave those wretched Pleasures; as one of them, of Twenty Two Years, said one Day to A. B. 
‘No’ says she, ‘I would not be otherwise, I find too much Contentment in it to leave it, I am always caressed: I have been so from Eight Years to Two and Twenty.’

At the devil’s sabbat, where there are crowds of people, male and female


Pastor Salmon wrote down their Confessions, they declared plainly they had daily carnal Conversation with the Devil, that they went to the Sabbath, where they eat, drank, danced, and committed other Sensualities. Each had their Devil in form of a Man, and the Men theirs in form of a Woman; that they never saw more numerous Meetings in the City than at their Sabbaths, of People of all Ranks, Young and Old, Rich and Poor, Noble and Ignoble, but above all, of all sorts of Monks and Nuns, Priests and Prelates, and that everyone kept their Rank there, as they are in the World. Many of them shed plenty of Tears when A. B. spoke to them of the Judgments of God, of the Joys of Paradise, and the Pains of Hell; and when she asked some of the most sensible of them, If those Tears were sincere; they said,
‘They proceeded from a Grief of having denied God, and given up themselves to the Devils; but this lasted no longer than they were spoke to, or thought upon their miserable State, and then presently the Devil came and asked them if they would leave him, and the Pleasures they had together, and so caressed them, that they renewed their Covenant with him, forgetting all their former good Purposes.’

 More on why the efforts to reclaim them for heaven fail, and how their participation in divine service merely helps disguise their wickedness


She asked, If the Admonitions, Exorcisms, and Prayers of the Pastors did not deprive the Devil of Power to keep them subject to him. 
They said, ‘The Devil mocked at these things, and did ape the Pastors: When they kneeled to pray, he did so behind them, and with a Book mumbled the same Words. When they preached, he used the same Gestures, and also threw Holy Water, and Incensed as they did, aping them always in Mockery.’
She asked, How they could pray or sing so many good Prayers all Day, being in Covenant with the Devil. 
They said, ‘He prayed and sang with them, because their Prayers were without Attention; and instead of singing Praises to God, their Intentions were to sing Praises to the Devil, in which he gloried and valued himself’.
She asked, How they could approach the Table of the Lord, and receive the Sacrament. 
They said, ‘The Devil incited them to do it as often as they could, and the greatest Penance she could ordain them was to make them abstain from the Sacrament, which covered their Wickedness, and made them pass for good Persons before Men: Besides, the Devil did his most mischievous Deeds with the Consecrated Bread.’
 She said, All this would assuredly lead them to Hell. 
They said, ‘They knew it very well; but the Devil promised them the same carnal and sensual Pleasures there, that they had with him in this World.’
She asked, If they knew indeed that it was the Devil that entertained them so, and if they knew there was a Hell, and a Paradise before they came into her House. 
They said, ‘Yes; for the Devil taught them that, and had often catechised them, and taught them there was a God, a Paradise, a Hell, and a Devil; that they who did his Will, could never see God, but should be his Companions in Hell to all Eternity.’

How they became witches so early in life


She asked, How they could belong to the Devil from their Infancy. 

They said, ‘This came from their Parents. When Fathers or Mothers give themselves to the Devil, they give all that is theirs, and it is rare to see, when they have been offered by their Parents to the Devil, even before they are born, that they withdraw after they are come to Age, for the Habit in Evil becomes natural to them; and the Devil entertaining them from their Infancy with Caresses and sensual Pleasures, he so gains upon them, that they
would not quit him for anything, after they have been so allured by his Sensualities, such as all Men could not give them: For he contrives to make them eat all sort of Meats savoury to their Taste, all sort of Liquors pleasant to their Throat, all sort of Music to their Ears, of Odour to their Smell, of Ticklings to their Flesh, so that being brought up thus, it is almost impossible to desire to leave them; and therefore, say they, we would not change our Condition, for we find more Pleasure in it than Men can give us.’

A revealing glimpse of the conditions of life in the orphanage: Bourignon tells the girls in effect that ‘If you were really feasting on non-illusory food with Satan at night, you would not eat your dry bread so hungrily in the morning’


She bewailed their Misery, and shewed them all was but Deceit and Illusion: For Instance, that they had not eaten nor drunken at their Sabbaths, they would have been very hungry in the Morning, and eaten with good Appetite great Lumps of Butter, yea, dry Bread when given them. And if they had been eating such dainty Meat, they would have disrelished such gross Food. 
They said, ‘They had nevertheless the taste and pleasure of all these, and therefore would not leave them.’

Unless you compromise with the devil, he will stop you marrying and having children – this seems to be the outcome in these young women’s minds of Bourignon’s strong advocacy of celibacy and virginity


She asked, How it was possible that Parents should thus offer their Children to the Devil, and not to God who created them. 
They said ‘Those who are thus bound to the Devil, will have no other God but him, and therefore offer him all they have that is most dear, and even are constrained to offer their Children, else he would beat them, and hinder them from being married or having Children; both which he can hinder by his Adheren[illegible]. That when a Child thus offered comes to the Use of Reason, he then asks their Soul, makes them deny God, renounce their Baptism and Faith, and promise Faith and Fidelity to the Devil, after the manner of an Espousal. And instead of a Ring, gives them some Mark, as with an Awl of Iron, in some part of the Body, which Marks he renews as oft as they have a desire to leave him, and binds them more strongly by new Promises, giving them those new Marks for a Pledge that they shall continue faithful to him: And how soon they come to Age capable of having Children, he makes them offer the Will they have of marrying to his Honour, and therewith all the Fruit that can proceed from their Marriage, which they promise willingly, that they may attain their Designs; otherwise the Devil threatens to hinder them, by all sort of means from marrying or bringing forth Children.’

Garden concedes that there were sceptics. Bourignon herself began as a witchcraft sceptics, till she got undoubted proofs. Confessions re-affirmed, and recanted among the young women. The devil will marry them to good men, so as to have access to corrupt their offspring. There are indeed incredible numbers of witches, as is clear from reports from Scotland, New England [Salem] and Sweden [Blokula]


Some can hardly believe that all these Girls could have been in Compact with the Devil, far less that Declaration of A. B. as from God, that so vast a multitude of People on the Earth are in Compact with him. A. B. could as little believe it as any, for she thought none but the vilest Miscreants were such, till there were undoubted Proofs given her of it. The voluntary Confession of all the Girls, the preternatural Acts done by them in her Presence, their Agreement in their Confessions as to their Sabbaths, the manner of Devoting themselves to the Devil, &c. Their Declaration of all this to the Three Pastors, some of them still owning their Confession, (though others were easily persuaded to deny it again, finding they were caressed by the Magistrates for so doing) and the Attestation of the Truth of all this by the Three Pastors (Copies of which are in the La vie ContinuĂ©e, and the Originals in the Hands of the Writer of it) are such Evidences as will satisfy all, but they who will not be satisfied. And as for the other, we need not think it so extravagant, if we consider that it is Satan’s earnest Desire and Ambition to have Men devoted to him by express Covenant; that the more he have of such, he is the more capable of doing Mischief to the rest of Mankind than he can do by himself without them; that he obliges all who are so, to devote to him all their Posterity; that he still labours to ally and marry them with the Good, that so he may corrupt their Offspring, that they who are thus devoted to him, being once habituated to all manner of sensual Delights, can hardly ever will to be reclaimed again; that in outward Appearance they differ nothing from others, but put on for the most part the greatest pretences to Devotion; that whenever any of them are discovered and tried, if strict Enquiry be made about them, their number appears incredible; witness the late Trials in the West of Scotland, those of Sweden, New England, and what the Learned Bodinus tells from his own Knowledge, That when Pardon was granted to a Sorcerer upon Condition to discover his Complices, he discovered so many of all Ranks, that at length he plainly told there would be One Hundred Thousand in that Country.

Magistrates and – surprisingly for an orphanage - parents are alerted and intervene. Bourignon’s character is unimpeachable


About the end of that time, an old Woman of Lisle importuned A. B. to take into the House a Girl of Nine Years, who being discovered to be one of the Coven, was immediately thrust out again, telling the old Woman that all their Secrets were discovered to the Regent of the Hospital. She run about immediately to the Magistrates, and the Parents of the Children, telling how their Reputation was quite broken by A. B. by saying they were Witches. She obtained of the Magistrates that Enquiry should be made into the Life of A. B. without her knowledge. And the Criminal Clerk took Informations upon Oath in the Town, and neighbouring Towns and Villages, all which served only to make her Innocence and Purity the more evident; for the Witnesses they had pitched upon as most animated against her, could depone nothing but what was good and praiseworthy, and could lay nothing to her Charge. Which he who received the Depositions admired; saying, he knew no Body, who if their Life had been examined from their Childhood, by Enemies, and with the same Rigour, could have undergone the Trial so unblameably, without being guilty of something. She was afterwards allowed Witnesses for her Exculpation, and when some of them were heard, he said, there needs no more, for there is almost enough already for to Canonize her, and declare her a Saint. All these Depositions are still in the Register of the Town of Lisle [Lille].

Investigations into a death. Nothing taints Bourignon, not even the girls will speak against her



On the 9th. of February, 1662, they sent the Lieutenant and Sergeants armed, and broke open her House, and carried her violently to the Town-house, with a great Noise and crowd of People, who imagined she was seized for a Witch, because of the Report spread about the Children, where they examined her most strictly Six Hours, and made her give an Account of all the Affairs that concerned the Hospital, which she did with such a presence of Mind, as made her remember all, and answer most pertinently; so they behoved to acknowledge they could not find any Fault in her. Yet they brought her before them after the same manner at several times, without granting her Request of calling her in the Evening to avoid Scandal. They caused bring the Children also to see what they could draw from them against her, but they could say nothing against her; only some of them said, a Servant-Maid of hers had chastised one of the Girls with a Wand, and not long after that she died. So they caused seize the poor Servant as if she had killed the Girl, and resolved to do so to the Mistress, under pretext that the Correction was by her Order; but four Persons declared upon Oath that this was most false and that the Girl died by eating to excess of green Fruits out of the Lodging. One of the Magistrates said to the Children, ‘She accuses you of Witchcraft, and going to the Sabbaths; Why do you not accuse her too?’ But the Girls, how wicked soever, trembling at such a black Malice, said immediately, ‘No, No, our Mother, (so they called her) is no Witch, she goes not to the Sabbath; Our Mother is a Saint, she is all full of God.’

A large number of the same girls that will say no ill of Bourignon had in fact conspired with the devil to poison her. Bourignon leaves, the Jesuits take over, exonerating the girls and indicting Bourignon


They conspired in the House to take away her Life by Malefices; the Devil had Meetings with Twenty Five of them, how to effectuate it, and with their Consent made an Unguent of divers matters, of which there were Balls given to put in her Broth. S. Saulieu was at the Meeting, for he also kept the Sabbaths, and stirred them up to make her away [Saulieu had demonised himself by a sexual pursuit of Bourignon, as noted in John Cockburn's attack on her in Bourignianism detected (1698), "famous Monsieur Saulieu, whom at first she took for a great Saint, pursued her so much, that she was forced to ask the assistance of others, to be delivered from him."] One of the eldest of them discovered it to her, and went with her to one of the Girl’s Bed and found the Ball. She advertised the Pastors, and they the Magistrates, and she was told if she was afraid, she might remove, and they would place another in her room. She stayed till she discovered Fourteen Children who had of these Balls to destroy her. She then chose a Regent and retired, entering a Protestation before the Magistrates, that she did not abandon the Regency, having left one in her Place. When the Magistrates examined the Girls, the eldest declared all the Truth, and the Magistrates laboured to make her unsay it, which she would nor. The others who denied all, they sent away cheerful, saying [?- illegible] one to another, the Magistrates are for us. Two Days after she retired, the Magistrates thrust the Widow out of the Regency. The Jesuits got the Oversight of it, there they placed one of their Maids, they admitted the Girls presently to Confession and Communion, making them pass for little Saints, and A. B. for Guilty.


She retired to Gaunt, and from thence to Mechlin, [Mechelen?] and formed a Process before the King’s Council at Brussels, against the Magistrates at Lisle, [Lille] for the Recovery of the Hospital, and though it did appear most evidently that she was Innocent, and that they had acted against her with inexcusable Violence, yet they would not venture to give Sentence for her against a Party so Powerful, and far, more Considerable before Men, than was the Innocence of a simple private Maid: So the Process remains undecided to this Day, and she could no longer abide in Safety in Lisle, unless in secret.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

OED 'coven', noun


"An assembly, meeting, or company. Obs.

?a1513   W. Dunbar Poems (1998) 196   Lat anis the cop ga round about, And wyn the covanis banesoun.

spec. A gathering of witches; a ‘convent’ or company of thirteen witches; cf. convent n. 1, 2.

1662   in R. Pitcairn Criminal Trials Scotl. III. 606   Ther vold meit bot sometymes a Coven..Ther is threttein persones in ilk Coeven.
1830   Scott Lett. Demonol. & Witchcraft ix. 286   The witches of Auldearne..were told off into squads, or Covines.
1886   C. Rogers Social Life Scotl. III. xx. 278   To their covens or gatherings the foul sisterhood were borne through the air."



'Coven', meaning a gathering of witches, is a Scottish word, then, entering English at a late date. This is an original and not as yet updated OED entry, from 1893.



The OED is not at its best on this word form, for the very well attested sense 'coven' = fraud is not covered in its range of forms for 'cozen': "Forms:  15–18 cozen; also 15 cooson, coosin, ( cousinge, cossen, cussen), 15–16 coosen, cosen, coson,cousin, 16 cosin, cozon, coozen, cousen, couson, couzin, 16–17 couzen."

'Coven' with this meaning appears in early word lists: in Robert Cawdry's A table alphabeticall contayning and teaching the true writing and vnderstanding of hard vsuall English wordes gives "couen, fraud deceit" (1609).

An example or two of this usage: Thomas Phillips, writing about false Messiahs, in 1639: "what should the Church doe in such cases? how should shee discover the Coven and prestigious impostures of such, but by the Written Word?"

Sir Richard Hutton's The first part of the young clerks guide, or, An exact collection of choice English presidents according to the best forms now used for all sorts of indentures, letters of atturney, releases, conditions &c. (1649) illustrates multiple examples of a correct formula for trainee clerks to use :"without fraud or coven".


The other homophone of 'coven' was of course a common variant on 'convent', as in the form "Coven garden":

"Then have we Bedford Berry, commonly called the Coven garden, because there was a large Convent, or Monastery there in times pass'd, where there are many good structures, cloystered underneath some of them, with a large Piazza or Market place, and a Church that bears the name of Saint Paul, which, though within the Precincts of Saint Martins Parish, yet by Act of Parliament, it is now exempted", in James Howell, Londinopolis an historicall discourse or perlustration of the city of London (1657).


So, the senses 'coven=fraud' and 'coven=convent' are in wide usage. There are early references to a "convent" of witches. The OED cites John Gaule, in 1652 (this is the whole anecdote,for the sake of its witchcraft content):

"A certain Praetor or Judge, having sentenced divers malefactors to death, at the accusation of an Ariolist or Pythian vaticinator: at length he took upon him to tell him of one more, if he would not take it ill: the Judge earnest to know who it was, he insimulated his own wife, and prefixt an houre wherein he would shew him herin the convent of other Witches. But he (knowing his own wives integrity, and mistrusting the others calumny) at the time appointed had invited (unknown to the Ariolist) a many of his kindred and friends to suppe with his wife and him. And as they sate at supper, he took an occasion to rise, and goe with the Ariolist to the place, where he shewed him (in a spectrous apparition) his own wife in the company of other Lamian hagges. Enough to have deluded him, had he not returned, and found his wife at the table where he left her, with the testimony of all those at the table, that she had never stirred thence. Whereupon he caused the Ariolist himselfe to be executed."


So, when does 'coven' meaning 'a gathering of witches' appear first in English?


My candidate is in George Garden's An apology for M. Antonia Bourignon in four parts, published in London in 1699:

"About the end of that time, an old Woman of Lisle importun'd A[ntonia] B[ourignon] to take into the House a Girl of Nine Years, who being discovered to be one of the Coven, was immediately thrust out again, telling the old Woman that all their Secrets were discovered to the Regent of the Hospital. She run about immediately to the Magistrates, and the Parents of the Children, telling how their Reputation was quite broken by A. B. by saying they were Witches."

George Garden was Scottish. He is in the ODNB: see Stuart Handley, ‘Garden, George (1649–1733)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007.  


The source is Garden's hagiographic life of the visionary and ascetic Antoinette Bourignon (1616-80)


Though she features in Phyllis Mack's Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England in a more positive light, Antoinette Bourignon's record is blotted by her behaviour as regent in a girl's orphanage she had established in Lille in 1653. This lasted to 1662. Bourignon, in this case acting pretty much like a dangerous religious maniac left in charge of young people, had discovered that all the girls under her charge had made pacts with the devil. Her regime was harsh, and the girls enduring it were not driven by the same level of asceticism and morbid fear of sex as their regent. One had died after being whipped. The rest probably spoke as they had been taught about the temptations of the devil, but found themselves taken very literally. The case is an interesting one, and I will return to it in a later post. Despite the late date, George Garden has absolutely no problems with Bourignon's discovery that her orphans were all members of a coven. A margin note on the relevant pages (292-3) reads "No grounds to disbelieve this Story, or that the World swarms with such".


After the old woman alerted other the magistrates, and they started to investigate with a bit more common sense than the various pastors Bourignon had called in, Bourignon decamped, and took off to Ghent. Among her later successes was persuading the pioneer microscopist Jan Swammerdam to renounce scientific study.
























Monday, April 03, 2017

What is the Shakespearean notepad shown on Antiques Roadshow?






I drew a Shakespearean colleague's attention to this intriguing item. The notebook is held open in the valuer's hand during the clip, so we got our early modern telephoto lenses out, and have tried reading what's visible.



In various screengrabs of this page one can read:

[above the binding gutter]
For such a warped slip of wilderness 
 Ne'er issued from his blood.
~ from III i of Measure for Measure
[Then on main page visible in this view, continued quotations from Measure for Measure

I have laboured for the poor gentleman to the extremest shore of my modesty: 
~ III ii
There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure; but security enough to make fellowships accurst:
~ III ii
To draw with idle spiders' strings 
Most ponderous and substantial things! 
Shame to him whose cruel striking 
Kills for faults of his own liking! 
~ from the Duke's end soliloquy in Act III, quoted with a little look back to the earlier couplet after getting the spiders' strings couplet down first.
 thousand escapes of wit 
Make thee the father of their idle dreams, 
And rack thee in their fancies
~ start of IV (that stray moment of soliloquy, as the Duke continues to ruminate)
Sith that the justice of your title to him 
Doth flourish the deceit.
~ IV i
As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless labour 
When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones: 
~ IV ii
he spurs on his power 
To qualify in others: were he meal'd with that 
Which he corrects ...
~ IV ii



At the top of this page view are qq's from Comedy of Errors, from Aegeon's speech in Act V. I can see bits of 'In sap-consuming winter's drizzled snow ... and all conduits of my blood froze up / yet hath my night of life'

Now, the 1623 Folio order runs:
Tempest, 2 Gent, Merry Wives, Mfor M, Errors, Much Ado, LLL

So after the compiler had done with Errors, the quotations naturally switch to Much Ado:

"Never came trouble to me in your likeness" adapts 'Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace'.

Then we have :
"Pick out mine eyes with a ballad maker's pen and hang me up for a blind Cupid", missing out the '[hang me up at the door of a brothel house for the sign of] bit.

'and hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me, and he that hits me let him be clapped on the shoulder and called Adam'

rendered as:

"and hang me FOR a bottle like a cat, shoot at me, and he that  FIRST hits clap on the back and call him Adam"

Claudio's "Drive liking to the name of love"
and part of Don Pedro's response:

<'Thou wilt be a lover presently / And'> "tire thy hearer with a book of words"

and finally from Don Pedro's scene-ending speech 

'and in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart' which may be rendered as:
"And unclasps my head in thy bosom", but it looks more like 'He unclasps'

We then jump to Act 1 scene iii, and Don John:

"apply a moral medicine to a mortifying mischief"

"and claw no man in his humour" (but looks a bit like 'he claw[s])

My screengrabs then start to go blurry, but I can see portions of:

'had rather be a canker in his hedge than a rose in his grace'

'I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog'

The last bits I can make out go forwards to Act 2 and Beatrice:

'I never can see him but I am heartburned an hour after'

and 
'to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl.'

That's what I could make of these two pages; my colleague could see a similar set of seriatim quotations from Two Gentlemen of Verona in an earlier page held open.


So, what it seems to be, on the evidence that can be accessed, is someone who has got hold of a 1623 Folio, and is working through creating their own aid to discourse. Bits of Shakespeare to drop into his talk, or maybe re-word a little to sound like a witty or sententious talker himself. I assume a male, because it seems to me a very male thing to be anxious about your discourse in such a manner, making a conscious effort to load up the memory with aphorisms and clever-sounding stuff. He - if it is a he - seems quite drawn to Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure . A sententious speaker attracting a sententious reader. 

It very definitely represents reader reaction to the Folio. One cannot tell without a full transcript how far the reader got, or any sense of favourite plays. It's certainly material for the Reading Experience Database, and Shakespeareans should get a lot of fun from it. The BBC seems inclined to regard the note-taking as 'analytic'. I don't think what can be seen so far sustains that, but there are scores more pages.

http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/RED/