Thursday, February 26, 2009

Early Modern English Groundhog Day

The elderly and pious Thomas Gataker (who had changed his name from ‘Gatacre’ to minimize his opponent, the astrologer William Lilly, squibbing on his name and ‘Wiseacre’) unbends a little in his lengthy attack on Judicial Astrology, Thomas Gataker B.D. his vindication of the annotations by him published upon these words, Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signes of heaven (1653):

“And here, I hope I shall not much displease my Reader, unless he be over austere, if I shall fall sometime into a fit of that infirmity, that is so incident to men of my years, to entertain him with a tale. They say Herodotus made his History somewhat the more delightful, by stepping aside to tell a tale or two now and then.

Not long before my leaving of Lincolns Inn

(~ which Gataker did in 1611, so he is reminiscing back more than forty years to this little triumph)

… in the reading time, one that had brought Mr. Reader venison, being an ancient man and one of some fashion, was entertained with some other at Mr. Reader’s board; where some table talk falling in about Candlemas day, & a word or 2 cast out by occasion thereof concerning the vanity of such observations, their old guest very sagely told them, that he was a Keeper himself, as also had his Father been before him, and he had constantly observed so far as he was able to remember ought, that on Candlemas day, if the Sun shone out, and it were a faire day, the Deer (contrary to their ordinary usage) would keep close in the covert; whereas if it were a close and gloomy day, they would come abroad and be frisking upon the lawn; as presaging that winter was in a manner gone, and little hard weather behind, and that this had also been observed by his Father before him, as also by other Keepers as well as himself.”

~ So here’s a local, English, variant on the reverse predictions made by Punxatawny Phil and all the other groundhogs: if the animal involved sees the sun on the designated day, then this sign, which might casually be thought a hopeful one, actually indicates that the winter will last much longer (normally, six weeks more, right up till the vernal equinox).

Gataker, though, is not prepared to let this harmless yarn pass unchallenged, which he does indirectly by questioning with mock erudition whether observing the behaviour of the deer on Candlemas day according to the Julian calendar (the English February 2nd), or 10 days later, at what would be Candlemas according to the Catholic Gregorian calendar, and then correlating the two predictions with the actual meteorological conditions that followed, might not be a way of inferring the right timing for Candlemas (and hence, the Spring equinox, Easter, etc):

“Now when I perceived this his relation to take with some of the company, and one among the rest had past his verdict, that there might be somewhat in it: conceiving it no fit course to debate any further by way of argumentation in the business, I thought better as Socrates sometime dealing with the Sophisters of his time, to move a question only to the Keeper (though Mr. Lilly tax me for that course, and would have puzzling questions debarred from these disputes.) I demanded therefore of him, which Candlemas it was, the Popish or ours which are ten days asunder, on which the Deer were so disposed. and he answering ours; for he knew no other; I inferred thereupon, that that would then afford a good argument, to prove not theirs, but ours, to be the right Candlemas day: for that the Deer went not by any Calendar, but by instinct. It was soon perceived what the Demand and Inference aimed at; and the business was instantly at an end…”

~ They can all see that Gataker has knocked a hole in the Candlemas day observation of animals by referring to the Gregorian reforms of the calendar in 1582: how can animals know that Candlemas day shifted ten days anyway?

Gataker has a bit of a weakness for these moments when his common sense triumphed, as when he tells those apprehensive about an eclipse that a far longer eclipse will follow it, which he then explains as nighttime, with the earth interposing between them and the sun’s light, in the same unmysterious way that the moon had done in the eclipse (as normally understood).

From what I learn elsewhere, it seems as though the February 2nd traditions of observing animals – bears or badgers, originally – on Candlemas Day is largely German in origin, and traveled to America with German colonists in Pennsylvania, where the local groundhog was co-opted.

Sir Thomas Browne, in his Pseudodoxia epidemica, refers to the general tradition of a weather forecasting by tradition, without any animals: if the sun shines on the feast of the purification of the Virgin, wintry cold will last as long after the festival as it had before:

“There are also certain popular prognostics drawn from festivals in the Calendar, and conceived opinions of certain days in months, so is there a general tradition in most parts of Europe, that inferreth the coldness of succeeding winter from the shining of the Sun upon Candlemas day, according to the proverbial distich.---

Si Sol splendescat Maria purificante,
Major erit glacies post festum quam fuit ante.

So is it usual amongst us to qualify and conditionate the twelve months of the year, answerably unto the temper of the twelve days in Christmas, and to ascribe unto March certain borrowed days from April; all which men seem to believe upon annual experience of their own, and the received traditions of their forefathers.”

(My vernal image is some daffodils photographed today with a kaleidoscope held up in front of the camera lens.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From daglocks to deadlock: the married life of the Rev Butler

The clergyman John Butler met his future wife in sometime around 1651 in circumstances which he later described in ungallant detail:

‘she was her self no better but a mere Maid-Servant in the house of his Grand-mother in Law, who was then called Martha or Mat, and being sent out by her Mistress to wash Daglocks, or the befouled locks of the sheep’s tails, at a brook running by an open high-way side, at which time this Respondent out of tender love griev’d at her disparagement, gave a groat to a poor woman to wash in her stead, that she might be excused and she was so.’

Martha and John went on to have a long married life of over thirty years, and of the flotilla of little humans they launched on the world, a hardy or lucky five survived, two boys and three girls.

There was probably a background tension from the number of children and the Reverend Butler’s libido, but the marriage collapsed when he quarreled violently with his oldest son, who had become a Catholic. Both sons and their mother sided against the father. He spent time in debtor’s prison, unvisited by his estranged wife, and she declined to share his bed after his release, he says, for more than a year.

In his ill-advised account of all this, Butler says that he did not possess the gift of continency. After struggling to keep his marriage going, he went to live in Holland with a family maidservant, Mary Tomkins. She bore him one child when abroad, and when they returned to live in Hammersmith, several more. Then, for some reason, probably money, trouble descended on this resolved scene: Martha had him charged with fornication.

Waking up to his situation, discovering how readily charges of bigamy would stick to him, John then wrote and published The true case of John Butler, B.D., a minister of the true Church of England in answer to the libel of Martha his sometimes wife : treating of a marriage dissolved and made null by desertion and of a lawful concubinage in a case of necessity, wherein lawful marriage conveniently or possibly cannot be obtained (1697).

This deliciously injudicious pamphlet tells the truth as he saw it, oblivious to the possibility other people might see it otherwise. In page after page, John Butler plunges on, heated, intemperate, mean-spirited, incapable of placing himself in the mind of his readers. Time and again, the only reaction possible is a delighted disbelief at what he has just volunteered about himself, leading up to his jaw-droppingly self-righteous defence of concubinage, from biblical and historical precedents, and on (in his case) moral grounds.

No doubt he had some harsh treatment: even less doubt that he was impossible. Here he is on the marriage breakdown: “his mother thereupon deserted my bed, joining issue with this rebellious and schismatical son of her delight, to divorce her self most obstinately, maliciously, and absolutely from our marriage bed …God is my witness how unapt I always was to harbour an ill opinion of this woman my sometimes, (as I verily thought) loving wife. For though there was just suspicion of her overmuch familiarity with other men, and of her want of love to my self; because of a purloining knack she had of private selling my goods, over and above her allowance, and by keeping up a private purse; and by a coldness of affection”.

On his sons: “Are these children ill born Bastards? God knows! And if so, the fault is elsewhere, rather than with this Respondent. However they are plainly the Devils Brats, and none of God's Children according to the sense of the Apostle.”

His wife is a “malitious Desertrice”

On his own moral character: “this Respondent humbly conceives that his first marriage with the Complainant being by her default absolutely dissolved, and it being utterly unlawful for him to go in unto a whore, that necessity required him who could not contain, and conveniently could not marry with safety, to take another woman as he did, after the manner of the faithful, and Holy Abraham, for issue’s sake, and to marry her, as well as reasonably could be done.”

Here, a fiercely maintained distinction between his position, and that of a whoremonger, a distinction that wavers grammatically into an identity (just who is it producing that all important ‘holy seed’?): “The Whoremonger is such a wretch, who though allowed to Marry, or to keep his Concubine, that is a Woman proper to himself, provided he do not multiply Concubines, nor keep any woman unlawfully compassed unto any man’s wrong, or to that woman’s wrong, and useth her not merely for his lust, in wantonness, or uncleanness, but out of a pure desire of an holy seed by her. Yet not contented with that lawful liberty of God allowed, chooseth rather to spend the holy seed of mankind upon common women, who sell their bodies to the use of every comer: And thus exposeth his seed to be murdered in the body, as whores use to do by their conceptions

Here, he recalls something that he now realizes he may live to regret having said, and wades into an explanation which makes things delightfully worse:

“ 'Tis true indeed, that it was alleged, as if this Respondent should say, that he had another woman with child by him, at that time, for-which cause his wife the Complainant pretended to have relinquished him: And she alleges she can prove such words uttered by him. Unto which he answer's, that true it is he was in a great passion, because of his son turned Papist, and his wife violently siding with him, to excuse and justify him against this Respondent: And what words in the heat of passion were uttered by him, he does not perfectly remember.”

Here he accounts for the episode with Mary in Holland:

“there was no such thing as living incontinently with any woman, much less with the said Mary Tomkins. And the said Mary Tomkins had no Bastard Child born there, neither can any such thing be proved, nor was there any fame of any such thing, or any repute of a Bastard Child born there. But true it is that the said Mary Tomkins living there in Delft in good Reputation was delivered of a Daughter who was Baptised, and Named Mary, born on the 26th Day of June 1688. about nine years since. And of this child, this Respondent does confess, he is (as he verily believes) the true Father. And he humbly conceives it is a lawful and a well born.”

For the joy of Butler’s account is his fiercely maintained conviction that what he did can be justified: he has precedents for it:

“And as for the said Mary Tomkins, this Respondent farther saith, That until utterly relinquished by his wife, and above one whole year after, she never had any child by him, nor was she with child by him: And after that time he was guilty of no other nor greater Fornication with her, than what our holy Father Abraham the Father of the faithful was guilty of, when purely for issue sake, and not of any lustful concupiscence, he went in to Hagar his Wives Maid, or unto Keturah his concubine in the life time of Sarah his Wife.

To biblical precedent, he adds remarkable piece of biblical exegesis: to the honorable state of marriage, you can add, at need, another ‘bed undefiled’

“And though every one Man, was to marry but one woman, who was to be Lady or Dame

of the Family, yet God did plainly allow of a lawful Concubinage, or additonal wives for the bed, for Issue sake; the Issue whereof are nowhere termed Bastards, either in old or new Testament; but upon all occasions in case of heirs male wanting by the proper wife, the son of Concubinage, became heirs …Among other things I propose a lawful Concubinage, as in some cases it may be required: And to this purpose it is written in the New-Testament, Heb. 13. 4. that Marriage is honourable in all, and the Bed undefiled: But Whoremongers and Adulterers God will Judge. Hence it follows without dispute, That Marriage in its self is an honourable state, and that the Bed undefiled is so too, and that in all things as in the case of marriage: But then upon inquiry, whether in this Text, by the Bed undefiled, is to be understood the self same thing with the Married Bed, or some other Bed plainly different and distinct therefrom, is a mater disputable still.”

“This learned and holy Author does in this place clearly treat of a Bed undefiled, as a Bed plainly different and distinct from the Marriage Bed, or of some Bed out of Marriage, that may be truly styled a lawful and undefiled Bed.” What can you say? The publishers must have been delighted: it didn’t take long for responses to emerge, first in the anonymous:

Concubinage and poligamy disprov'd, or, The divine institution of marriage betwixt one man, and one woman only, asserted in answer to a book, writ by John Butler, B.D. for which he was presented as follows : We the grand jury, sworn to enquire for the body of the city of London, on Wednesday, the first day of December, 1697, present one John Butler, for writing and publishing a wicked pamphlet : wherein he maintains concubinage to be lawful, and which may prove very destructive to divers families, if not timely suppress'd. , London : Printed for R. Baldwin ..., 1698.

The author dedicates the work to Butler himself, pointing out in a not-unkindly fashion: “Let me tell you that your Defence will be far from healing your reputation.”

After the dedication, the author pitches in, employing a manner at once starchy and arch: “Had a Pamphlet of this Nature been writ by an avowed Debauchee, or a Play-house Beau, it had been no surprise: But to have anything printed in Defence of Concubinage by a Batchelor of Divinity, and a minister of the Church of England, may Justly astonish us…”

The opening here reminds us where we are, contemporary with Collier’s attack on the mores of Restoration theatre. All the author has to do is make the connection between clergyman and rake: “You have been at a great deal of Pains, to write an Apology for the Modish Practice of keeping a Miss.” The author enjoys putting the plain facts, and common likelihoods: “(you) went into your Maids Bed, after having Lived Forty Years with a Wife.” “If he owns his Incontinency now when Aged, It’s probable he was more so Twenty Years ago.”

Blood-letting or cold baths are recommended as a more Christian way for Butler to deal with the importunities of the rebel flesh. After all, “too much Venery consumes a Mans Bones and Flesh”. It will “in time enfeeble the whole Nation”.

The argument switches to polygamy, and the question of whether men can start to monopolise women. Centuries ahead of Lawrence Stone, the author turns to the ‘General Bill for the Year 1697’ (I think, births and deaths in London): “wherein we find 8062 males baptized, and but 7767 Females, so that the Majority on the side of the Males, is 255, to which we shall add 293 Women dead in Childbed, which is a Distemper Women are only obnoxious to, and being Natural and Constant, will go far towards a Balance for the Numbers of Men slain now and then by War … If Concubinage should be allow’d, it follows of Necessity that all Men could not be supplied.”

Butler must have seen that the game was up, but he nevertheless blustered back into print with Explanatory notes upon a mendacious libel called Concubinage and poligamy disproved; written by a nameless author, in answer to a book writ by J.B. as being a scurrilous libel, as not fit to be styled an answer. As may appear, by a catalogue of notorious and villainous lies, and Billingsgate raileries, and dunghil language, to be shewed therein. By J.B. B.D. , London : printed for the author (1698).

I think Butler is already spooked, but he produces what he asserts is a ‘centiloquy’ of lies from the anonymous author: he didn’t advocate polygamy, anything the author says that resembled what his ex-wife had said was just ‘old lies new-vamped’. Unable to attack the author (the last lines of the EEBO text seem to be blacked out, and butler did seem to be shaping up for an imputation that the writer was ‘epicene’), Butler rather acutely attacks the publisher, Baldwin, for producing smut like the ‘Secret History’ of Charles II’s court, and the General History of Whoring:

But to have semi-pornographers firmly telling you to repent and make your peace with God could not have been comfortable.

A Mr Turner followed up in his work A discourse on fornication shewing the greatness of that sin, and examining the excuses pleaded for it, from the examples of antient times : to which is added an appendix concerning concubinage : as also a remark on Mr. Butler's explication of Hebr. xiii, 4 in his late book on that subject / by J. Turner ... , London : Printed for John Wyat ..., 1698.

“there is one Argument I have lately met with, that indeed did at first surprise me, because it came, as I suppose from a Graduate in Divinity, and pretended the Authority of an Apostle, no less than St. Paul or St Barnabas, to Vindicate the lawfulness of such a Practise. But a little Reflection serves to discover that a disorderly Man of any Profession may easily pervert the meaning of Holy Scripture to excuse or extenuate the Guilt of his own Ill-Manners. And this I think is his Case. He would excuse his Adultery under the soft Name of Concubinage.”

Both authors have, of course, the more natural exposition of the Bible passage Butler had so capriciously wrenched to his own purpose: “The purport of the Text then as I take it is this. Marriage is honourable, and the Consummation of it without Uncleanness. The rest of all that fulsome Pamphlet may easily be answered from the foregoing Discourse.”

If Butler married in 1651, by 1698, he must have been 70 or older. I do not know what happened to him, I should imagine that, amidst much sniggering and pretended outrage, he was forced to recant and do penance, it’s also hard to believe that he could have clung on to any remaining shreds of his identity as cleric. He’s a fine example of that unwariness about putting your own case in print that marks this still relatively new print culture. Butler should have thought about Job in his afflictions, and reflected that a writer of a book can become his own adversary: ‘Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! … Oh that one would hear me! behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book.’

[I couldn’t think what to illustrate with, so my image is a contemporary bit of pastoralism, Adriaen van der Werff’s ‘Shepherd and Shepherdess’(1689). Paintings of shepherdesses, unsurprisingly, tend to treat desire rather than ‘daglocks’ (‘Locks of wool clotted with dirt about the hinder parts of a sheep’, says the OED.]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The vanity of thoughts discovered, 1638

“Wee shall finde our minds, like the peggs of an Instrument, slip betweene our fingers, as we are a winding them up, and to fall downe suddenly againe, ere we are aware of it…”

I have been edified today by Thomas Goodwin’s The vanity of thoughts discovered with their danger and cure (1638): “by thoughts, I mean those talkings of our minds with the things we know, as the Scripture calls it, Prov. 6. 22. those same parleys, interviews, chattings, the mind hath with the things let into it, with the things we fear, with the things we love.”

Goodwin was, with John Owen, one of the leading Cromwellian divines, installed as president of Magdalen College by parliament, and advising Cromwell on a settlement for the church (one that steered cautiously between established church and the new independent congregations). I suppose that he was one of Milton’s famous hireling wolves, in that he defended tithes. This little treatise is well organized, succinct, and humane. He wants, of course, our thoughts to focus on God, and in a vivid figure, he expresses his certainty that this is not the case in fallen mankind:

“But I appeal to all your experiences, if your thoughts of him be not most unsteady, and are, (that I may so compare it) as when we look upon a Star through an Optic glass, held with a palsy shaking hand: It is long ere we can bring our minds to have ken of him, to place our eyes upon him, and when we have, how do our hands shake, and so lose sight ever and anon?… In Adam and Christ no thought was misplaced, but though they were as many as the Stars, yet they marched in their courses, and kept their ranks. But ours as Meteors, dance up and down in us. And this disorder is a vanity and sin…

Goodwin has an acute sense of what our interior life really involves, and so he imagines what a transcript of our stream of consciousness or interior self-dialogue would really be like:

“as wanton Boys, when they take pens in their hands, scribble broken words that have no dependence. Thus doe our thoughts: and if you would but look over the copies thereof, which you write continually, you would find as much non-sense in your thoughts, as you find in mad men’s speeches. This madness and distemper is in the mind since the fall (though it appears not in our words, because we are wiser) that if notes were taken of our thoughts, we should find thoughts so vagrant, that we know not how they come in, nor whence they came, nor whither they would.”

He finally gets round to talking about our dreams and, worse, our day dreams, the indecent inner stagings and play-actings directed by the id:

“Fifthly, the fifth is the representing or acting over sins, in our thoughts and imaginations, personating those pleasures by imagination, which at present we enjoy not really, feigning and imagining ourselves to act those sinful practises we have not opportunity outwardly to perform: speculative wickedness Divines do call it, which to be in the power of imagination to doe; is evident to you by your dreams; when fancy plays its part most…

But corrupt and distempered affections doe cast men into such dreams in the day, and when they are awake, there are then (to borrow the Apostles expression) filthy dreams, Jude 8. that defile the flesh, even when awake: when, their lusts wanting work, their fancy erects to them a stage, and they set their imaginations and thoughts a work to entertain their filthy and impure desires, with shows and plays of their own making, and so reason and the intention of their minds, sit as spectators all the while to view with pleasure, till their thoughts inwardly act over their own unclean desires, ambitious projects, or what ever else they have a mind unto."

Pre-Freudian, and a man of his time, Goodwin does not give any particular priority to sexual fantasizing, which takes its place with other mental digressions. He does, however, compare, rather dramatically, this ‘speculative wickedness’, which we ought to be able to control with some mental self-discipline, with incest: “But this is Incest, when we defile our souls and spirits with these imaginations and likenesses which are begotten in our own fancies, being the children of our own hearts.”

Goodwin mentions scholars frequently in this context of culpable day-dreaming, for their vain speculations, and self-conceit: “Take an experiment of this in Scholars (whose chief work lies in this shop) how many precious thoughts are spent this way? … So an unclean person can study and view over every circumstance passed in such an act, with such a person committed; so a vainglorious Scholar doth repeat in his thoughts an eminent performance of his, and all such passages therein as were most elegant.” I like the way in which a lecher’s retrospective enjoyment of a carnal act is put in parallel here with a scholar stroking himself on a ‘past performance’ of an intellectual kind.

Here, Goodwin talks about the ways in which the literate stray from the word of God:

“Take another instance also in others, who have leisure and parts to read much, they should ballast their hearts with the Word, … but now what do their curious fancies carry them unto, to be versed in, but Play-books, jeering Pasquils, Romances, fained stayes (sic. – a misprint for ‘tayles’, or ‘storyes’?), which are the curious needle-work of idle brains, so as they load their heads with Apes and Peacocks feathers, in stead of pearls and precious stones.”

And here, very much a new phenomenon, the over-avid reader of news letters, especially the over-politicised preacher:

“How doe some men long all the week, till they hear events and issues, and make it a great part of the happiness of their lives, to study the state more than their own hearts, and affaires of their callings: who take actions of State as their text to study the meaning of, and to preach on wherever they come.”

Finally, Goodwin points out, again with a vivid figure of the mint continuously stamping out low denomination coins, that these small inner lapses mount up, and that God is counting up the whole heap of them:

“And if their heinousness will nothing move you, consider their number, for they are continually thus: which makes our sins to be in number more than the sands: the thoughts of Solomon’s heart were as the Sand, and so ours; not a minute, but as many thoughts pass from us, as in a minute sands doe in an Hour-glass. So that suppose, that taken severally, they be the smallest and least of your sins, yet their multitude makes them more and heavier than all your other. Nothing smaller than a grain of Sand, but if there be a heap of them, there is nothing heavier, Job 6. 3. My grief is heavier than the Sand. Suppose they be in themselves, but as Farthing-tokens, in comparison of gross defilements: yet because the Mint never lies still, sleeping nor waking, therefore they make up the greatest part of that treasure of wrath which we are a laying up: and know that God will reckon every Farthing, and in thy punishment bate thee not one vain thought.”

My two images are the final page of the EEBO text, the ‘Imprimatur’ for the book, with its hand annotation, ‘the goodly groan to come to God’, which struck my eye after I finally got round to reading the blog ‘Wynken de Worde’, and Durer’s ‘Dream of the Doctor’. It’s not a quotation from the book, or from anything a full text search can find in the EEBO database, but shows a reader who understands the continuous self-discipline Goodwin has recommended.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

On Jesus's failure to mention the printing press

A Collection of letters and poems: written by several persons of honour and learning, upon divers important subjects, to the late Duke and Dutchess of Newcastle (1678) is, by and large, an unedifying demonstration at length of Margaret Cavendish’s need for flattery. Buttering up the Duchess as assiduously as anyone was that late proponent of the reality of witchcraft, Joseph Granvill.

However, the vagaries of the Duchess’ writings set him some problems: here he compliments the works of ‘that incomparable princess’ (as she styled herself, appropriating the usual 17th century honorific for Elizabeth I): “Since my receipt of your Grace’s ingenious Works, I have, as my occasions would permit, cast my Eyes again into them, and I am sorry they cannot dwell there, where I find so pleasing, and so instructive an entertainment.”

Isn’t that excellent? (‘I have opened the book here and there, blanched with horror, and looked quickly away’). And he goes on to indicate that she is regularly wrong and always ill-educated (but again, he does it in the nicest possible way): “And though I must crave your Pardon for dissenting from your Grace’s Opinion in some things, I admire the quickness, and vigor of your Conceptions, in all: In which your Grace hath this peculiar among Authors that they are, in the strictest sense, your own, your Grace being indebted to nothing for them, but your own happy Wit, and Genius.” In a later letter, perhaps wanting to spread the burden of readership a bit, he adroitly asks her to present a copy to a library in Bath: “There is in this Place a Library erected, chiefly for the diversion of Gentlemen that come hither upon the occasion of the Bath. There are in it several worthy Authors, but it wants the great Honour and Ornament of the Illustrious Dutchess of New-Castle’s Works.”

The Duchess and Glanvill, who was a clergyman, had discussed the origins of evil. Glanvill summarises: “there is no doubt but (as your Grace suggests) that much wickedness is caused by the meer impulse of Lower Nature; and I believe several Men are determined to Actions of Vice by the odness of their particular make and contexture.” The Duchess then cantered on to the reflection that only God could be perfect. Glanvill inserted a correction – all God’s works can be perfect in their kind, but the Duchess bolted off into Manichaeanism: asserting that “God made nothing” Glanvill says as mildly as he can that this is “a Proposition which methinks your Grace should not own; but some things that follow seem to look that way”. She then further severed the pure realm of God from the material world by denying that God could move from place to place to do material work of creation like a mere ‘mechanic’, and veered back to deny the idea of divine creation out of nothing (“To which I humbly say that if your Grace doubts the possibility of the Creation out of nothing…”).

You will get the picture of Glanvill anxiously trying to corral the Duchess’ freely galloping thoughts. Naturally, Glanvill being what he was, they discussed witchcraft, and here the Duchess emerges, interestingly, as a doubter. I will quote Glanvill, putting her (in his view) right about this, at length. Notice Glanvill’s usual insistence on researching what he sees as real evidence, and doing it ‘suspiciously’. The Duchess was also not satisfied that Jesus had said enough about witchcraft, so Glanvill wades into some of the many things Jesus unaccountably failed to discuss when ‘on the record’, despite their utility to spreading the gospel (and His inconceivable advantages in knowledge). Finally, forgetting that he is dealing with sensible doubts, he argues that if the wonders performed by old women surpass the wonders of virtuosi (the Royal Society and its members), there must be some great power behind them:

1. That whereas your Grace calls the Inducements to the belief of Witches, probable Arguments, I am apt, with submission, to think some of them to be as great demonstrations as matter of Fact can bear; being no less than the evidence of the Senses, and Oaths of sober Attestors, and the critical inquiries of Sagacious, and suspitious Persons; which Circumstances of Evidence, your grace knows, some of those Relations have to prove them. And there is a particular Story which is sufficiently famous, and of part of which I my self was a Witness, which I think is not subject to just Exception. 'Tis that of the Drum in the House of Mr. Mompesson of Tedworth in Wiltshire. Of this, Madam, I shall take an occasion to give your Grace a particular account, if you have not yet been acquainted with the circumstances of that unusual disturbance. But to confine my self now to your Grace's considerations on the subject; The second thing I observe, is,

The intimation of an Argument against the Existence of Witches, because they are not mentioned by Christ, and his Apostles, concerning which I humbly desire your Grace to consider.

1. That Negative Arguments from Scripture use not often to be of any great signification or validity. Our Saviour spake as he had occasion, and the thousandth part of what he said, or what he did, is not recorded, as one Evangelist intimates. He said nothing of those large unknown Tracts of America, gives no intimations of the Existence of that numerous People, much less any instructions about their Conversion. He gives no particular account of the affairs and state of the other World, but only that general one, of the happiness of some, and the misery of others. He makes no discovery of the Magnalia of Art, or Nature, no not of those whereby the propagation of the Gospel might have been much advanced; viz. The Mystery of Printing, and the Magnet. And yet no one useth his Silence in these Instances as an Argument against the being of things, which are the evident Objects of Sense. I confess the omission of some of these particulars is pretty strange and unaccountable, and an argument of our Ignorance of the Reasons and Menages of Providence, but I suppose of nothing else; or if it were, I crave leave to add,

2. That the Gospel is not without intimations of Sorcery, and contracts with evil Spirits. The malicious Jews said our Saviour did his Miracles by their assistance, He casts out Devils by Beelzebub. And he denys not the supposition or possibility of the thing in general, but clears himself by an appeal to the Actions of their own Children, whom they would not so severely criminate. And besides this,

3. The Apostles had intimations plain enough of the being of Sorcery and Witchcraft, as seems to me evident from Gal. 3. 1. Gal. 5. 20. Rev. 9. 21. Rev. 21. 8. Rev, 22. 15.

'Tis very true as your Grace suggests, that Superstition and Ignorance of Causes make Men many times to impute the Effects of Art, and Nature, to Witchcraft and Diabolick Contract. And the Common People think God, or the Devil to be in every thing extraordinary. But yet, Madam, your Grace may please to consider, That there are things done by mean and despicable persons, transcending all the Arts of the most knowing and improv'd Virtuosi, and above all the Essays of known and ordinary Nature. So that we either must suppose that a sottish silly old Woman hath more knowledge of the intrigues of Art, and Nature, than the most exercised Artists, and Philosophers, or confess that those strange things they performe, are done by confoederacy with evil Spirits, who, no doubt, act those things by the ways and applications of Nature, though such as are to us unknown. This, Madam, is, I conceive, as much as is necessary to be said to the Argumentative part of your Graces excellent Letter.

(Image from The World’s Olio, 1655, with the Duchess between Perseus and Apollo, the Medusa’s head held just at the level where Freud would have placed it.)