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Glanvill And Webster And The Literary War Over Witchcraft 1660-1688
James I And Witchcraft
List Of Cases Of Witchcraft 1558-1718 With References To Sources And Literature
List Of Persons Sentenced To Death For Witchcraft During The Reign Of James I
Matthew Hopkins
Notable Jacobean Cases
Reginald Scot
The Beginnings Of English Witchcraft
The Close Of The Literary Controversy
The Exorcists
The Final Decline
The Lancashire Witches And Charles I
The Literature Of Witchcraft From 1603 To 1660
Witchcraft During The Commonwealth And Protectorate
Witchcraft Under Charles Ii And James Ii
Witchcraft Under Elizabeth

Matthew Hopkins

In the annals of English witchcraft Matthew Hopkins occupies a place by
himself. For more than two years he was the arch-instigator in
prosecutions which, at least in the numbers of those executed, mark the
high tide of the delusion. His name was one hardly known by his
contemporaries, but he has since become a figure in the annals of
English roguery. Very recently his life has found record among those of
"Twelve Bad Men."[1]

What we know of him up to the time of his first appearance in his
successful role about March of 1644/5 is soon told. He was the son of
James Hopkins, minister of Wenham[2] in Suffolk. He was "a lawyer of but
little note" at Ipswich, thence removing to Manningtree. Whether he may
have been the Matthew Hopkins of Southwark who complained in 1644 of
inability to pay the taxes[3] is more than doubtful, but there is reason
enough to believe that he found the law no very remunerative profession.
He was ready for some new venture and an accidental circumstance in
Manningtree turned him into a wholly new field of endeavor. He assumed
the role of a witchfinder and is said to have taken the title of

He had made little or no preparation for the work that now came to his
hand. King James's famous Daemonologie he was familiar with, but he may
have studied it after his first experiences at Manningtree. It seems
somewhat probable, too, that he had read, and indeed been much
influenced by, the account of the Lancashire witches of 1612, as well as
by Richard Bernard's Advice to Grand Jurymen. But, if he read the
latter book, he seems altogether to have misinterpreted it. As to his
general information and education, we have no data save the hints to be
gained from his own writings. His letter to John Gaule and the little
brochure which he penned in self-defence reveal a man able to express
himself with some clearness and with a great deal of vigor. There were
force of character and nervous energy behind his defiant words. It is no
exaggeration, as we shall see in following his career, to say that the
witch crusader was a man of action, who might in another field have made
his mark.

To know something of his religious proclivities would be extremely
interesting. On this point, however, he gives us no clue. But his fellow
worker, John Stearne, was clearly a Puritan[5] and Hopkins was surely of
the same faith. It can hardly be proved, however, that religious zeal
prompted him in his campaign. For a time of spiritual earnestness his
utterances seem rather lukewarm.

It was in his own town that his attention was first directed towards the
dangers of witchcraft. The witches, he tells us, were accustomed to hold
their meetings near his house. During one of their assemblies he
overheard a witch bid her imps to go to another witch. The other witch,
whose name was thus revealed to him--Elizabeth Clarke, a poor one-legged
creature--was promptly taken into custody on Hopkins's charge.[6] Other
accusations poured in. John Rivet had consulted a cunning woman about
the illness of his wife, and had learned that two neighbors were
responsible. One of these, he was told, dwelt a little above his own
home; "whereupon he beleeved his said wife was bewitched by ...
Elizabeth Clarke, ... for that the said Elizabeth's mother and some
other of her kinsfolke did suffer death for witchcraft." The justices
of the peace[7] accordingly had her "searched by women who had for many
yeares known the Devill's marks," and, when these were found on her,
they bade her custodians "keep her from sleep two or three nights,
expecting in that time to see her familiars."[8]

Torture is unknown to English law; but, in our day of the "third
degree," nobody needs to be told that what is put out at the door may
steal in at the window. It may be that, in the seventeenth century, the
pious English justices had no suspicion that enforced sleeplessness is a
form of physical torture more nerve-racking and irresistible than the
thumb-screw. Three days and nights of "watching" brought Elizabeth
Clarke to "confess many things"; and when, on the fourth night, her
townsmen Hopkins and Stearne dropped in to fill out from her own lips
the warrants against those she had named as accomplices, she told them
that, if they would stay and do her no hurt, she would call one of her

Hopkins told her that he would not allow it, but he stayed. Within a
quarter of an hour the imps appeared, six of them, one after another.
The first was a "white thing in the likeness of a Cat, but not
altogether so big," the second a white dog with some sandy spots and
very short legs, the third, Vinegar Tom, was a greyhound with long legs.
We need not go further into the story. The court records give the
testimony of Hopkins and Stearne. Both have related the affair in their
pamphlets.[9] Six others, four of whom were women, made oath to the
appearances of the imps. In this respect the trial is unique among all
in English history. Eight people testified that they had seen the
imps.[10] Two of them referred elsewhere to what they had seen, and
their accounts agreed substantially.[11] It may be doubted if the
supporting evidence offered at any trial in the seventeenth century in
England went so far towards establishing the actual appearance of the
so-called imps of the witches.

How are we to account for these phenomena? What was the nature of the
delusion seemingly shared by eight people? It is for the psychologist to
answer. Two explanations occur to the layman. It is not inconceivable
that there were rodents in the gaol--the terrible conditions in the
gaols of the time are too well known to need description--and that the
creatures running about in the dark were easily mistaken by excited
people for something more than natural. It is possible, too, that all
the appearances were the fabric of imagination or invention. The
spectators were all in a state of high expectation of supernatural
appearances. What the over-alert leaders declared they had seen the
others would be sure to have seen. Whether those leaders were themselves
deceived, or easily duped the others by calling out the description of
what they claimed to see, would be hard to guess. To the writer the
latter theory seems less plausible. The accounts of the two are so
clearly independent and yet agree so well in fact that they seem to
weaken the case for collusive imposture. With that a layman may be
permitted to leave the matter. What hypnotic possibilities are inherent
in the story he cannot profess to know. Certainly the accused woman was
not a professed dealer in magic and it is not easy to suspect her of
having hypnotized the watchers.

Upon Elizabeth Clarke's confessions five other women--"the old beldam"
Anne West, who had "been suspected as a witch many yeers since, and
suffered imprisonment for the same,"[12] her daughter Rebecca,[13] Anne
Leech, her daughter Helen Clarke, and Elizabeth Gooding--were arrested.
As in the case of the first, there was soon abundance of evidence
offered about them. One Richard Edwards bethought himself and remembered
that while crossing a bridge he had heard a cry, "much like the shrieke
of a Polcat," and had been nearly thrown from his horse. He had also
lost some cattle by a mysterious disease. Moreover his child had been
nursed by a goodwife who lived near to Elizabeth Clarke and Elizabeth
Gooding. The child fell sick, "rowling the eyes," and died. He believed
that Anne Leech and Elizabeth Gooding were the cause of its death. His
belief, however, which was offered as an independent piece of
testimony, seems to have rested on Anne Leech's confession, which had
been made before this time and was soon given to the justices of the
peace. Robert Taylor charged Elizabeth Gooding with the death of his
horse, but he too had the suggestion from other witnesses. Prudence Hart
declared that, being in her bed in the night, "something fell down on
her right side." "Being dark she cannot tell in what shape it was, but
she believeth Rebecca West and Anne West the cause of her pains."

But the accusers could hardly outdo the accused. No sooner was a crime
suggested than they took it upon themselves. It seemed as if the witches
were running a race for position as high criminal. With the exception of
Elizabeth Gooding, who stuck to it that she was not guilty, they
cheerfully confessed that they had lamed their victims, caused them to
"languish," and even killed them. The meetings at Elizabeth Clarke's
house were recalled. Anne Leech remembered that there was a book read
"wherein shee thinks there was no goodnesse."[14]

So the web of charges and counter-charges was spun until twenty-three or
more women were caught in its meshes. No less than twelve of them
confessed to a share in the most revolting crimes. But there was one
who, in court, retracted her confession.[15] At least five utterly
denied their guilt. Among them was a poor woman who had aroused
suspicion chiefly because a young hare had been seen in front of her
house. She was ready to admit that she had seen the hare, but denied
all the more serious charges.[16] Another of those who would not plead
guilty sought to ward off charges against herself by adding to the
charges accumulated against her mother. Hers was a damning accusation.
Her mother had threatened her and the next night she "felt something
come into the bed about her legges, ... but could not finde anything."
This was as serious evidence as that of one of the justices of the
peace, who testified from the bench that a very honest friend of his had
seen three or four imps come out of Anne West's house in the moonlight.
Hopkins was not to be outshone by the other accusers. He had visited
Colchester castle to interview Rebecca West and had gained her
confession that she had gone through a wedding ceremony with the Devil.

But why go into details? The evidence was all of a kind. The female
juries figured, as in the trials at Lancaster in 1633, and gave the
results of their harrowing examinations. What with their verdicts and
the mass of accusations and confessions, the justices of the peace were
busy during March, April, and May of 1645. It was not until the
twenty-ninth of July that the trial took place. It was held at
Chelmsford before the justices of the peace and Robert Rich, Earl of
Warwick. Warwick was not an itinerant justice, nor was he, so far as we
know, in any way connected with the judicial system. One of the most
prominent Presbyterians in England, he had in April of this year, as a
result of the "self-denying ordinance," laid down his commission as head
of the navy. He disappears from view until August, when he was again
given work to do. In the mean time occurred the Chelmsford trial. We can
only guess that the earl, who was appointed head of the Eastern
Association less than a month later[17] (August 27), acted in this
instance in a military capacity. The assizes had been suspended. No
doubt some of the justices of the peace pressed upon him the urgency of
the cases to be tried. We may guess that he sat with them in the quarter
sessions, but he seems to have played the role of an itinerant justice.

No narrative account of the trial proper is extant. Some one who signs
himself "H. F." copied out and printed the evidence taken by the
justices of the peace and inserted in the margins the verdicts. In this
way we know that at least sixteen were condemned, probably two more, and
possibly eleven or twelve more.[18] Of the original sixteen, one was
reprieved, one died before execution, four were hanged at Manningtree
and ten at Chelmsford.

The cases excited some comment, and it is comment that must not be
passed over, for it will prove of some use later in analyzing the causes
of the outbreak. Arthur Wilson, whom we have mentioned as an historian
of the time, has left his verdict on the trial. "There is nothing," he
wrote, "so crosse to my temper as putting so many witches to death." He
saw nothing, in the women condemned at Chelmsford, "other than poore
mellenchollie ... ill-dieted atrabilious constitutions, whose fancies
working by grosse fumes and vapors might make the imagination readie to
take any impression." Wilson wrestled long with his God over the matter
of witches and came at length to the conclusion that "it did not consist
with the infinite goodnes of the Almightie God to let Satan loose in so
ravenous a way."

The opinion of a parliamentary journal in London on the twenty-fourth of
July, three days before the Essex executions, shows that the Royalists
were inclined to remark the number of witches in the counties friendly
to Parliament: "It is the ordinary mirth of the Malignants in this City
to discourse of the Association of Witches in the Associated Counties,
but by this they shall understand the truth of the old Proverbe, which
is that where God hath his Church, the Devill hath his Chappell." The
writer goes on, "I am sory to informe you that one of the cheifest of
them was a Parsons Wife (this will be good news with the Papists)....
Her name was Weight.... This Woman (as I heare) was the first
apprehended."[19] It seems, however, that Mrs. "Weight" escaped. Social
and religious influences were not without value. A later pamphleteer
tells us that the case of Mrs. Wayt, a minister's wife, was a "palpable
mistake, for it is well knowne that she is a gentle-woman of a very
godly and religious life."[20]

Meantime Hopkins had extended his operations into Suffolk. Elizabeth
Clarke and Anne Leech had implicated certain women in that county. Their
charges were carried before the justices of the peace and were the
beginning of a panic which spread like wildfire over the county.

The methods which the witchfinder-general used are illuminating. Four
searchers were appointed for the county, two men and two women.[21] "In
what Town soever ... there be any person or persons suspected to be
witch or Witches, thither they send for two or all of the said
searchers, who take the partie or parties so suspected into a Roome and
strip him, her, or them, starke naked."[22] The clergyman Gaule has
given us further particulars:[23] "Having taken the suspected Witch,
shee is placed in the middle of a room upon a stool, or Table,
crosse-legg'd, or in some other uneasie posture, to which if she submits
not, she is then bound with cords; there is she watcht and kept without
meat or sleep for the space of 24 hours.... A little hole is likewise
made in the door for the Impe to come in at; and lest it might come in
some lesse discernible shape, they that watch are taught to be ever and
anon sweeping the room, and if they see any spiders or flyes, to kill
them. And if they cannot kill them, then they may be sure they are her
Impes."[24] Hutchinson tells a story of one woman, who, after having
been kept long fasting and without sleep, confessed to keeping an imp
called Nan. But a "very learned ingenious gentleman having indignation
at the thing" drove the people from the house, gave the woman some food,
and sent her to bed. Next morning she knew of no Nan but a pullet she

The most sensational discovery in Suffolk was that John Lowes, pastor of
Brandeston, was a witch. The case was an extraordinary one and throws a
light on the witch alarms of the time. Lowes was eighty years old, and
had been pastor in the same place for fifty years. He got into trouble,
undoubtedly as a result of his inability to get along with those around
him. As a young man he had been summoned to appear before the synod at
Ipswich for not conforming to the rites of the Established Church.[25]
In the first year of Charles's reign he had been indicted for refusing
to exhibit his musket,[26] and he had twice later been indicted for
witchcraft and once as a common imbarritor.[27] The very fact that he
had been charged with witchcraft before would give color to the charge
when made in 1645. We have indeed a clue to the motives for this
accusation. A parishioner and a neighboring divine afterwards gave it as
their opinion that "Mr. Lowes, being a litigious man, made his
parishioners (too tenacious of their customs) very uneasy, so that they
were glad to take the opportunity of those wicked times to get him
hanged, rather than not get rid of him." Hopkins had afforded them the
opportunity. The witchfinder had taken the parson in hand. He had caused
him to be kept awake several nights together, and had run him backwards
and forwards about the room until he was out of breath. "Then they
rested him a little and then ran him again, and this they did for
several days and nights together, till he was weary of his life and
scarce sensible of what he said or did."[28] He had, when first accused,
denied all charges and challenged proof, but after he had been subjected
to these rigorous methods he made a full confession. He had, he said,
sunk a sailing vessel of Ipswich, making fourteen widows in a quarter of
an hour. The witchfinder had asked him if it did not grieve him to see
so many men cast away in a short time, and he answered: "No, he was
joyfull to see what power his Impes had."[29] He had, he boasted, a
charm to keep him out of gaol and from the gallows. It is too bad that
the crazed man's confidence in his charm was misplaced. His whole wild
confession is an illustration of the effectiveness of the torture. His
fate is indicative of the hysteria of the times and of the advantages
taken of it by malicious people. It was his hostility to the
ecclesiastical and political sympathies of his community that caused his

The dementia induced by the torture in Lowes's case showed itself in the
case of others, who made confessions of long careers of murder. "These
and all the rest confessed that cruell malice ... was their chiefe
delight." The accused were being forced by cruel torture to lend their
help to a panic which exceeded any before or after in England. From one
hundred and thirty to two hundred people[30] were soon under accusation
and shut up in Bury gaol.

News of this reached a Parliament in London that was very much engrossed
with other matters. We cannot do better than to quote the Puritan
biographer Clarke.[31] "A report was carried to the Parliament ... as
if some busie men had made use of some ill Arts to extort such
confession; ... thereupon a special Commission of Oyer and Terminer was
granted for the trial of these Witches." Care was to be used, in
gathering evidence, that confessions should be voluntary and should be
backed by "many collateral circumstances." There were to be no
convictions except upon proof of express compact with the Devil, or upon
evidence of the use of imps, which implied the same thing. Samuel
Fairclough and Edmund Calamy (the elder), both of them Non-Conformist
clergymen of Suffolk,[32] together with Serjeant John Godbolt and the
justices of the peace, were to compose this special court. The court met
about the end of August, a month after the sessions under Warwick at
Chelmsford, and was opened by two sermons preached by Mr. Fairclough in
Bury church. One of the first things done by the special court, quite
possibly at the instigation of the two clergymen, was to put an end to
the swimming test,[33] which had been used on several of the accused,
doubtless by the authority of the justices of the peace. This was of
course in some sense a blow at Hopkins. Nevertheless a great deal of the
evidence which he had gathered must have been taken into account.
Eighteen persons, including two men,[34] were condemned to be
hanged.[35] On the night before their execution, they were confined in a
barn, where they made an agreement not to confess a word at the gallows
the following day, and sang a psalm in confirmation. Next day they
"dyed ... very desperately."[36] But there were still one hundred and
twenty others in gaol[37] awaiting trial. No doubt many forthwith would
have met the same end, had it not been for a lucky chance of the wars.
The king's forces were approaching and the court hastened to adjourn its

But this danger was soon over, and within three weeks' time the court
seems to have resumed its duties.[39] Of this second session we know
nothing at all, save that probably forty or fifty more witches were
condemned, and doubtless executed.[40] What became of the others we can
only guess. Perhaps some were released, some left in gaol indefinitely.

These things were not done in a corner. Yet so great was the distraction
in England that, if we can trust negative evidence, they excited not a
great deal of notice. Such comments as there were, however, were
indicative of a division of opinion. During the interval between the two
sessions, the Moderate Intelligencer, a parliamentary organ that had
sprung up in the time of the Civil War, came out in an editorial on the
affair. "But whence is it that Devils should choose to be conversant
with silly Women that know not their right hands from their left, is the
great wonder.... They will meddle with none but poore old Women: as
appears by what we received this day from Bury.... Divers are condemned
and some executed and more like to be. Life is precious and there is
need of great inquisition before it is taken away."[41]

This was the sole newspaper reference of which we know, as well as the
only absolutely contemporary mention of these trials. What other
expressions of opinion there were came later. James Howell, a popular
essayist of his time, mentioned the trials in his correspondence as new
proof of the reality of witchcraft.[42] The pious Bishop Hall saw in
them the "prevalency of Satan in these times."[43] Thomas Ady, who in
1656 issued his Candle in the Dark, mentioned the "Berry Assizes"[44]
and remarked that some credulous people had published a book about it.
He thought criticism deserved for taking the evidence of the gaoler,
whose profit lay in having the greatest possible number executed.[45]

We have already described Hopkins as a man of action. Nothing is better
evidence of it than the way in which he hurried back and forth over the
eastern counties. During the last part of May he had probably been
occupied with collecting the evidence against the accused at Bury. Long
before they were tried he was busy elsewhere. We can trace his movements
in outline only, but we know enough of them to appreciate his tremendous
energy. Some time about the beginning of June he must have gone to
Norfolk. Before the twenty-sixth of July twenty witches had been
executed in that county.[46] None of the details of these trials have
been left us. From the rapidity with which they were carried to
completion we may feel fairly certain that the justices of the peace,
seeing no probability of assize sessions in the near future, went ahead
to try cases on their own initiative.[47] On the fifteenth of August the
corporation of Great Yarmouth, at the southern extremity of the Norfolk
coast line, voted to send for Mr. Hopkins, and that he should have his
fee and allowance for his pains,[48] "as he hath in other places." He
came at two different times, once in September and once in December.
Probably the burden of the work was turned over to the four female
assistants, who were granted a shilling a day apiece.[49] Six women were
condemned, one of whom was respited.[50] Later three other women and one
man were indicted, but by this time the furor against them seems to
have abated, and they probably went free.[51]

Hopkins's further course can be traced with some degree of certainty.
From Yarmouth he probably went to Ipswich, where Mother Lakeland was
burned on September 9 at the instance of the justices of the peace.[52]
Mother Lakeland's death by burning is the second instance we have,
during the Hopkins panic,[53] of this form of sentence. It is explained
by the fact that it was the law in England to burn women who murdered
their husbands. The chief charge against Mother Lakeland, who, by the
way, was a woman quite above the class from which witches were
ordinarily recruited,[54] was that she had bewitched her husband to
death.[55] The crime was "petty treason."

It is not a wild guess that Hopkins paused long enough in his active
career to write an account of the affair, so well were his principles of
detection presented in a pamphlet soon issued from a London press.[56]
But, at any rate, before Mother Lakeland had been burned he was on his
way to Aldeburgh, where he was already at work on the eighth of
September collecting evidence.[57] Here also he had an assistant, Goody
Phillips, who no doubt continued the work after he left. He was back
again in Aldeburgh on the twentieth of December and the seventh of
January, and the grand result of his work was summarized in the brief
account: "Paid ... eleven shillings for hanging seven witches."[58]

From Aldeburgh, Hopkins may have journeyed to Stowmarket. We do not know
how many servants of the evil one he discovered here; but, as he was
paid twenty-three pounds[59] for his services, and had received but six
pounds in Aldeburgh, the presumption is that his work here was very
fruitful in results.

We now lose track of the witchfinder's movements for a while. Probably
he was doubling on his track and attending court sessions. In December
we know that he made his second visit to Yarmouth. From there he may
have gone to King's Lynn, where two witches were hanged this year, and
from there perhaps returned early in January to Aldeburgh and other
places in Suffolk. It is not to be supposed for a moment that his
activities were confined to the towns named. At least fifteen other
places in Suffolk are mentioned by Stearne in his stories of the
witches' confessions.[60] While Hopkins's subordinates probably
represented him in some of the villages, we cannot doubt that the
witchfinder himself visited many towns.

From East Anglia Hopkins went westward into Cambridgeshire. His arrival
there must have been during either January or February. His reputation,
indeed, had gone ahead of him, and the witches were reported to have
taken steps in advance to prevent detection.[61] But their efforts were
vain. The witchfinder found not less than four or five of the detested
creatures,[62] probably more. We know, however, of only one execution,
that of a woman who fell under suspicion because she kept a tame

From Cambridgeshire, Hopkins's course took him, perhaps in March of
1645/6, into Northamptonshire. There he found at least two villages
infested, and he turned up some remarkable evidence. So far in his
crusade, the keeping of imps had been the test infallible upon which the
witchfinder insisted. But at Northampton spectral evidence seems to have
played a considerable part.[64] Hopkins never expresses his opinion on
this variety of evidence, but his co-worker declares that it should be
used with great caution, because "apparitions may proceed from the
phantasie of such as the party use to fear or at least suspect."

But it was a case in Northamptonshire of a different type that seems to
have made the most lasting impression on Stearne. Cherrie of Thrapston,
"a very aged man," had in a quarrel uttered the wish that his neighbor's
tongue might rot out. The neighbor thereupon suffered from something
which we should probably call cancer of the tongue. Perhaps as yet the
possibilities of suggestion have not been so far sounded that we can
absolutely discredit the physical effects of a malicious wish. It is
much easier, however, to believe the reported utterance imagined after
its supposed effect. At all events, Cherrie was forced to confess that
he had been guilty and he further admitted that he had injured Sir John
Washington, who had been his benefactor at various times.[65] He was
indicted by the grand jury, but died in gaol, very probably by suicide,
on the day when he was to have been tried.[66]

From Northamptonshire Hopkins's course led him into Huntingdonshire,[67]
a county that seems to have been untroubled by witch alarms since the
Warboys affair of 1593. The justices of the peace took up the quest
eagerly. The evidence that they gathered had but little that was
unusual.[68] Mary Chandler had despatched her imp, Beelzebub, to injure
a neighbor who had failed to invite her to a party. An accused witch who
was questioned about other possible witches offered in evidence a
peculiar piece of testimony. He had a conversation with "Clarke's sonne
of Keiston," who had said to him (the witness): "I doe not beleeve you
die a Witch, for I never saw you at our meetings." This would seem to
have been a clever fiction to ward off charges against himself. But,
strangely enough, the witness declared that he answered "that perhaps
their meetings were at severall places."

Hopkins did not find it all smooth sailing in the county of Huntingdon.
A clergyman of Great Staughton became outraged at his work and preached
against it. The witchfinder had been invited to visit the town and
hesitated. Meantime he wrote this blustering letter to one of John
Gaule's parishioners.

"My service to your Worship presented, I have this day received a
Letter, &c.--to come to a Towne called Great Staughton to search
for evil disposed persons called Witches (though I heare your
Minister is farre against us through ignorance) I intend to come
(God willing) the sooner to heare his singular Judgment on the
behalfe of such parties; I have known a Minister in Suffolke preach
as much against their discovery in a Pulpit, and forc'd to recant
it (by the Committee) in the same place. I much marvaile such evill
Members[69] should have any (much more any of the Clergy) who
should daily preach Terrour to convince such Offenders, stand up to
take their parts against such as are Complainants for the King, and
sufferers themselves with their Families and Estates. I intend to
give your Towne a Visite suddenly, I am to come to Kimbolton this
weeke, and it shall bee tenne to one but I will come to your Town
first, but I would certainely know afore whether your Town affords
many Sticklers for such Cattell, or willing to give and afford us
good welcome and entertainment, as other where I have beene, else I
shall wave your Shire (not as yet beginning in any part of it my
selfe) And betake me to such places where I doe and may persist
without controle, but with thankes and recompence."[70]

This stirred the fighting spirit of the vicar of Great Staughton, and he
answered the witchfinder in a little book which he published shortly
after, and which he dedicated to Colonel Walton of the House of Commons.
We shall have occasion in another chapter to note its point of view.

In spite of opposition, Hopkins's work in Huntingdonshire prospered. The
justices of the peace were occupied with examinations during March and
April. Perhaps as many as twenty were accused.[71] At least half that
number were examined. Several were executed--we do not know the exact
number--almost certainly at the instance of the justices of the
peace.[72] It is pleasant to know that one was acquitted, even if it was
after she had been twice searched and once put through the swimming

From Huntingdonshire it is likely that Hopkins and Stearne made their
next excursion into Bedfordshire. We know very little about their
success here. In two villages it would seem that they were able to track
their prey.[74] But they left to others the search which they had

The witchfinder had been active for a little over a year. But during the
last months of that time his discoveries had not been so notable. Was
there a falling off in interest? Or was he meeting with increased
opposition among the people? Or did the assize courts, which resumed
their proceedings in the summer of 1646, frown upon him? It is hard to
answer the question without more evidence. But at any rate it is clear
that during the summer and autumn of 1646 he was not actively engaged in
his profession. It is quite possible, indeed, that he was already
suffering from the consumption which was to carry him off in the
following year. And, with the retirement of its moving spirit, the witch
crusade soon came to a close. Almost a twelvemonth later there was a
single[76] discovery of witches. It was in the island of Ely; and the
church courts,[77] the justices of the peace,[78] and the assize
courts,[79] which had now been revived, were able, between them, to hang
a few witches.[80]

We do not know whether Hopkins participated in the Ely affair or not. It
seems certain that his co-worker, Stearne, had some share in it. But, if
so, it was his last discovery. The work of the two men was ended. They
had been pursuing the pack of witches in the eastern counties since
March of 1644/5. Even the execrations of those who opposed them could
not mar the pleasure they felt in what they had done. Nay, when they
were called upon to defend themselves, they could hardly refrain from
exulting in their achievements. They had indeed every right to exult.
When we come to make up the roll of their victims, we shall see that
their record as witch discoverers surpassed the combined records of all

It is a mistake to suppose that they had acted in any haphazard way. The
conduct of both men had been based upon perfectly logical deductions
from certain premises. King James's Daemonologie had been their
catechism, the statute against the feeding of imps their book of rules.
Both men started with one fundamental notion, that witchcraft is the
keeping of imps. But this was a thing that could be detected by marks on
the bodies.[81] Both were willing to admit that mistakes could be made
and were often made in assuming that natural bodily marks were the
Devil's marks. There were, however, special indications by which the
difference between the two could be recognized.[82] And the two
witchfinders, of course, possessed that "insight"[83] which was
necessary to make the distinction. The theories upon which they worked
we need not enter into. Suffice it to say that when once they had
proved, as they thought, the keeping of imps, the next step was to watch
those accused of it.[84] "For the watching," says Stearne,[85] "it is
not to use violence or extremity to force them to confesse, but onely
the keeping is, first to see whether any of their spirits, or familiars
come to or neere them." It is clear that both Hopkins and Stearne
recognized the fact that confessions wrung from women by torture are
worthless and were by this explanation defending themselves against the
charge of having used actual torture. There seems to be no adequate
reason for doubting the sincerity of their explanation. Stearne tells us
that the keeping the witches separate is "also to the end that Godly
Divines might discourse with them." "For if any of their society come to
them to discourse with them, they will never confesse."[86] Here,
indeed, is a clue to many confessions. Several men arrayed against one
solitary and weak woman could break her resolution and get from her very
much what they pleased.

As for starving the witches and keeping them from sleep, Stearne
maintained that these things were done by them only at first. Hopkins
bore the same testimony. "After they had beat their heads together in
the Gaole, and after this use was not allowed of by the Judges and other
Magistrates, it was never since used, which is a yeare and a halfe
since."[87] In other words, the two men had given up the practice
because the parliamentary commission had compelled them to do so.

The confessions must be received with great caution, Hopkins himself
declared.[88] It is so easy to put words into the witch's mouth. "You
have foure Imps, have you not? She answers affirmatively. 'Yes'.... 'Are
not their names so and so'? 'Yes,' saith she. 'Did you not send such an
Impe to kill my child'? 'Yes,' saith she." This sort of thing has been
too often done, asserted the virtuous witchfinder. He earnestly did
desire that "all Magistrates and Jurors would, a little more than ever
they did, examine witnesses about the interrogated confessions." What a
cautious, circumspect man was this famous witchfinder! The confessions,
he wrote, in which confidence may be placed are when the woman, without
any "hard usages or questions put to her, doth of her owne accord
declare what was the occasion of the Devil's appearing to her."[89]

The swimming test had been employed by both men in the earlier stages of
their work. "That hath been used," wrote Stearne, "and I durst not goe
about to cleere my selfe of it, because formerly I used it, but it was
at such time of the yeare as when none tooke any harme by it, neither
did I ever doe it but upon their owne request."[90] A thoughtful man was
this Stearne! Latterly he had given up the test--since "Judge Corbolt"
stopped it[91]--and he had come to believe that it was a way of
"distrusting of God's providence."

It can be seen that the men who had conducted the witch crusade were
able to present a consistent philosophy of their conduct. It was, of
course, a philosophy constructed to meet an attack the force of which
they had to recognize. Hopkins's pamphlet and Stearne's Confirmation
were avowedly written to put their authors right in the eyes of a public
which had turned against them.[92] It seems that this opposition had
first shown itself at their home in Essex. A woman who was undergoing
inquisition had found supporters, and, though she was condemned in spite
of their efforts, was at length reprieved.[93] Her friends turned the
tables by indicting Stearne and some forty others of conspiracy, and
apparently succeeded in driving them from the county.[94] In Bury the
forces of the opposition had appealed to Parliament, and the Commission
of Oyer and Terminer, which, it will be noticed, is never mentioned by
the witchfinders, was sent out to limit their activities. In
Huntingdonshire, we have seen how Hopkins roused a protesting clergyman,
John Gaule. If we may judge from the letter he wrote to one of Gaule's
parishioners, Hopkins had by this time met with enough opposition to
know when it was best to keep out of the way. His boldness was assumed
to cover his fear.

But it was in Norfolk that the opposition to the witchfinders reached
culmination. There most pungent "queries" were put to Hopkins through
the judges of assize. He was charged with all those cruelties, which, as
we have seen, he attempts to defend. He was further accused of fleecing
the country for his own profit.[95] Hopkins's answer was that he took
the great sum of twenty shillings a town "to maintaine his companie with
3 horses."[96] That this was untrue is sufficiently proved by the
records of Stowmarket where he received twenty-three pounds and his
traveling expenses. At such a rate for the discoveries, we can hardly
doubt that the two men between them cleared from three hundred to a
thousand pounds, not an untidy sum in that day, when a day's work
brought six pence.

What further action was taken in the matter of the queries "delivered to
the Judges of assize" we do not know. Both Hopkins and Stearne, as we
have seen, went into retirement and set to work to exonerate themselves.
Within the year Hopkins died at his old home in Manningtree. Stearne
says that he died "peaceably, after a long sicknesse of a Consumption."
But tradition soon had it otherwise. Hutchinson says that the story, in
his time, was that Hopkins was finally put to the swimming test himself,
and drowned. According to another tale, which seems to have lingered in
Suffolk, he offered to show the Devil's roll of all the witches in
England and so was detected.[97] Butler, in his Hudibras, said of him:

"Who after proved himself a witch,
And made a rod for his own breech."

Butler's lines appeared only fifteen years after Hopkin's death, and his
statement is evidence enough that such a tradition was already current.
The tradition is significant. It probably means, not that Hopkins really
paid such a penalty for his career--Stearne's word is good enough proof
to the contrary--but that within his own generation his name had become
an object of detestation.

John Stearne did not return to Manningtree--he may have been afraid
to--but settled down near Bury, the scene of his greatest successes.

If the epitaphs of these two men were to be written, their deeds could
be compressed into homely statistics. And this leads us to inquire what
was the sum of their achievement. It has been variously estimated. It is
not an uncommon statement that thirty thousand witches were hanged in
England during the rule of Parliament, and this wild guess has been
copied by reputable authors. In other works the number has been
estimated at three thousand, but this too is careless guesswork. Stearne
himself boasted that he knew of two hundred executions, and Stearne
ought to have known. It is indeed possible that his estimate was too
high. He had a careless habit of confusing condemnations with executions
that makes us suspect that in this estimate he may have been thinking
rather of the number of convictions than of the hangings. Yet his
figures are those of a man who was on the ground, and cannot be lightly
discounted. Moreover, James Howell, writing in 1648, says that "within
the compass of two years, near upon three hundred Witches were arraign'd
and the major part executed in Essex and Suffolk only."[98] If these
estimates be correct--or even if they approach correctness--a remarkable
fact appears. Hopkins and Stearne, in fourteen months' time, sent to the
gallows more witches than all the other witch-hunters of England can be
proved--so far as our present records go--to have hung in the hundred
and sixty years during which the persecution nourished in England. It
must occur to the reader that this crusade was extraordinary. Certainly
it calls for explanation.

So far as the writer is aware, but one explanation has been offered. It
has been repeated until it has become a commonplace in the history of
witchcraft that the Hopkins crusade was one of the expressions of the
intolerant zeal of the Presbyterian party during its control of
Parliament. This notion is largely due to Francis Hutchinson, who wrote
the first history of English witchcraft. Hutchinson was an Anglican
clergyman, but we need not charge him with partisanship in accusing the
Presbyterians. There was no inconsiderable body of evidence to support
his point of view. The idea was developed by Sir Walter Scott in his
Letters on Demonology, but it was left to Lecky, in his classic essay
on witchcraft, to put the case against the Presbyterian Parliament in
its most telling form.[99] His interpretation of the facts has found
general acceptance since.

It is not hard to understand how this explanation grew up. At a time
when Hutchinson was making his study, Richard Baxter, the most eminent
Puritan of his time, was still a great name among the defenders of
witchcraft.[100] In his pages Hutchinson read how Puritan divines
accompanied the witch-magistrates on their rounds and how a "reading
parson" was one of their victims. Gaule, who opposed them, he seems to
have counted an Anglican. He clearly put some faith in the lines of
Hudibras. Probably, however, none of these points weighed so much with
him as the general fact of coincidence in time between the great witch
persecution and Presbyterian rule. It was hard to escape the conclusion
that these two unusual situations must in some way have been connected.

Neither Hutchinson nor those who followed have called attention to a
point in support of their case which is quite as good proof of their
contention as anything adduced. It was in the eastern counties, where
the Eastern Association had flourished and where Parliament, as well as
the army, found its strongest backing--the counties that stood
consistently against the king--in those counties it was that Hopkins and
Stearne carried on their work.[101]

It may seem needless in the light of these facts to suggest any other
explanation of the witch crusade. Yet the whole truth has not by any
means been told. It has already been noticed that Hutchinson made some
mistakes. Parson Lowes, who was hanged as a witch at the instance of his
dissatisfied parishioners, was not hanged because he was an
Anglican.[102] And the Presbyterian Parliament had not sent down into
Suffolk a commission to hang witches, but to check the indiscriminate
proceedings that were going on there against witches. Moreover, while it
is true that East Anglia and the counties adjacent, the stronghold of
the Puritans, were the scene of Hopkins's operations, it is quite as
true that in those counties arose that powerful opposition which forced
the witchfinders into retirement. We have noticed in another connection
that the "malignants" were inclined to mock at the number of witches in
the counties friendly to Parliament, but there is nothing to show that
the mockers disbelieved the reality of the witchcrafts.[103]

It is easy enough to turn some of Hutchinson's reasoning against him, as
well as to weaken the force of other arguments that may be presented on
his side. But, when we have done all this, we still have to face the
unpleasant facts that the witch persecution coincided in time with
Presbyterian rule and in place with Puritan communities. It is very hard
to get around these facts. Nor does the writer believe that they can be
altogether avoided, even if their edge can be somewhat blunted. It was a
time of bitter struggle. The outcome could not yet be forecast. Party
feeling was at a high pitch. The situation may not unfairly be compared
with that in the summer of 1863 during the American civil war. Then the
outbreaks in New York revealed the public tension. The case in 1645 in
the eastern counties was similar. Every energy was directed towards the
prosecution of the war. The strain might very well have shown itself in
other forms than in hunting down the supposed agents of the Devil. As a
matter of fact, the apparitions and devils, the knockings and strange
noises, that filled up the pages of the popular literature were the
indications of an overwrought public mind. Religious belief grew
terribly literal under the tension of the war. The Anglicans were
fighting for their king, the Puritans for their religion. That
religious fervor which very easily deepens into dementia was highly

Nevertheless, too much importance may have been given to the part played
by Presbyterianism. There is no evidence which makes it certain that the
morbidity of the public would have taken the form of witch-hanging, had
it not been for the leadership of Hopkins and Stearne. The Manningtree
affair started very much as a score of others in other times. It had
just this difference, that two pushing men took the matter up and made
of it an opportunity. The reader who has followed the career of these
men has seen how they seem the backbone of the entire movement. It is
true that the town of Yarmouth invited them of its own initiative to
take up the work there, but not until they had already made themselves
famous in all East Anglia. There is, indeed, too much evidence that
their visits were in nearly every case the result of their own
deliberate purpose to widen the field of their labors. In brief, two
aggressive men had taken advantage of a time of popular excitement and
alarm. They were fortunate in the state of the public mind, but they
seem to have owed more to their own exertions.

But perhaps to neither factor was their success due so much as to the
want of government in England at this time. We have seen in an earlier
chapter that Charles I and his privy council had put an end to a witch
panic that bade fair to end very tragically. Not that they interfered
with random executions here and there. It was when the numbers involved
became too large that the government stepped in to revise verdicts.
This was what the government of Parliament failed to do. And the reasons
are not far to seek. Parliament was intensely occupied with the war. The
writer believes that it can be proved that, except in so far as
concerned the war, the government of Parliament and the Committee of
Both Kingdoms paid little or no attention to the affairs of the realm.
It is certainly true that they allowed judicial business to go by the
board. The assizes seem to have been almost, if not entirely, suspended
during the last half of the year 1645 and the first half of 1646.[105]
The justices of the peace, who had always shown themselves ready to hunt
down witches, were suffered to go their own gait.[106] To be sure, there
were exceptions. The Earl of Warwick held a court at Chelmsford, but he
was probably acting in a military capacity, and, inexperienced in court
procedure, doubtless depended largely upon the justices of the peace,
who, gathered in quarter sessions, were assisting him. It is true too
that Parliament had sent down a Commission of Oyer and Terminer to Bury,
a commission made up of a serjeant and two clergymen. But these two
cases are, so far as we can discover, the sole instances during these
two years when the justices of the peace were not left to their own
devices. This is significant. Except in Middlesex and in the chartered
towns of England, we have, excepting during this time of war, no records
that witches were ever sentenced to death, save by the judges of assize.

To put it in a nutshell, England was in a state of judicial
anarchy.[107] Local authorities were in control. But local authorities
had too often been against witches. The coming of Hopkins and Stearne
gave them their chance, and there was no one to say stop.

This explanation fits in well with the fact, to which we shall advert in
another chapter, that no small proportion of English witch trials took
place in towns possessing separate rights of jurisdiction. This was
especially true in the seventeenth century. The cases in Yarmouth,
King's Lynn, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Berwick, and Canterbury, are all
instances in point. Indeed, the solitary prosecution in Hopkins's own
time in which he had no hand was in one of those towns, Faversham in
Kent. There the mayor and "local jurators" sent not less than three to
the gallows.[108]

One other aspect of the Hopkins crusade deserves further attention. It
has been shown in the course of the chapter that the practice of torture
was in evidence again and again during this period. The methods were
peculiarly harrowing. At the same time they were methods which the
rationale of the witch belief justified. The theory need hardly be
repeated. It was believed that the witches, bound by a pact with the
Devil, made use of spirits that took animal forms. These imps, as they
were called, were accustomed to visit their mistress once in twenty-four
hours. If the witch, said her persecutors, could be put naked upon a
chair in the middle of the room and kept awake, the imps could not
approach her. Herein lay the supposed reasonableness of the methods in
vogue. And the authorities who were offering this excuse for their use
of torture were not loth to go further. It was, they said, necessary to
walk the creatures in order to keep them awake. It was soon discovered
that the enforced sleeplessness and the walking would after two or three
days and nights produce confessions. Stearne himself describes the
matter graphically: "For the watching," he writes, "it is not to use
violence or extremity to force them to confesse, but onely the keeping
is, first, to see whether any of their spirits or familiars come to or
neere them; for I have found that if the time be come, the spirit or
Impe so called should come, it will be either visible or invisible, if
visible, then it may be discerned by those in the Roome, if invisible,
then by the party. Secondly, it is for this end also, that if the
parties which watch them, be so carefull that none come visible nor
invisible but that may be discerned, if they follow their directions
then the party presently after the time their Familiars should have
come, if they faile, will presently confesse, for then they thinke they
will either come no more or have forsaken them. Thirdly it is also to
the end, that Godly Divines and others might discourse with them, for if
any of their society come to them to discourse with them, they will
never confesse.... But if honest godly people discourse with them,
laying the hainousnesse of their sins to them, and in what condition
they are in without Repentance, and telling them the subtilties of the
Devil, and the mercies of God, these ways will bring them to Confession
without extremity, it will make them break into confession hoping for

Hopkins tells us more about the walking of the witches. In answer to the
objection that the accused were "extraordinarily walked till their feet
were blistered, and so forced through that cruelty to confesse," "he
answered that the purpose was only to keepe them waking: and the reason
was this, when they did lye or sit in a chaire, if they did offer to
couch downe, then the watchers were only to desire them to sit up and
walke about."

Now, the inference might be drawn from these descriptions that the use
of torture was a new feature of the witchcraft persecutions
characteristic of the Civil War period. There is little evidence that
before that time such methods were in use. A schoolmaster who was
supposed to have used magic against James I had been put to the rack.
There were other cases in which it is conjectured that the method may
have been tried. There is, however, little if any proof of such trial.

Such an inference would, however, be altogether unjustified. The
absence of evidence of the use of torture by no means establishes the
absence of the practice. It may rather be said that the evidence of the
practice we possess in the Hopkins cases is of such a sort as to lead us
to suspect that it was frequently resorted to. If for these cases we had
only such evidence as in most previous cases has made up our entire sum
of information, we should know nothing of the terrible sufferings
undergone by the poor creatures of Chelmsford and Bury. The confessions
are given in full, as in the accounts of other trials, but no word is
said of the causes that led to them. The difference between these cases
of 1645 and other cases is this, that Hopkins and Stearne accused so
large a body of witches that they stirred up opposition. It is through
those who opposed them and their own replies that we learn about the
tortures inflicted upon the supposed agents of the Devil.

The significance of this cannot be insisted upon too strongly. A chance
has preserved for us the fact of the tortures of this time. It is
altogether possible--it is almost probable--that, if we had all the
facts, we should find that similar or equally severe methods had been
practised in many other witch cases.

We have been very minute in our descriptions of the Hopkins crusade, and
by no means brief in our attempt to account for it. But it is safe to
say that it is easily the most important episode in that series of
episodes which makes up the history of English witchcraft. None of them
belong, of course, in the larger progress of historical events. It may
seem to some that we have magnified the point at which they touched the
wider interests of the time. Let it not be forgotten that Hopkins was a
factor in his day and that, however little he may have affected the
larger issues of the times, he was affected by them. It was only the
unusual conditions produced by the Civil Wars that made the great
witchfinder possible.

[1] See J. O. Jones, "Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder," in Thomas
Seccombe's Twelve Bad Men (London, 1894).

[2] See Notes and Queries, 1854, II, 285, where a quotation from a
parish register of Mistley-cum-Manningtree is given: "Matthew Hopkins,
son of Mr. James Hopkins, Minister of Wenham, was buried at Mistley
August 12, 1647." See also John Stearne, A Confirmation and Discovery
of Witchcraft, 61 (cited hereafter as "Stearne").

[3] Calendar of the Proceedings of the Committee for Advance of Money,
1642-1656, I, 457. Cf. Notes and Queries, 1850, II, 413.

[4] The oft-repeated statement that he had been given a commission by
Parliament to detect witches seems to rest only on the mocking words of
Butler's Hudibras:

"Hath not this present Parliament
A Ledger to the Devil sent,
Fully empower'd to treat about
Finding revolted Witches out?"

(Hudibras, pt. ii, canto 3.)

To these lines an early editor added the note: "The Witch-finder in
Suffolk, who in the Presbyterian Times had a Commission to discover
Witches." But he names no authority, and none can be found. It is
probably a confusion with the Commission appointed for the trial of the
witches in Suffolk (see below, p. 178). Even his use of the title
"witch-finder-general" is very doubtful. "Witch-finder" he calls himself
in his book; only the frontispiece has "Witch Finder Generall." Nor is
this title given him by Stearne, Gaule, or any contemporary record. It
is perhaps only a misunderstanding of the phrase of Hopkins's
title-page, "for the benefit of the whole kingdome"--a phrase which, as
the punctuation shows, describes, not the witch-finder, but his book.
Yet in County Folk Lore, Suffolk (Folk Lore Soc., 1893), 178, there is
an extract about John Lowes from a Brandeston MS.: "His chief accuser
was one Hopkins, who called himself Witchfinder-General." But this is of
uncertain date, and may rest on Hutchinson.

[5] This is evident enough from his incessant use of Scripture and from
the Calvinistic stamp of his theology; but he leaves us no doubt when
(p. 54) he describes the Puritan Fairclough as "an able Orthodox

[6] Matthew Hopkins, The Discovery of Witches (London, 1647), 2--cited
hereafter as "Hopkins."

[7] One of them was Sir Harbottle Grimston, a baronet of Puritan
ancestry, who had been active in the Long Parliament, but who as a
"moderate man" fell now somewhat into the background. The other was Sir
Thomas Bowes. Both figure a little later as Presbyterian elders.

[8] Hopkins, 3.

[9] Hopkins, 2; Stearne, 14-16.

[10] It must, however, be noted that the oaths of the four women are put
together, and that one of the men deposed merely that he confirmed
Stearne's particulars.

[11] Although Hopkins omitted in his testimony the first animal seen by
Stearne. He mentioned it later, calling it Holt. Stearne called it
Lought. See Hopkins, 2; Stearne, 15. But Stearne calls it Hoult in his
testimony as reproduced in the True and exact Relation of the severall
Informations, Examinations and Confessions of the Late Witches ... at
Chelmesford ... (London, 1645), 3-4.

[12] Despite this record Anne West is described by Stearne (p. 39) as
one of the very religious people who make an outward show "as if they
had been Saints on earth."

[13] The confession of Rebecca West is indeed dated "21" March 1645, the
very day of Elizabeth Clarke's arrest; but all the context suggests that
this is an error. In spite of her confessions, which were of the most
damaging, Rebecca West was eventually acquitted.

[14] It must not for a moment, however, be forgotten that these
confessions had been wrung from tortured creatures.

[15] Richard Carter and Henry Cornwall had testified that Margaret Moone
confessed to them. Probably she did, as she was doubtless at that time
under torture.

[16] The evidence offered against her well suggests on what slender
grounds a witch might be accused. "This Informant saith that the house
where this Informante and the said Mary did dwell together, was haunted
with a Leveret, which did usually sit before the dore: And this
Informant knowing that one Anthony Shalock had an excellent Greyhound
that had killed many Hares; and having heard that a childe of the said
Anthony was much haunted and troubled, and that the mother of the childe
suspected the said Mary to be the cause of it: This Informant went to
the said Anthony Shalock and acquainted him that a Leveret did usually
come and sit before the dore, where this Informant and the said Mary
Greenleife lived, and desired the said Anthony to bring downe his
Greyhound to see if he could kill the said Leveret; and the next day the
said Anthony did accordingly bring his Greyhound, and coursed it, but
whether the dog killed it this Informant knows not: But being a little
before coursed by Good-man Merrils dog, the dog ran at it, but the
Leveret never stirred, and just when the dog came at it, he skipped over
it, and turned about and stood still, and looked on it, and shortly
after that dog languished and dyed."

[17] See Bulstrode Whitelocke, Memorials of English Affairs ...
(London, 1682; Oxford, 1853), ed. of 1853, I, 501.

[18] "H. F."'s publication is the True and exact Relation cited above
(note 11). He seems to have written it in the last of May, but inserted
verdicts later in the margin. Arthur Wilson, who was present, says that
18 were executed; Francis Peck, Desiderata Curiosa (London, 1732-1735;
1779), ed. of 1779, II, 476. But Hopkins writes that 29 were condemned
at once and Stearne says about 28; quite possibly there were two trials
at Chelmsford. There is only one other supposition, i. e., that
Hopkins and Stearne confused the number originally accused with the
number hanged. For further discussion of the somewhat conflicting
evidence as to the number of these Essex witches and the dates of their
trial see appendix C, under 1645.

[19] A Diary or an Exact Journall, July 24-31, 1645, pp. 5-6.

[20] A True Relation of the Araignment of eighteene Witches at St.
Edmundsbury ... (London, 1645), 9.

[21] Ibid., 6.

[22] Ibid.

[23] John Gaule, Select Cases of Conscience Touching Witches and
Witchcrafts (London, 1646), 78, 79.

[24] Queries 8 and 9 answered by Hopkins to the Norfolk assizes confirm
Gaule's description. See Hopkins, 5. "Query 8. When these ... are fully
discovered, yet that will not serve sufficiently to convict them, but
they must be tortured and kept from sleep two or three nights, to
distract them, and make them say anything; which is a way to tame a
wilde Colt, or Hawke." "Query 9. Beside that unreasonable watching, they
were extraordinarily walked, till their feet were blistered, and so
forced through that cruelty to confess." Hopkins himself admitted the
keeping of Elizabeth Clarke from sleep, but is careful to insert "upon
command from the Justice." Hopkins, 2-3. On p. 5 he again refers to this
point. Stearne, 61, uses the phrase "with consent of the justices."

[25] Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, Proceedings, X, 378. Baxter
seems to have started the notion that Lowes was a "reading parson," or

[26] Ibid.

[27] See A Magazine of Scandall, or a heape of wickednesse of two
infamous Ministers (London, 1642), where there is a deposition, dated
August 4, 1641, that Lowes had been twice indicted and once arraigned
for witchcraft, and convicted by law as "a common Barrettor" at the
assizes in Suffolk. Stearne, 23, says he was charged as a "common
imbarritor" over thirty years before.

[28] This account of the torture is given, in a letter to Hutchinson, by
a Mr. Rivet, who had "heard it from them that watched with him." It is
in some measure confirmed by the MS. history of Brandeston quoted in
County Folk Lore, Suffolk (Folk Lore Soc.), 178, which adds the
above-quoted testimony as to his litigiousness.

[29] Stearne, 24.

[30] A True Relation of the Araignment of eighteene Witches, 5;
Moderate Intelligencer, September 4-11, 1645.

[31] See Samuel Clarke, Lives of sundry Eminent Persons ... (London,
1683), 172. In writing the life of Samuel Fairclough, Clarke used
Fairclough's papers; see ibid., 163.

[32] Fairclough was a Non-Conformist, but not actively sympathetic with
Presbyterianism. Calamy was counted a Presbyterian.

[33] Hopkins, 5-6; Stearne, 18.

[34] One of these was Lowes.

[35] A True Relation of the Araignment of eighteene Witches.

[36] Stearne, 14.

[37] A True Relation of the Araignment of eighteene Witches, 5.

[38] Ibid.; Stearne, 25.

[39] Hutchinson speaks of repeated sessions. Stearne, 25, says: "by
reason of an Allarum at Cambridge, the gaol delivery at Burie St.
Edmunds was adjourned for about three weeks." As a matter of fact, the
king's forces seem no

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