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 M

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