Friday, May 29, 2009

Office marmalade

Here's a diablerie out of William Winstanley, Historical rarities and curious observations domestick & foreign (1684), a rather jolly tale of a demon lover, and of a miller who crosses him and ends up smeared with ‘office marmalade’ for his impudence. It’s supposed to be factual, but note the very vague ‘one of the Northern Islands’ as the location for the tale. The miller is a walk-on part from any fabliau.

The only puzzle here (for ‘office marmalade’ is easily solved) is to wonder when girls called Margharetta started consorting with devils? The girl in this story shares a name with Gretchen-Margarete in Goethe’s Faust (and from there, Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita).

Winstanley is writing about

‘Of Spirits or Devils, and that they have had carnal Knowledge of People’:

“We shall conclude this Discourse with a Story of a later date, how that in a small Village, in one of the Northern Islands, there dwelt an ancient Boor and his Wife, who had but one Child, and that a Daughter, whom they looked upon as the staff of their declining Age; she was just entered into her nineteenth Year, and gave great hopes of proving an excellent Woman, being very saving, industrious, and handsome; which good Qualities, had invited most of the young men of her Rank throughout the Country, to take particular notice of her, and list themselves her Servants. But she, like a discreet Maid, still checked her roving Fancy, and was deaf to all their flattering Courtship, resolving to entertain no Addresses which should not be authorized by her Parents Approbation; and well had it been she had never suffered her self to be divorced from that Resolution: for so it chanced, that within a while after, the Devil came in the Likeness of a man, and took up his Lodging within two or three doors of her Father’s House, pretending his Business was to look after some Debts he had owing him not far from thence: he was a Person of a proper Stature, meager Visage, large spar[k]ling Eyes, long Hair, but curling, and exceeding black; he generally went in Boots, (perhaps to conceal his cloven feet) and though his Habit was but ordinary, he appeared very full of Money, which made his Landlord very sweet upon him; and the more to oblige him, there happening a Wedding in that Town within few days after his Arrival, his Host would needs carry this his strange Guest with him to it; though it was observed he could by no means be got into the Church where the Nuptial Rites were solemnized; but as soon as they came home to Dinner, he was as busy and as merry as the joviallest of them.

And here it was that the fatal Acquaintance between him and Margaretta (for so was the Maiden called) unhappily first begun. That time allowing a greater Liberty of Discourse to the younger sort (amongst whom commonly one Wedding is the begetter of another) furnished our black Stranger with the larger opportunity to court this innocent Maid to her destruction. To repeat the particular Complements he used, we purposely omit, lest we should injure the Devil’s Eloquence by our Courser Rhetoric; suffice it to know, his devilish Courtship was so charming as to raise an unknown Passion in her Virgin Breast, who so far doted on his Company, as to be sorry when all the Companies breaking up obliged them to part; so that being come home, and after some time got into her Chamber, she makes her unready, but not without a thousand kind Thoughts on this Stranger she had left, whom at last (just as she was going into her Bed) she saw come into the Chamber; you may easily imagine her not a little surprised at so strange an Adventure, knowing all the Doors fast locked, and no body up but her self: but he soon superseded both her Fears and Wonder, by telling her in submissive Language, that he came out of pure love to have a little free discourse with her, and that he had an Art to open any Lock without Noise or Discovery.

Then beginning to talk amorously, and having wantonized a while, he told her at last in plain Terms, he was resolved to lie with her that Night; Merry Company before, and his Dalliances now, had raised such a spring-Tide in her Veins, that after a few faint formal Denials to gratify her Modesty, she consents: but, no sooner were they in Bed, but her Ears were courted with the most excellent Music in the World, which so captivated the Spirits of this ensnared Damsel, that she suffered him for many Nights together to enjoy his beastly Pleasures with her, without being taken notice of by any: but no Eye-sight so sharp and piercing as that of Jealousy; some of her former Sweethearts observing her kind Looks in the day-time to this Stranger, and finding themselves wholly out of Favour, conclude he was the man that supplanted them in their Affection, for which they vow Revenge; and four of them joined together, armed with trusty Back-Swords, way-lay him one Evening in the Fields, who no sooner comes up to them, but these valiant Heroes fell all four upon him at once with their dead-doing Bilboes; but they do but Duel a Shadow, though they see him plainly they cannot reach him, and their mighty Strokes are lost in insignificant cleaving down the empty Air; on the other side, though they behold him only single, yet they feel more than a hundred Flails, belabouring them so severely, till their Backs seem Brawn, and their Heads Jelly, which obliged them to cry out for Quarter, which he very generously (to show that he was a Devil of Honour) grants, but withal tells them, they must undergo a further small Penance for their Presumption; saying this, he ties their Hands behind them, and letting down their Breeches, whips them with Rods of Holly and Nettles intermixed, till the Crimson Gore in Streams flowed down their Posteriors; then having fast pinned the hinder lap of their Shirts to their Shoulders, with their Hands bound, and Breeches about their Heels, as aforesaid, he dismissed them; who rambling all Night they knew not whither, found themselves in the morning hard by the Village, where they met two Wenches going a milking, amazed and ready to run away seeing them in that ridiculous Posture these, with much Rhetoric, and some Tears, they entreat to loose them, which the hard-hearted Sluts, ready to be-piss themselves with laughing, refusing they are forced to march on into the middle of the Village, and there too they could not get unbound till they had made an ingenious Confession how they came thus pickled.

At another time, a Miller, living in that Village took some occasion to fall out with our Stranger upbraiding him as an idle Fellow, and one that having no Employment, was very fit to serve in the Wars: the Stranger replied little, but told him he should be even with him for his Sauciness before he slept; accordingly, the Miller and his Family were no sooner got to Bed, but he heard his Mill set going very furiously, whereupon, getting up to see what the matter was, he found a whole Cart-load of Office-Marmalade brought to be ground, and thrown into his Hopper and Bins. At this unexpected Sight poor Dusty-Pell began to swear, and wished a thousand Tun of Devils damn the Author of this Roguery; when lo! on a sudden, as a Punishment for his Profaneness, as he went to shut down the Mill, he is taken up, and ducked above forty times over head and Ears in the Stream, and then his Toll-dish, full of the before mentioned Frankincense, clapped so fast on his Head, that it could not be got off for above two days.

For these, and some other extravagant Pranks that he plaid, he was at last carried before a Justice, in whose Presence he was no sooner come, but there was heard all about the House a hideous Noise, as of hissing of Serpents, whilst he fell into such a loud excessive Laughter, that he made the whole House to shake; which fit of Mirth being over, the Magistrate demanded of him what Country-man he was? to which he replied, that he was an Inhabitant of another World, and only a Sojourner in this: as he spake which words, the Room seemed full for almost half an hour of fiery Flashes, accompanied with a most dreadful Clap of Thunder, in which he vanished away, and was never seen after.”

My image is taken from an illustration for Ulrich Tengler’s judicial handbook of 1512, and shows, quite graphically, a witch with her demon-lover. Winstanley tells his tale after all this nonsense had largely lost credibility: there’s no punishment, and no hell-fire.

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