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:

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.)

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.


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).

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:

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
at East Woodhay, justly rated for its acoustics and the total quiet outside, to listen to Stile Antico perform this concert
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.