The Exorcists

In the narrative of English witchcraft the story of the exorcists is a

side-issue. Yet their performances were so closely connected with the

operations of the Devil and of his agents that they cannot be left out

of account in any adequate statement of the subject. And it is

impossible to understand the strength and weakness of the superstition

without a comprehension of the role that the would-be agents for

expelling e
il spirits played. That the reign which had seen pass in

procession the bands of conjurers and witches should close with the

exorcists was to be expected. It was their part to complete the cycle of

superstition. If miracles of magic were possible, if conjurers could use

a supernatural power of some sort to assist them in performing wonders,

there was nothing very remarkable about creatures who wrought harm to

their fellows through the agency of evil spirits. And if witches could

send evil spirits to do harm, it followed that those spirits could be

expelled or exorcised by divine assistance. If by prayer to the Devil

demons could be commanded to enter human beings, they could be driven

out by prayer to God. The processes of reasoning were perfectly clear;

and they were easily accepted because they found adequate confirmation

in the New Testament. The gospels were full of narratives of men

possessed with evil spirits who had been freed by the invocation of God.

Of these stories no doubt the most quoted and the one most effective in

moulding opinion was the account of the dispossessed devils who had

entered into a herd of swine and plunged over a steep place into the


It must not be supposed that exorcism was a result of belief in

witchcraft. It was as old as the Christian church. It was still made use

of by the Roman church and, indeed, by certain Protestant groups. And

just at this time the Roman church found it a most important instrument

in the struggle against the reformed religions. In England Romanism was

waging a losing war, and had need of all the miracles that it could

claim in order to reestablish its waning credit. The hunted priests who

were being driven out by Whitgift were not unwilling to resort to a

practice which they hoped would regain for them the allegiance of the

common people. During the years 1585-1586 they had conducted what they

considered marvellous works of exorcism in Catholic households of

Buckinghamshire and Middlesex.[1] Great efforts had been made to keep

news of these seances from reaching the ears of the government, but

accounts of them had gained wide circulation and came to the privy

council. That body was of course stimulated to greater activity against

the Catholics.[2]

As a phase of a suppressed form of religion the matter might never have

assumed any significance. Had not a third-rate Puritan clergyman, John

Darrel, almost by accident hit upon the use of exorcism, the story of

its use would be hardly worth telling.[3] When this young minister was

not more than twenty, but already, as he says, reckoned "a man of hope,"

he was asked to cure a seventeen-year-old girl at Mansfield in

Nottingham, Katherine Wright.[4] Her disease called for simple medical

treatment. That was not Darrel's plan of operation. She had an evil

spirit, he declared. From four o'clock in the morning until noon he

prayed over her spirit. He either set going of his own initiative the

opinion that possessed persons could point out witches, or he quickly

availed himself of such a belief already existing. The evil spirit, he

declared, could recognize and even name the witch that had sent it as

well as the witch's confederates. All of this was no doubt suggested to

the possessed girl and she was soon induced to name the witch that

troubled her. This was Margaret Roper, a woman with whom she was upon

bad terms. Margaret Roper was at once taken into custody by the

constable. She happened to be brought before a justice of the peace

possessing more than usual discrimination. He not only discharged

her,[5] but threatened John Darrel with arrest.[6]

This was in 1586. Darrel disappeared from view for ten years or so,

when he turned up at Burton-upon-Trent, not very far from the scene of

his first operations. Here he volunteered to cure Thomas Darling. The

story is a curious one and too long for repetition. Some facts must,

however, be presented in order to bring the story up to the point at

which Darrel intervened. Thomas Darling, a young Derbyshire boy, had

become ill after returning from a hunt. He was afflicted with

innumerable fits, in which he saw green angels and a green cat. His aunt

very properly consulted a physician, who at the second consultation

thought it possible that the child was bewitched. The aunt failed to

credit the diagnosis. The boy's fits continued and soon took on a

religious character. Between seizures he conversed with godly people.

They soon discovered that the reading of the Scriptures brought on

attacks. This looked very like the Devil's work. The suggestion of the

physician was more seriously regarded. Meanwhile the boy had overheard

the discussion of witchcraft and proceeded to relate a story. He had

met, he said, a "little old woman" in a "gray gown with a black fringe

about the cape, a broad thrimmed hat, and three warts on her face."[7]

Very accidentally, as he claimed, he offended her. She angrily said a

rhyming charm that ended with the words, "I wil goe to heaven, and thou

shalt goe to hell," and stooped to the ground.

The story produced a sensation. Those who heard it declared at once that

the woman must have been Elizabeth Wright, or her daughter Alse

Gooderidge, women long suspected of witchcraft. Alse was fetched to the

boy. She said she had never seen him, but her presence increased the

violence of his fits. Mother and daughter were carried before two

justices of the peace, who examined them together with Alse's husband

and daughter. The women were searched for special marks in the usual

revolting manner with the usual outcome, but only Alse herself was sent

to gaol.[8]

The boy grew no better. It was discovered that the reading of certain

verses in the first chapter of John invariably set him off.[9] The

justices of the peace put Alse through several examinations, but with

little result. Two good witches were consulted, but refused to help

unless the family of the bewitched came to see them.

Meantime a cunning man appeared who promised to prove Alse a witch. In

the presence of "manie worshipfull personages" "he put a paire of new

shooes on her feete, setting her close to the fire till the shooes being

extreame hot might constrayne her through increase of the paine to

confesse." "This," says the writer, "was his ridiculous practice." The

woman "being throghly heated desired a release" and offered to confess,

but, as soon as her feet were cooled, refused. No doubt the justices of

the peace would have repudiated the statement that the illegal process

of torture was used. The methods of the cunning man were really nothing


The woman was harried day and night by neighbors to bring her to

confess.[10] At length she gave way and, in a series of reluctant

confessions, told a crude story of her wrong-doings that bore some

slight resemblance to the boy's tale, and involved the use of a spirit

in the form of a dog.

Now it was that John Darrel came upon the ground eager to make a name

for himself. Darling had been ill for three months and was not

improving. Even yet some of the boy's relatives and friends doubted if

he were possessed. Not so Darrel. He at once undertook to pray and fast

for the boy. According to his own account his efforts were singularly

blessed. At all events the boy gradually improved and Darrel claimed the

credit. As for Alse Gooderidge, she was tried at the assizes, convicted

by the jury, and sentenced by Lord Chief-Justice Anderson to

imprisonment. She died soon after.[11] This affair undoubtedly widened

Darrel's reputation.

Not long after, a notable case of possession in Lancashire afforded him

a new opportunity to attract notice. The case of Nicholas Starchie's

children provoked so much comment at the time that it is perhaps worth

while to go back and bring the narrative up to the point where Darrel

entered.[12] Two of Starchie's children had one day been taken ill most

mysteriously, the girl "with a dumpish and heavie countenance, and with

a certaine fearefull starting and pulling together of her body." The boy

was "compelled to shout" on the way to school. Both grew steadily

worse[13] and the father consulted Edmund Hartley, a noted conjurer of

his time. Hartley quieted the children by the use of charms. When he

realized that his services would be indispensable to the father he made

a pretence of leaving and so forced a promise from Starchie to pay him

40 shillings a year. This ruse was so successful that he raised his

demands. He asked for a house and lot, but was refused. The children

fell ill again. The perplexed parent now went to a physician of

Manchester. But the physician "sawe no signe of sicknes." Dr. Dee, the

famous astrologer and friend of Elizabeth, was summoned. He advised the

help of "godlie preachers."[14]

Meantime the situation in the afflicted family took a more serious turn.

Besides Mr. Starchie's children, three young wards of his, a servant,

and a visitor, were all taken with the mysterious illness. The modern

reader might suspect that some contagious disease had gripped the

family, but the irregular and intermittent character of the disease

precludes that hypothesis. Darrel in his own pamphlet on the matter

declares that when the parents on one occasion went to a play the

children were quiet, but that when they were engaged in godly exercise

they were tormented, a statement that raises a suspicion that the

disease, like that of the Throckmorton children, was largely imaginary.

But the divines were at work. They had questioned the conjurer, and had

found that he fumbled "verie ill favouredlie" in the repetition of the

Lord's Prayer. He was haled before a justice of the peace, who began

gathering evidence against him and turned him over to the assizes. There

it came out that he had been wont to kiss the Starchie children, and had

even attempted, although without success, to kiss a maid servant. In

this way he had presumably communicated the evil spirit--a new notion.

The court could find no law, however, upon which to hang him. He had

bewitched the children, but he had bewitched none of them to death, and

therefore had not incurred the death penalty. But the father leaped into

the gap. He remembered that he had seen the conjurer draw a magic circle

and divide it into four parts and that he had bidden the witness step

into the quarters one after another. Making such circles was definitely

mentioned in the law as felony. Hartley denied the charge, but to no

purpose. He was convicted of felony[15]--so far as we can judge, on this

unsupported afterthought of a single witness--and was hanged. Sympathy,

however, would be inappropriate. In the whole history of witchcraft

there were few victims who came so near to deserving their fate.

This was the story up to the time of Darrel's arrival. With Darrel came

his assistant, George More, pastor of a church in Derbyshire. The two at

once recognized the supernatural character of the case they were to

treat and began religious services for the stricken family. It was to no

effect. "All or most of them joined together in a strange and

supernatural loud whupping that the house and grounde did sounde

therwith again."

But the exorcists were not by any means disheartened. On the following

day, in company with another minister, they renewed the services and

were able to expel six of the seven spirits. On the third day they

stormed and took the last citadel of Satan. Unhappily the capture was

not permanent. Darrel tells us himself that the woman later became a

Papist[16] and the evil spirit returned.

The exorcist now turned his skill upon a young apprenticed musician of

Nottingham. According to Darrel's story of the affair,[17] William

Somers had nine years before met an old woman who had threatened him.

Again, more than a year before Darrel came to Nottingham, Somers had had

two encounters with a strange woman "at a deep cole-pit, hard by the

way-side." Soon afterwards he "did use such strang and idle kinde of

gestures in laughing, dancing and such like lighte behaviour, that he

was suspected to be madd." He began to suffer from bodily distortions

and to evince other signs of possession which created no little

excitement in Nottingham.

Darrel had been sent for by this time. He came at once and with his

usual precipitancy pronounced the case one of possession. Somers, he

said, was suffering for the sins of Nottingham.[18] It was time that

something should be done. Prayer and fasting were instituted. For three

days the youth was preached to and prayed over, while the people of

Nottingham, or some of them at least, joined in the fast. On the third

day came what was deemed a most remarkable exhibition. The preacher

named slowly, one after another, fourteen signs of possession. As he

named them Somers illustrated in turn each form of possession.[19] Here

was confirmatory evidence of a high order. The exorcist had outdone

himself. He now held out promises of deliverance for the subject. For a

quarter of an hour the boy lay as if dead, and then rose up quite well.

Darrel now took up again the witchfinder's role he had once before

assumed. Somers was encouraged to name the contrivers of his

bewitchment. Through him, Darrel is said to have boasted, they would

expose all the witches in England.[20] They made a most excellent start

at it. Thirteen women were accused by the boy,[21] who would fall into

fits at the sight of a witch, and a general invitation was extended to

prefer charges. But the community was becoming a bit incredulous and

failed to respond. All but two of the accused women were released.

The witch-discoverer, who in the meantime had been chosen preacher at

St. Mary's in Nottingham, made two serious mistakes. He allowed

accusations to be preferred against Alice Freeman, sister of an

alderman,[22] and he let Somers be taken out of his hands. By the

contrivance of some citizens who doubted the possession, Somers was

placed in the house of correction, on a trumped-up charge that he had

bewitched a Mr. Sterland to death.[23] Removed from the clergyman's

influence, he made confession that his possessions were pretended.[24]

Darrel, he declared, had taught him how to pretend. The matter had now

gained wide notoriety and was taken up by the Anglican church. The

archdeacon of Derby reported the affair to his superiors, and the

Archbishop of York appointed a commission to examine into the case.[25]

Whether from alarm or because he had anew come under Darrel's influence,

Somers refused to confess before the commission and again acted out his

fits with such success that the commission seems to have been convinced

of the reality of his possession.[26] This was a notable victory for the


But Chief-Justice Anderson of the court of common pleas was now

commencing the assizes at Nottingham and was sitting in judgment on the

case of Alice Freeman. Anderson was a man of intense convictions. He

believed in the reality of witchcraft and had earlier sent at least one

witch to the gallows[27] and one to prison.[28] But he was a man who

hated Puritanism with all his heart, and would at once have suspected

Puritan exorcism. Whether because the arch-instigator against Alice

Freeman was a Puritan, or because the evidence adduced against her was

flimsy, or because Somers, again summoned to court, acknowledged his

fraud,[29] or for all these reasons, Anderson not only dismissed the

case,[30] but he wrote a letter about it to the Archbishop of

Canterbury. Archbishop Whitgift called Darrel and More before the court

of high commission, where the Bishop of London, two of the Lord

Chief-Justices, the master of requests, and other eminent officials

heard the case. It seems fairly certain that Bancroft, the Bishop of

London, really took control of this examination and that he acted quite

as much the part of a prosecutor as that of a judge. One of Darrel's

friends complained bitterly that the exorcist was not allowed to make

"his particular defences" but "was still from time to time cut off by

the Lord Bishop of London."[31] No doubt the bishop may have been

somewhat arbitrary. It was his privilege under the procedure of the

high commission court, and he was dealing with one whom he deemed a very

evident impostor. In fine, a verdict was rendered against the two

clergymen. They were deposed from the ministry and put in close

prison.[32] So great was the stir they had caused that in 1599 Samuel

Harsnett, chaplain to the Bishop of London, published A Discovery of

the Fraudulent Practises of John Darrel, a careful resume of the entire

case, with a complete exposure of Darrel's trickery. In this account the

testimony of Somers was given as to the origin of his possession. He

testified before the ecclesiastical court that he had known Darrel

several years before they had met at Nottingham. At their first meeting

he promised, declared Somers, "to tell me some thinges, wherein if I

would be ruled by him, I should not be driven to goe so barely as I

did." Darrel related to Somers the story of Katherine Wright and her

possession, and remarked, "If thou wilt sweare unto me to keepe my

counsell, I will teache thee to doe all those trickes which Katherine

Wright did, and many others that are more straunge." He then illustrated

some of the tricks for the benefit of his pupil and gave him a written

paper of directions. From that time on there were meetings between the

two at various places. The pupil, however, was not altogether successful

with his fits and was once turned out of service as a pretender. He was

then apprenticed to the musician already mentioned, and again met

Darrel, who urged him to go and see Thomas Darling of Burton, "because,"

says Somers, "that seeing him in his fittes, I might the better learn to

do them myselfe." Somers met Darrel again and went through with a

series of tricks of possession. It was after all these meetings and

practice that Somers began his career as a possessed person in

Nottingham and was prayed over by Mr. Darrel. Such at least was his

story as told to the ecclesiastical commission. It would be hazardous to

say that the narrative was all true. Certainly it was accepted by

Harsnett, who may be called the official reporter of the proceedings at

Darrel's trial, as substantially true.[33]

The publication of the Discovery by Harsnett proved indeed to be only

the beginning of a pamphlet controversy which Darrel and his supporters

were but too willing to take up.[34] Harsnett himself after his first

onslaught did not re-enter the contest. The semi-official character of

his writing rendered it unnecessary to refute the statements of a

convicted man. At any rate, he was soon occupied with another production

of similar aim. In 1602 Bishop Bancroft was busily collecting the

materials, in the form of sworn statements, for the exposure of Catholic

pretenders. He turned the material over to his chaplain. Whether the

several examinations of Roman exorcists and their subjects were the

result of a new interest in exposing exorcism on the part of the powers

which had sent Darrel to prison, or whether they were merely a phase of

increased vigilance against the activity of the Roman priests, we cannot

be sure. The first conclusion does not seem improbable. Be that as it

may, the court of high commission got hold of evidence enough to

justify the privy council in authorizing a full publication of the

testimony.[35] Harsnett was deputed to write the account of the Catholic

exorcists which was brought out in 1603 under the title of A

Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures. We have not the historical

materials with which to verify the claims made in the book. On the face

of it the case against the Roman priests looks bad. A mass of

examinations was printed which seem to show that the Jesuit Weston and

his confreres in England had been guilty of a great deal of jugglery and

pretence. The Jesuits, however, were wiser in their generation than the

Puritans and had not made charges of witchcraft. For that reason their

performances may be passed over.

Neither the pretences of the Catholics nor the refutation of them are

very important for our purposes. The exposure of John Darrel was of

significance, because it involved the guilt or innocence of the women he

accused as witches, as well as because the ecclesiastical authorities

took action against him and thereby levelled a blow directly at exorcism

and possession[36] and indirectly at loose charges of witchcraft.

Harsnett's books were the outcome of this affair and the ensuing

exposures of the Catholics, and they were more significant than

anything that had gone before. The Church of England had not committed

itself very definitely on witchcraft, but its spokesman in the attack

upon the Catholic pretenders took no uncertain ground. He was skeptical

not only about exorcism but about witchcraft as well. It is refreshing

and inspiriting to read his hard-flung and pungent words. "Out of

these," he wrote, "is shaped us the true Idea of a Witch, an old

weather-beaten Croane, having her chinne and her knees meeting for age,

walking like a bow leaning on a shaft, hollow-eyed, untoothed, furrowed

on her face, having her lips trembling with the palsie, going mumbling

in the streetes, one that hath forgotten her pater noster, and hath

yet a shrewd tongue in her head, to call a drab, a drab. If shee have

learned of an olde wife in a chimnies end: Pax, max, fax, for a spel:

or can say Sir John of Grantams curse, for the Millers Eeles, that

were stolne: ... Why then ho, beware, looke about you my neighbours; if

any of you have a sheepe sicke of the giddies, or an hogge of the

mumps, or an horse of the staggers, or a knavish boy of the schoole, or

an idle girle of the wheele, or a young drab of the sullens, and hath

not fat enough for her porredge, nor her father and mother butter enough

for their bread; and she have a little helpe of the Mother,

Epilepsie, or Cramp, ... and then with-all old mother Nobs hath

called her by chaunce 'idle young huswife,' or bid the devil scratch

her, then no doubt but mother Nobs is the witch.... Horace the

Heathen spied long agoe, that a Witch, a Wizard, and a Conjurer were but

bul-beggers to scare fooles.... And Geoffry Chaucer, who had his two

eyes, wit, and learning in his head, spying that all these brainlesse

imaginations of witchings, possessings, house-hanting, and the rest,

were the forgeries, cosenages, Imposturs, and legerdemaine of craftie

priests, ... writes in good plaine terms."[37]

It meant a good deal that Harsnett took such a stand. Scot had been a

voice crying in the wilderness. Harsnett was supported by the powers in

church and state. He was, as has been seen, the chaplain of Bishop

Bancroft,[38] now--from 1604--to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He was

himself to become eminent in English history as master of Pembroke Hall

(Cambridge), vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, Bishop of

Chichester, Bishop of Norwich, and Archbishop of York.[39] Whatever

support he had at the time--and it is very clear that he had the backing

of the English church on the question of exorcism--his later position

and influence must have given great weight not only to his views on

exorcism but to his skepticism about witchcraft.[40]

His opinions on the subject, so far as can be judged by his few direct

statements and by implications, were quite as radical as those of his

predecessor.[41] As a matter of fact he was a man who read widely[42]

and had pondered deeply on the superstition, but his thought had been

colored by Scot.[43] His assault, however, was less direct and studied

than that of his master. Scot was a man of uncommonly serious

temperament, a plain, blunt-spoken, church-going Englishman who covered

the whole ground of superstition without turning one phrase less serious

than another. His pupil, if so Harsnett may be called, wrote earnestly,

even aggressively, but with a sarcastic and bitter humor that

entertained the reader and was much less likely to convince. The curl

never left his lips. If at times a smile appeared, it was but an

accented sneer. A writer with a feeling indeed for the delicate effects

of word combination, if his humor had been less chilled by hate, if his

wit had been of a lighter and more playful vein, he might have laughed

superstition out of England. When he described the dreadful power of

holy water and frankincense and the book of exorcisms "to scald, broyle

and sizzle the devil," or "the dreadful power of the crosse and

sacrament of the altar to torment the devill and to make him roare," or

"the astonishable power of nicknames, reliques and asses ears,"[44] he

revealed a faculty of fun-making just short of effective humor.

It would not be fair to leave Harsnett without a word on his place as a

writer. In point of literary distinction his prose style maintains a

high level. In the use of forceful epithet and vivid phrase he is

excelled by no Elizabethan prose writer. Because his writings deal so

largely with dry-as-dust reports of examinations, they have never

attained to that position in English literature which parts of them


Harsnett's book was the last chapter in the story of Elizabethan

witchcraft and exorcism. It is hardly too much to say that it was the

first chapter in the literary exploitation of witchcraft. Out of the

Declaration Shakespeare and Ben Jonson mined those ores which when

fused and refined by imagination and fancy were shaped into the shining

forms of art. Shakespearean scholars have pointed out the connection

between the dramatist and the exposer of exorcism. It has indeed been

suggested by one student of Shakespeare that the great playwright was

lending his aid by certain allusions in Twelfth Night to Harsnett's

attempts to pour ridicule on Puritan exorcism.[46] It would be hard to

say how much there is in this suggestion. About Ben Jonson we can speak

more certainly. It is clearly evident that he sneered at Darrel's

pretended possessions. In the third scene of the fifth act of The Devil

is an Ass he makes Mere-craft say:

It is the easiest thing, Sir, to be done.

As plaine as fizzling: roule but wi' your eyes,

And foame at th' mouth. A little castle-soape

Will do 't, to rub your lips: And then a nutshell,

With toe and touchwood in it to spit fire,

Did you ner'e read, Sir, little Darrel's tricks,

With the boy o' Burton, and the 7 in Lancashire,

Sommers at Nottingham? All these do teach it.

And wee'l give out, Sir, that your wife ha's bewitch'd you.

This is proof enough, not only that Jonson was in sympathy with the

Anglican assailants of Puritan exorcism, but that he expected to find

others of like opinion among those who listened to his play. And it was

not unreasonable that he should expect this. It is clear enough that the

powers of the Anglican church were behind Harsnett and that their

influence gave his views weight. We have already observed that there

were some evidences in the last part of Elizabeth's reign of a reaction

against witch superstition. Harsnett's book, while directed primarily

against exorcism, is nevertheless another proof of that reaction.

[1] Sir George Peckham of Denham near Uxbridge and Lord Vaux of Hackney

were two of the most prominent Catholics who opened their homes for

these performances. See Samuel Harsnett, Declaration of Egregious

Popish Impostures (London, 1603), 7, 8.

[2] For a discussion of the Catholic exorcists see T. G. Law, "Devil

Hunting in Elizabethan England," in the Nineteenth Century for March,

1894. Peckham's other activities in behalf of his church are discussed

by Dr. R. B. Merriman in "Some Notes on the Treatment of English

Catholics in the Reign of Elizabeth," in the Am. Hist. Rev., April,

1908. Dr. Merriman errs, however, in supposing that John Darrel

cooperated with Weston and the Catholic exorcists; ibid., note 51.

Darrel was a Puritan and had nothing to do with the Catholic


[3] It is quite possible to suppose, however, that its course would have

been run in much the same way at a later time.

[4] For Harsnett's account of Katherine Wright see his Discovery of the

Fraudulent Practises of John Darrel (London, 1599), 297-315. For

Darrel's story see The Triall of Maist. Dorrel, or A Collection of

Defences against Allegations ... (1599), 15-21.

[5] See Harsnett, Discovery, 310.

[6] Katherine Wright's evil spirit returned later.

[7] "I have seene her begging at our doore," he declared, "as for her

name I know it not."

[8] Harsnett, Discovery, 41, 265, deals briefly with the Darling case

and Alse Gooderidge. See also John Darrel, A Detection of that sinnful,

shamful, lying, and ridiculous discours of Samuel Harshnet (1600),

38-40. But the fullest account is a pamphlet at the Lambeth Palace

library. It is entitled The most wonderfull and true Storie of a

certaine Witch named Alse Gooderidge of Stapenhill.... As also a true

Report of the strange Torments of Thomas Darling.... (London, 1597).

For a discussion of this pamphlet see appendix A, Sec. 1.

[9] The boy was visited by a stranger who tried to persuade him that

there were no witches. But this Derbyshire disciple of Scot had come to

the wrong place and his efforts were altogether useless.

[10] Meantime her mother Elizabeth Wright was also being worried. She

was found on her knees in prayer. No doubt the poor woman was taking

this method of alleviating her distress; but her devotion was

interpreted as worship of the Devil.

[11] So Darrel says. The pamphleteer Denison, who put together the story

of Alse Gooderidge, wrote "she should have been executed but that her

spirit killed her in prison."

[12] Darrel gives an extended account of this affair in A True

Narration of the strange and grevous Vexation by the Devil of seven

persons in Lancashire (1600; reprinted in Somers Tracts, III),

170-179. See also George More, A true Discourse concerning the certaine

possession and dispossession of 7 persons in one familie in Lancashire ...

(1600), 9 ff.

[13] Certain matters in connection with this case are interesting.

George More tells us that Mrs. Starchie was an "inheritrix." Some of her

kindred, Papists, prayed for the perishing of her issue. Four of her

children pined away. Mrs. Starchie, when told of their prayers, conveyed

all her property to her husband. She had two children afterwards, the

two that were stricken. It is possible that all this may present some

key to the case, but it is hard to see just how. See More, A true

Discourse, 11-12.

[14] George More, A true Discourse, 15; Harsnett, Discovery, 22.

While Dee took no part in the affair except that he "sharply reproved

and straitly examined" Hartley, he lent Mr. Hopwood, the justice of the

peace before whom Hartley was brought, his copy of the book of Wierus,

then the collections of exorcisms known as the Flagellum Daemonum and

the Fustis Daemonum, and finally the famous Malleus Maleficarum. See

Dee's Private Diary (Camden Soc., London, 1843), entries for March 19,

April 15, and August 6, 1597.

[15] George More, A true Discourse, 21; Darrel, A True Narration

(Somers Tracts, III), 175.

[16] Harsnett, Discovery, tells us that "certain Seminarie priests"

got hold of her and carried her up and down the country and thereby

"wonne great credit."

[17] Darrel's account of this affair is in A True Narration (Somers

Tracts, III), 179-186. Harsnett takes it up in his Discovery, 78-264.

[18] See deposition of Cooper, in Harsnett, Discovery, 114.

[19] Depositions of Somers and Darrel, ibid., 124-125. It must be

recalled that when this was first tried before a commission they were

convinced that it was not imposture. A layman cannot refrain from

suspecting that Darrel had hypnotic control over Somers.

[20] Ibid., 141-142.

[21] Ibid., 141. Harsnett quotes Darrel for this statement.

[22] Ibid., 5; John Darrel, An Apologie, or defence of the possession

of William Sommers ... (1599?), L verso.

[23] Darrel, A True Narration (Somers Tracts, III), 184; see also

his A brief Apologie proving the possession of William Sommers ...

(1599), 17.

[24] Harsnett, Discovery, 7.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid., 8; Darrel, An Apologie, or defence, 4; Darrel, A True

Narration (Somers Tracts, III), 185.

[27] Triall of Maist. Dorrel, narrative in back of pamphlet.

[28] Darrel, A Detection of that sinnful ... discours of Samuel

Harshnet, 40. And see above, p. 56, note.

[29] Harsnett, Discovery, 8.

[30] Ibid., 320-322; Darrel, An Apologie, or defence, L III, says

that the third jury acquitted her. Harsnett refers to the fact that he

was found guilty by the grand inquest.

[31] The Triall of Maist. Dorrel, preface "To the Reader."

[32] Harsnett, Discovery, 9.

[33] Ibid., 78-98.

[34] Yet Darrel must have realized that he had the worst of it. There is

a pathetic acknowledgment of this in the "Preface to the Reader" of his

publication, A Survey of Certaine Dialogical Discourses, written by

John Deacon and John Walker ... (1602): "But like a tried and

weather-beaten bird [I] wish for quiet corner to rest myself in and to

drye my feathers in the warme sun."

[35] T. G. Law, "Devil Hunting in Elizabethan England," in Nineteenth

Century, March, 1894.

[36] On the matter of exorcism the position of the Church of England

became fixed by 1604. The question had been a cause of disagreement

among the leaders of the Reformation. The Lutherans retained exorcism in

the baptismal ritual and rivalled the Roman clergy in their exorcism of

the possessed. It was just at the close of the sixteenth century that

there arose in Lutheran Germany a hot struggle between the believers in

exorcism and those who would oust it as a superstition. The Swiss and

Genevan reformers, unlike Luther, had discarded exorcism, declaring it

to have belonged only to the early church, and charging modern instances

to Papist fraud; and with them seem to have agreed their South German

friends. In England baptismal exorcism was at first retained in the

ritual under Edward VI, but in 1552, under Bucer's influence, it was

dropped. Under Elizabeth the yet greater influence of Zurich and Geneva

must have discredited all exorcism, and one finds abundant evidence of

this in the writings of Jewel and his followers. An interesting letter

of Archbishop Parker in 1574 shows his utter incredulity as to

possession in the case of Agnes Bridges and Rachel Pinder of Lothbury;

see Parker's Correspondence (Parker Soc., Cambridge, 1856), 465-466.

His successor, the Calvinistic Whitgift, was almost certainly of the

same mind. Bancroft, the next archbishop of Canterbury, drew up or at

least inspired that epoch-making body of canons enacted by Convocation

in the spring of 1604, the 72d article of which forbids any Anglican

clergyman, without the express consent of his bishop obtained

beforehand, to use exorcism in any fashion under any pretext, on pain of

being counted an impostor and deposed from the ministry. This ended the

matter so far as the English church was concerned. For this resume of

the Protestant and the Anglican attitude toward exorcism I am indebted

to Professor Burr.

[37] Harsnett, A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (London,

1605), 136-138.

[38] It is not impossible that Harsnett was acting as a mouth-piece for

Bancroft. Darrel wrote: "There is no doubt but that S. H. stand for

Samuell Harsnet, chapline to the Bishop of London, but whither he alone,

or his lord and hee, have discovered this counterfeyting and cosonage

there is the question. Some thinke the booke to be the Bishops owne

doing: and many thinke it to be the joynt worke of them both." A

Detection of that sinnful ... discours of Samuel Harshnet, 7, 8.

[39] From 1602 until 1609 he was archdeacon of Essex; see Victoria

History of Essex, II, (London, 1907), 46.

[40] There is a statement by the Reverend John Swan, who wrote in 1603,

that Harsnett's book had been put into the hands of King James,

presumably after his coming to England; see John Swan, A True and

Breife Report of Mary Glover's Vexation, and of her deliverance ...

(1603), "Dedication to the King," 3. One could wish for some

confirmation of this statement. Certainly James would not at that time

have sympathized with Harsnett's views about witches, but his attitude

on several occasions toward those supposed to be possessed by evil

spirits would indicate that he may very well have been influenced by a

reading of the Discovery.

[41] On page 36 of the Discovery Harsnett wrote: "Whether witches can

send devils into men and women (as many doe pretende) is a question

amongst those that write of such matters, and the learneder and sounder

sort doe hold the negative." One does not need to read far in Harsnett

to understand what he thought.

[42] His scholarship, evident from his books, is attested by Thomas

Fuller, who calls him "a man of great learning, strong parts, and stout

spirit" (Worthies of England, ed. of London, 1840, I, 507).

[43] See his Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, 134-136; his

Discovery also shows the use of Scot.

[44] Harsnett, Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, 98, 123,


[45] Read ibid., 131-140.

of Shakespeare (London, 1845), I, 380-390.