Witchcraft Under Charles Ii And James Ii

No period of English history saw a wider interest in both the theory and

the practice of witchcraft than the years that followed the Restoration.

Throughout the course of the twenty-eight years that spanned the second

rule of the Stuarts, the Devil manifested himself in many forms and with

unusual frequency. Especially within the first half of that regime his

appearances were so thrilling in character that the enemies of the new
king might very well have said that the Evil One, like Charles, had come

to his own again. All over the realm the witches were popping up. If the

total number of trials and of executions did not foot up to the figures

of James I's reign or to those of the Civil War, the alarm was

nevertheless more widely distributed than ever before. In no less than

twenty counties of England witches were discovered and fetched to court.

Up to this time, so far at any rate as the printed records show, the

southwestern counties had been but little troubled. Now Somerset, Devon,

and Cornwall were the storm centre of the panic. In the north Yorkshire

began to win for itself the reputation as a centre of activity that had

long been held by Lancashire. Not that the witch was a new criminal in

Yorkshire courts. During the Civil Wars and the troubled years that

followed the discoverers had been active. But with the reign of Charles

II their zeal increased mightily. Yet, if they had never before fetched

in so many "suspected parties" to the court of the justice of the

peace, they had never before been so often baffled by the outcome. Among

the many such cases known to us during this time there is no mention of

a conviction.[1] In Kent there was a flickering revival of the old

hatred of witches. In the year that Charles gained the throne the city

of Canterbury sent some women to the gibbet. Not so in Essex. In that

county not a single case during this period has been left on record. In

Middlesex, a county which from the days of Elizabeth through to the

Restoration had maintained a very even pace--a stray conviction now and

then among many acquittals--the reign of Charles II saw nothing more

serious than some commitments and releases upon bail. In the Midland

counties, where superstition had flourished in the days of James I,

there were now occasional tales of possession and vague charges which

rarely reached the ears of the assize judges. Northampton, where an

incendiary witch was sentenced, constituted the single exception. In

East Anglia there was just enough stir to prove that the days of Matthew

Hopkins had not been forgotten.

It needs no pointing out that a large proportion of the cases were but a

repetition of earlier trials. If a difference is discernible, it is in

the increased number of accusations that took their start in strange

diseases called possessions. Since the close of the sixteenth century

and the end of John Darrel's activities, the accounts of possession had

fallen off sensibly, but the last third of the seventeenth century saw a

distinct revival of this tendency to assign certain forms of disease to

the operation of the Devil. We have references to many cases, but only

in exceptional instances are the details given. Oliver Heywood, one of

the eminent Dissenters of northern England, fasted and prayed with his

co-workers over the convulsive and hysterical boys and girls in the West

Riding. Nathan Dodgson was left after long fastings in "a very sensible

melting frame,"[2] but the troubles returned and led, as we shall see in

another connection, to very tragic results. The Puritan clergymen do not

seem, however, to have had any highly developed method of exorcism or to

have looked upon cases of possession in a light very different from that

in which they would have looked upon ordinary illnesses.

Among the Baptists of Yorkshire there was a possession that roused wide

comment. Mary Hall of Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire, daughter of a

smith, was possessed in the fall of 1663 with two spirits who were said

to have come to her riding down the chimney upon a stick. The spirits

declared through the girl that Goodwife Harwood had sent them, and when

that suspected woman was brought into the girl's presence the spirits

cried out, "Oh, Goodwife Harwood, are you come?--that is well; ... we

have endeavored to choak her but cannot," and, when Mistress Harwood

left, the spirits begged to go with her.[3]

In Southwark James Barrow, the son of John Barrow, was long possessed,

and neither "doctors, astrologers, nor apothecaries" could help him. He

was taken to the Catholics, but to no purpose. Finally he was cast among

a "poor dispirited people whom the Lord owned as instruments in his hand

to do this great work."[4] By the "poor dispirited people" the Baptists

were almost certainly meant.[5] By their assistance he seems to have

been cured. So also was Hannah Crump of Warwick, who had been afflicted

by witchcraft and put in a London hospital. Through prayer and fasting

she was entirely recovered.

Mary Hall had been taken to Doctor Woodhouse of Berkhampstead, "a man

famous for curing bewitched persons." Woodhouse's name comes up now and

again in the records of his time. He was in fact a very typical specimen

of the witch doctor. When Mary Hall's case had been submitted to him he

had cut off the ends of her nails and "with somewhat he added" hung them

in the chimney over night before making a diagnosis.[6] He professed to

find stolen goods as well and fell foul of the courts in one instance,

probably because the woman who consulted him could not pay the shilling

fee.[7] He was arraigned and spent a term in prison. No doubt many of

the witch physicians knew the inside of prisons and had returned

afterwards to successful practice. Redman, "whom some say is a

Conjurer, others say, He is an honest and able phisitian," had been in

prison, but nevertheless he had afterwards "abundance of Practice" and

was much talked about "in remote parts," all this in spite of the fact

that he was "unlearned in the languages."[8]

Usually, of course, the witch doctor was a poor woman who was very happy

to get a penny fee now and then, but who ran a greater risk of the

gallows than her male competitors. Her reputation, which brought her a

little money from the sick and from those who had lost valuables, made

her at the same time a successful beggar. Those whom she importuned were

afraid to refuse her. But she was in constant peril. If she resented ill

treatment, if she gave in ill wishes as much as she took, she was sure

to hear from it before a stern justice of the peace. It can hardly be

doubted that a large proportion, after the Restoration as in every other

period, of those finally hanged for witchcraft, had in fact made claims

to skill in magic arts. Without question some of them had even traded on

the fear they inspired. Not a few of the wretched creatures fetched to

York castle to be tried were "inchanters."

Very often, indeed, a woman who was nothing more than a midwife, with

some little knowledge of medicine perhaps, would easily be classed by

the public among the regular witch doctors and so come to have a bad

name. Whether she lived up to her name or not--and the temptation to do

so would be great--she would from that time be subject to suspicion, and

might at length become a prey to the justice of the peace. Mrs. Pepper

was no more than a midwife who made also certain simple medical

examinations, but when one of her patients was "strangely handled" she

was taken to court.[9] Margaret Stothard was probably, so far as we can

piece together her story, a woman who had been successful in calming

fretful children and had so gained for herself a reputation as a witch.

Doubtless she had acquired in time a few of the charmer's tricks that

enhanced her reputation and increased her practice. This was all very

well until one of her patients happened to die. Then she was carried to

Newcastle and would probably have suffered death, had it not been for a

wise judge.[10]

These are typical cases. The would-be healer of the sick ran a risk, and

it was not always alone from failure to cure. If a witch doctor found

himself unable to bring relief to a patient, it was easy to suggest that

some other witch doctor--and such were usually women--was bewitching the

patient. There are many instances, and they are not confined to the

particular period with which we are dealing, in which one "good witch"

started the run on the other's reputation. Even the regular physician

may sometimes have yielded to the temptation to crush competition.

Of course, when all the cases are considered, only a very small part of

the "good witches" ever fell into the clutches of the law. The law

prescribed very definite penalties for their operations, but in most

instances no action was taken until after a long accumulation of

"suspicious circumstances," and, even if action was taken, the chances,

as we have seen, were by this time distinctly in favor of the accused.

This is not to say, by any means, that the judges and juries of England

had come over to the side of the witch. The period with which we are

dealing was marked by a variety of decision which betrays the perplexity

of judges and juries. It is true, indeed, that out of from eighty to one

hundred cases where accusations are on record less than twenty witches

were hanged. This does not mean that six times out of every seven the

courts were ruling against the fact of witchcraft. In the case of the

six released there was no very large body of evidence against them to be

considered, or perhaps no strong popular current to be stemmed. In

general, it may be said that the courts were still backing up the law of

James I.

To show this, it is only necessary to run over some of the leading

trials of the period. We shall briefly take up four trials conducted

respectively by Justice Archer, Chief Baron Hale, Justice Rainsford, and

Justice Raymond.

Julian Cox, who was but one of the "pestilent brood" of witches ferreted

out in Somerset by the aggressive justice, Robert Hunt, was tried in

1663 at Taunton before Justice Archer.[11] The charges against her

indeed excited such interest all over England, and elicited, upon the

part of disbelievers, so much derision, that it will be worth our while

to go over the principal points of evidence. The chief witness against

her was a huntsman who told a strange tale. He had started a hare and

chased it behind a bush. But when he came to the bush he had found

Julian Cox there, stooped over and quite out of breath. Another witness

had a strange story to tell about her. She had invited him to come up on

her porch and take a pipe of tobacco with her. While he was with her,

smoking, he saw a toad between his legs. On going home he had taken out

a pipe and smoked again and had again seen what looked to be the same

toad between his legs. "He took the Toad out to kill it, and to his

thinking cut it in several pieces, but returning to his Pipe the Toad

still appeared.... At length the Toad cryed, and vanish'd." A third

witness had seen the accused fly in at her window "in her full

proportion." This tissue of evidence was perhaps the absurdest ever used

against even a witch, but the jury brought in a verdict of guilty. It is

not unpleasant to know that Justice Archer met with a good deal of

criticism for his part in the affair.

In the following year occurred the trials at Bury St. Edmunds, which

derive their interest and importance largely from the position of the

presiding judge, Sir Matthew Hale, who was at this time chief baron of

the exchequer, and was later to be chief justice of the king's bench. He

was allowed, according to the admission of one none too friendly to him,

"on all hands to be the most profound lawyer of his time."[12] Hale had

been a Puritan from his youth, though not of the rigid or theologically

minded sort. In the Civil Wars and the events that followed he had

remained non-partisan. He accepted office from Cromwell, though without

doubt mildly sympathizing with the king. One of those who had assisted

in recalling Charles II, he rose shortly to be chief baron of the

exchequer. Famous for his careful and reasoned interpretation of law, he

was to leave behind him a high reputation for his justice and for the

exceptional precision of his judgments. It is not too much to say that

he was one of the greatest legal figures of his century and that his

decisions served in no small degree to fix the law.

We should like to know how far he had been brought into contact with the

subject of witchcraft, but we can do no more than guess. His early

career had been moulded in no small degree by Selden, who, as has been

noted in an earlier chapter, believed in the punishment of those who

claimed to be witches. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the

Puritans with whom he had been thrown were all of them ready to quote

Scripture against the minions of Satan. We know that he had read some of

the works of Henry More,[13] and, whether or not familiar with his

chapters on witchcraft, would have deduced from that writer's general

philosophy of spirits the particular application.

The trial concerned two women of Lowestoft, Amy Duny and Rose Cullender.

The first had been reputed a witch and a "person of very evil

behaviour." She was in all probability related to some of those women

who had suffered at the hands of Hopkins, and to that connection owed

her ill name. Some six or seven years before the date of the trial she

had got herself into trouble while taking care of the child of a

tradesman in Lowestoft. It would seem that, contrary to the orders of

the mother, she had suckled the child. The child had that same night

been attacked by fits, and a witch doctor of Yarmouth, who was

consulted, had prescribed for it. The reader will note that this

"suspicious circumstance" happened seven years earlier, and a large part

of the evidence presented in court concerned what had occurred from five

to seven years before.

We can not go into the details of a trial which abounded in curious bits

of evidence. The main plot indeed was an old one. The accused woman,

after she had been discharged from employment and reproved, had been

heard to mutter threats, close upon which the children of those she

cursed, who were now the witnesses against her, had fallen ill. Two of

the children had suffered severely and were still afflicted. They had

thrown up pins and even a two-penny nail. The nail, which was duly

offered as an exhibit in court, had been brought to one of the children

by a bee and had been forced into the child's mouth, upon which she

expelled it. This narrative was on a level with the other, that flies

brought crooked pins to the child. Both flies and bee, it will be

understood, were the witches in other form. A similar sort of evidence

was that a toad, which had been found as the result of the witch

doctor's directions, had been thrown into the fire, upon which a sharp

crackling noise ensued. When this incident was testified to in the court

the judge interrupted to ask if after the explosion the substance of the

toad was not to be seen in the fire. He was answered in the negative. On

the next day Amy Duny was found to have her face and body all scorched.

She said to the witness that "she might thank her for it." There can be

no doubt in the world that this testimony of the coincident burning of

the woman and the toad was regarded as damning proof, nor is there any

reason to believe that the court deemed it necessary to go behind the

mere say-so of a single witness for the fact. Along with this sort of

unsubstantial testimony there was presented a monotonous mass of

spectral evidence. Apparitions of the witches were the constant

occasions for the paroxysms of the children. In another connection it

will be observed that this form of proof was becoming increasingly

common in the last part of the seventeenth century. It can hardly be

doubted that in one way or another the use of such evidence at Bury

influenced other trials and more particularly the Salem cases in the New

World, where great importance was attached to evidence of this sort.

The usual nauseating evidence as to the Devil's marks was introduced by

the testimony of the mother of one of the children bewitched. She had

been, a month before, a member of a jury of matrons appointed by a

justice of the peace to examine the body of the accused. Most damning

proof against the woman had been found. It is very hard for us to

understand why Hale allowed to testify, as one of the jury of examining

matrons, a woman who was at the same time mother of one of the bewitched

children upon whom the prosecution largely depended.

So far the case for the prosecution had been very strong, but it was in

the final experiments in court, which were expected to clinch the

evidence, that a very serious mishap occurred. A bewitched child, eleven

years old, had been fetched into court. With eyes closed and head

reclining upon the bar she had remained quiet until one of the accused

was brought up, when she at once became frantic in her effort to scratch

her. This was tried again and again and in every instance produced the

same result. The performance must have had telling effect. But there

happened to be present at the trial three Serjeants of the law. One of

them, Serjeant John Kelyng, a few years later to become chief justice of

the king's bench, was "much dissatisfied." He urged the point that the

mere fact that the children were bewitched did not establish their claim

to designate the authors of their misfortune. There were others present

who agreed with Kelyng in suspecting the actions of the girl on the

stand. Baron Hale was induced, at length, to appoint a committee of

several gentlemen, including Serjeant Kelyng, to make trial of the girl

with her eyes covered. An outside party was brought up to her and

touched her hand. The girl was expecting that Amy Duny would be brought

up and flew into the usual paroxysms. This was what the committee had

expected, and they declared their belief that the whole transaction was

a mere imposture. One would have supposed that every one else must come

to the same conclusion, but Mr. Pacy, the girl's father, offered an

explanation of her mistake that seems to have found favor. The maid, he

said, "might be deceived by a suspicion that the Witch touched her when

she did not." One would suppose that this subtle suggestion would have

broken the spell, and that Mr. Pacy would have been laughed out of

court. Alas for the rarity of humor in seventeenth-century court rooms!

Not only was the explanation received seriously, but it was, says the

court reporter, afterwards found to be true.

In the mean time expert opinion had been called in. It is hard to say

whether Dr. Browne had been requisitioned for the case or merely

happened to be present. At all events, he was called upon to render his

opinion as a medical man. The name of Thomas Browne is one eminent in

English literature and not unknown in the annals of English medicine and

science. More than twenty years earlier he had expressed faith in the

reality of witchcraft.[14] In his Commonplace Book, a series of

jottings made throughout his life, he reiterated his belief, but uttered

a doubt as to the connection between possession and witchcraft.[15]

We should be glad to know at what time Browne wrote this deliverance;

for, when called upon at Bury, he made no application of his principles

of caution. He gave it as his opinion that the bewitchment of the two

girls was genuine. The vomiting of needles and nails reminded him very

much of a recent case in Denmark. For the moment the physician spoke,

when he said that "these swounding Fits were Natural." But it was the

student of seventeenth-century theology who went on: they were

"heightened to a great excess by the subtilty of the Devil, co-operating

with the Malice of these which we term Witches, at whose Instance he

doth these Villanies."

No doubt Browne's words confirmed the sentiment of the court room and

strengthened the case of the prosecution. But it will not be overlooked

by the careful reader that he did not by any means commit himself as to

the guilt of the parties at the bar.

When the judge found that the prisoners had "nothing material" to say

for themselves he addressed the jury. Perhaps because he was not

altogether clear in his own mind about the merits of the case, he

refused to sum up the evidence. It is impossible for us to understand

why he did not carry further the tests which had convinced Kelyng of the

fraud, or why he did not ask questions which would have uncovered the

weakness of the testimony. One cannot but suspect that North's criticism

of him, that he had a "leaning towards the Popular" and that he had

gained such "transcendent" authority as not easily to bear

contradiction,[16] was altogether accurate. At all events he passed over

the evidence and went on to declare that there were two problems before

the jury: (1) were these children bewitched, (2) were the prisoners at

the bar guilty of it? As to the existence of witches, he never doubted

it. The Scriptures affirmed it, and all nations provided laws against

such persons.

On the following Sunday Baron Hale composed a meditation upon the

subject. Unfortunately it was simply a dissertation on Scripture texts

and touched upon the law at no point.

It is obvious enough to the most casual student that Sir Matthew Hale

had a chance to anticipate the work of Chief Justice Holt and missed it.

In the nineties of the seventeenth century, as we shall see, there was a

man in the chief justiceship who dared to nullify the law of James I. It

is not too much to say that Matthew Hale by a different charge to the

jury could as easily have made the current of judicial decisions run in

favor of accused witches all over England. His weight was thrown in the

other direction, and the witch-triers for a half-century to come invoked

the name of Hale.[17]

There is an interesting though hardly trustworthy story told by Speaker

Onslow[18]--writing a century later--that Hale "was afterwards much

altered in his notions as to this matter, and had great concern upon him

for what had befallen these persons." This seems the more doubtful

because there is not a shred of proof that Hale's decisions occasioned a

word of criticism among his contemporaries.[19] So great, indeed, was

the spell of his name that not even a man like John Webster dared to

comment upon his decision. Not indeed until nearly the middle of the

eighteenth century does anyone seem to have felt that the decision

called for apology.

The third noteworthy ruling in this period anent the crime of witchcraft

was made a few years later in Wiltshire by Justice Rainsford. The story,

as he himself told it to a colleague, was this: "A Witch was brought to

Salisbury and tried before him. Sir James Long came to his Chamber, and

made a heavy Complaint of this Witch, and said that if she escaped, his

Estate would not be worth any Thing; for all the People would go away.

It happen'd that the Witch was acquitted, and the Knight continued

extremely concern'd; therefore the Judge, to save the poor Gentleman's

Estate, order'd the Woman to be kept in Gaol, and that the Town should

allow her 2s. 6d. per Week; for which he was very thankful. The very

next Assizes, he came to the Judge to desire his lordship would let her

come back to the Town. And why? They could keep her for 1s. 6d. there;

and, in the Gaol, she cost them a shilling more."[20] Another case

before Justice Rainsford showed him less lenient. By a mere chance we

have a letter, written at the time by one of the justices of the peace

in Malmesbury, which sheds no little light on this affair and on the

legal status of witchcraft at that time.[21] A certain Ann Tilling had

been taken into custody on the complaint of Mrs. Webb of Malmesbury. The

latter's son had swooning fits in which he accused Ann of bewitching

him. Ann Tilling made voluble confession, implicating Elizabeth Peacock

and Judith Witchell, who had, she declared, inveigled her into the

practice of their evil arts. Other witches were named, and in a short

time twelve women and two men were under accusation. But the alderman

of Malmesbury, who was the chief magistrate of that town, deemed it wise

before going further to call in four of the justices of the peace in

that subdivision of the county. Three of these justices of the peace

came and listened to the confessions, and were about to make out a

mittimus for sending eleven of the accused to Salisbury, when the fourth

justice arrived, the man who has given us the story. He was, according

to his own account, not "very credulous in matters of Witchcraft," and

he made a speech to the other justices. "Gentlemen, what is done at this

place, a Borough remote from the centre of this large County, and almost

forty miles from Salisbury, will be expended [sic] both by the

Reverend Judges, the learned Counsayle there ..., and the Gentry of the

body of the County, so that if anything be done here rashly, it will be

severely censured." He went on to urge the danger that the boy whose

fits were the cause of so much excitement might be an impostor, and that

Ann Tilling, who had freely confessed, might be in confederacy with the

parents. The skeptical justice, who in spite of his boasted incredulity

was a believer in the reality of witchcraft, was successful with his

colleagues. All the accused were dismissed save Tilling, Peacock, and

Witchell. They were sent to Salisbury and tried before Sir Richard

Rainsford. Elizabeth Peacock, who had been tried on similar charges

before, was dismissed. The other two were sentenced to be hanged.[22]

Ten years later came a fourth remarkable ruling against witchcraft, this

time by Justice Raymond at Exeter. During the intervening years there

had been cases a-plenty in England and a few hangings, but none that had

attracted comment. It was not until the summer of 1682, when three

Devonshire women were arraigned, tried, and sent to the gallows by

Justice Raymond,[23] that the public again realized that witchcraft was

still upheld by the courts.

The trials in themselves had no very striking features. At least two of

the three women had been beggars; the other, who had been the first

accused and who had in all probability involved her two companions, had

on two different occasions before been arraigned but let off. The

evidence submitted against them consisted of the usual sworn statements

made by neighbors to the justice of the peace, as well as of hardly

coherent confessions by the accused. The repetition of the Lord's Prayer

was gone through with and the results of examinations by a female jury

were detailed ad nauseam. The poor creatures on trial were remarkably

stupid, even for beings of their grade. Their several confessions

tallied with one another in hardly a single point.

Sir Thomas Raymond and Sir Francis North were the judges present at the

Exeter assizes. Happily the latter has left his impressions of this

trial.[24] He admits that witch trials worried him because the evidence

was usually slight, but the people very intent upon a verdict of guilty.

He was very glad that at Exeter his colleague who sat upon the "crown

side" had to bear the responsibilities.[25] The two women (he seems to

have known of no more) were scarce alive as to sense and understanding,

but were "overwhelm'd with melancholy and waking Dreams." Barring

confessions, the other evidence he considered trifling, and he cites the

testimony of a witness that "he saw a cat leap in at her (the old

woman's) window, when it was twilight; and this Informant farther saith

that he verily believeth the said Cat to be the Devil, and more saith

not." Raymond, declares his colleague, made no nice distinctions as to

the possibility of melancholy women contracting an opinion of themselves

that was false, but left the matter to the jury.[26]

We have already intimated that the rulings of the courts were by no

means all of them adverse to the witches. Almost contemporaneous with

the far-reaching sentence of Sir Matthew Hale at Bury were the trials in

Somerset, where flies and nails and needles played a similar part, but

where the outcome was very different. A zealous justice of the peace,

Robert Hunt, had for the last eight years been on the lookout for

witches. In 1663 he had turned Julian Cox over to the tender mercies of

Justice Archer. By 1664 he had uncovered a "hellish knot" of the wicked

women and was taking depositions against them, wringing confessions from

them and sending them to gaol with all possible speed.[27] The women

were of the usual class, a herd of poor quarrelsome, bickering females

who went from house to house seeking alms. In the numbers of the accused

the discovery resembled that at Lancaster in 1633-1634, as indeed it did

in other ways. A witch meeting or conventicle was confessed to. The

county was being terrified and entertained by the most horrible tales,

when suddenly a quietus was put upon the affair "by some of them in

authority." A witch chase, which during the Civil Wars would have led to

a tragedy, was cut short, probably through the agency of a privy council

less fearful of popular sentiment than the assize judges.

The Mompesson case[28] was of no less importance in its time, although

it belongs rather in the annals of trickery than in those of

witchcraft. But the sensation which it caused in England and the

controversy waged over it between the upholders of witchcraft and the

"Sadducees," give the story a considerable interest and render the

outcome of the trial significant. The only case of its sort in its time,

it was nevertheless most typical of the superstition of the time. A

little town in Wiltshire had been disturbed by a stray drummer. The

self-constituted noise-maker was called to account by a stranger in the

village, a Mr. Mompesson of Tedworth, who on examining the man's license

saw that it had been forged and took it away from him. This, at any

rate, was Mr. Mompesson's story as to how he had incurred the ill will

of the man. The drummer took his revenge in a singular way. Within a few

days the Mompesson family at Tedworth began to be annoyed at night by

strange noises or drummings on the roofs. All the phenomena and

manifestations which we associate with a modern haunted-house story were

observed by this alarmed family of the seventeenth century. The little

girls were knocked about in their beds at night, a stout servant was

forcibly held hand and foot, the children's shoes were thrown about, the

chairs glided about the room. It would seem that all this bold

horse-play must soon have been exposed, but it went on merrily. Whenever

any tune was called for, it was given on the drum. The family Bible was

thrown upside down into the ashes. For three weeks, however, the spirits

ceased operations during the lying-in of Mrs. Mompesson. But they

sedulously avoided the family servants, especially when those retainers

happened to be armed with swords. Well they might, for we are told that

on one occasion, after a pistol shot had been fired at the place where

they were heard, blood was found on the spot. In another instance,

according to Mr. Mompesson's own account, there were seen figures, "in

the shape of Men, who, as soon as a Gun was discharg'd, would shuffle

away together into an Arbour."

It is clear enough that a somewhat clumsy fraud was being imposed upon

Mr. Mompesson. A contemporary writer tells us he was told that it was

done by "two Young Women in the House with a design to scare thence Mr.

Mompesson's Mother."[29] From other sources it is quite certain that the

injured drummer had a hand in the affair. A very similar game had been

played at Woodstock in 1649, and formed a comedy situation of which

Scott makes brilliant use in his novel of that name. Indeed, it is quite

possible that the drummer, who had been a soldier of Cromwell's, was

inspired by a memory of that affair.

But there was no one to detect the fraud, as at Woodstock. Tedworth

became a Mecca for those interested in the supernatural. One of the

visitors was Joseph Glanvill, at this time a young man of twenty-seven,

later to become a member of the Royal Society and chaplain in ordinary

to the king. The spirits were less noisy; they were always somewhat

restrained before visitors, but scratched on bed sheets and panted in

dog fashion, till Glanvill was thoroughly taken in. For the rest of his

life this psychic experimenter fought a literary war over this case with

those who made fun of it. While we cannot prove it, we may guess with

some confidence that this episode was the beginning of the special

interest in the supernatural upon Glanvill's part which was later to

make him the arch-defender of the witchcraft superstition in his


How wide an interest the matter evoked may be judged from the warm

discussions upon it at Cambridge, and from the royal interest in it

which induced Charles to send down a committee of investigation.

Curiously enough, the spirits were singularly and most extraordinarily

quiet when the royal investigators were at work, a fact to which

delighted skeptics pointed with satisfaction.

One wonders that the drummer, who must have known that his name would be

connected with the affair, failed to realize the risk he was running

from the witch hunters. He was indicted on minor felonies of another

sort, but the charges which Mompesson brought against him seem to have

been passed over. The man was condemned for stealing and was

transported. With his departure the troubles at Tedworth ceased. But the

drummer, in some way, escaped and returned to England. The angry

Mompesson now brought him to the assizes as a felon on the strength of

the statute of James I. Unhappily we have no details of this trial, nor

do we know even the name of the judge; but we do know that the jury gave

a verdict of acquittal.

In 1671 Cornwall was stirred up over a witch whose crimes were said to

be directed against the state. She had hindered the English fleet in

their war against the Dutch, she had caused a bull to kill one of the

enemies in Parliament of the Non-Conformists, she had been responsible

for the barrenness of the queen. And for all these political crimes the

chief evidence was that some cats had been seen playing ("dancing") near

her house. She was committed, along with several other women who were

accused. Although at the assizes they were all proved to have had cats

and rats about them, they went free.[30]

In 1682, the same year in which the three women of Devonshire had been

condemned, there was a trial at Southwark, just outside of London, which

resulted in a verdict of acquittal. The case had many of the usual

features, but in two points was unique. Joan Butts was accused of having

bewitched a child that had been taken with fits.[31] Nineteen or twenty

witnesses testified against the witch. One of the witnesses heard her

say that, if she had not bewitched the child, if all the devils in hell

could help her, she would bewitch it. Joan admitted the words, but said

that she had spoken them in passion. She then turned on one of the

witnesses and declared that he had given himself to the Devil, body and

soul. Chief Justice Pemberton was presiding, and he called her to order

for this attack on a witness, and then catechized her as to her means of

knowing the fact. The woman had thoughtlessly laid herself open by her

own words to the most serious suspicion. In spite of this, however, the

jury brought her in not guilty, "to the great amazement of some, ... yet

others who consider the great difficulty in proving a Witch, thought the

jury could do no less than acquit her."

This was, during the period, the one trial in or near London of which we

have details. There can be no doubt that the courts in London and the

vicinity were beginning to ignore cases of witchcraft. After 1670 there

were no more trials of the sort in Middlesex.

The reader will remember that Justice North had questioned the equity of

Justice Raymond's decision at Exeter. He has told us the story of a

trial at Taunton-Dean, where he himself had to try a witch.[32] A

ten-year-old girl, who was taking strange fits and spitting out pins,

was the witness against an old man whom she accused of bewitching her.

The defendant made "a Defence as orderly and well expressed as I ever

heard spoke." The judge then asked the justice of the peace who had

committed the man his opinion. He said that he believed the girl,

"doubling herself in her Fit, as being convulsed, bent her Head down

close to her Stomacher, and with her Mouth, took Pins out of the Edge of

that, and then, righting herself a little, spit them into some

By-stander's Hands." "The Sum of it was Malice, Threatening, and

Circumstances of Imposture in the Girl." As the judge went downstairs

after the man had been acquitted, "an hideous old woman" cried to him,

"My Lord, Forty Years ago they would have hang'd me for a Witch, and

they could not; and now they would have hang'd my poor Son."

The five cases we have cited, while not so celebrated as those on the

other side, were quite as representative of what was going on in

England. It is to be regretted that we have not the records by which to

compute the acquittals of this period. In a large number of cases where

we have depositions we have no statement of the outcome. This is

particularly true of Yorkshire. As has been pointed out in the earlier

part of the chapter, we can be sure that most of these cases were

dismissed or were never brought to trial.

When we come to the question of the forms of evidence presented during

this period, we have a story that has been told before. Female juries,

convulsive children or child pretenders, we have met them all before.

Two or three differences may nevertheless be noted. The use of spectral

evidence was becoming increasingly common. The spectres, as always,

assumed weird forms. Nicholas Rames's wife (at Longwitton, in the north)

saw Elizabeth Fenwick and the Devil dancing together.[33] A sick boy in

Cornwall saw a "Woman in a blue Jerkin and Red Petticoat with Yellow and

Green patches," who was quickly identified and put in hold.[34]

Sometimes the spectres were more material. Jane Milburne of Newcastle

testified that Dorothy Stranger, in the form of a cat, had leaped upon

her and held her to the ground for a quarter of an hour.[35] A "Barber's

boy" in Cambridge had escaped from a spectral woman in the isle of Ely,

but she followed him to Cambridge and killed him with a blow. "He had

the exact mark in his forehead, being dead, where the Spiritual Woman

did hit him alive."[36] It is unnecessary to multiply cases. The

Collection of Modern Relations is full of the same sort of evidence.

It has been seen that in nearly every epoch of witch history the

voluntary and involuntary confessions of the accused had greatly

simplified the difficulties of prosecution. The witches whom Matthew

Hopkins discovered were too ready to confess to enormous and unnatural

crimes. In this respect there is a marked change in the period of the

later Stuarts. Elizabeth Style of Somerset in 1663 and the three

Devonshire witches of 1682 were the only ones who made confessions.

Elizabeth Style[37] had probably been "watched," in spite of Glanvill's

statement to the contrary, perhaps somewhat in the same torturing way as

the Suffolk witches whom Hopkins "discovered," and her wild confession

showed the effect. The Devonshire women were half-witted creatures, of

the type that had always been most voluble in confession; but such were

now exceptions.

This means one of two things. Either the witches of the Restoration were

by some chance a more intelligent set, or they were showing more spirit

than ever before because they had more supporters and fairer treatment

in court. It is quite possible that both suppositions have in them some

elements of truth. As the belief in the powers of witches developed in

form and theory, it came to draw within its radius more groups of

people. In its earlier stages the attack upon the witch had been in part

the community's way of ridding itself of a disreputable member. By the

time that the process of attack had been developed for a century, it had

become less impersonal. Personal hatreds were now more often the

occasion of accusation. Individual malice was playing a larger role. In

consequence those who were accused were more often those who were

capable of fighting for themselves or who had friends to back them. And

those friends were more numerous and zealous because the attitude of the

public and of the courts was more friendly to the accused witch. This

explanation is at best, however, nothing more than a suggestion. We have

not the material for confident generalization.

One other form of evidence must be mentioned. The town of Newcastle,

which in 1649 had sent to Scotland for a witchfinder, was able in 1673

to make use of home-grown talent. In this instance it was a woman, Ann

Armstrong, who implicated a score of her neighbors and at length went

around pointing out witches. She was a smooth-witted woman who was

probably taking a shrewd method of turning off charges against herself.

Her testimony dealt with witch gatherings or conventicles held at

various times and places. She told whom she had seen there and what they

had said about their crimes. She told of their feasts and of their

dances. Poor woman, she had herself been compelled to sing for them

while they danced. Nor was this the worst. She had been terribly

misused. She had been often turned into a horse, then bridled and


It would not be worth while to go further into Ann Armstrong's stories.

It is enough to remark that she offered details, as to harm done to

certain individuals in certain ways, which tallied closely with the

sworn statements of those individuals as to what had happened to them at

the times specified. The conclusion cannot be avoided that the female

witchfinder had been at no small pains to get even such minute details

in exact form. She had gathered together all the witch stories of that

part of Northumberland and had embodied them in her account of the

confessions made at the "conventicles."

What was the ruling of the court on all this evidence we do not know. We

have only one instance in which any evidence was ruled out. That was at

the trial of Julian Cox in 1663. Justice Archer tried an experiment in

that trial, but before doing so he explained to the court that no

account was to be taken of the result in making up their verdict. He had

heard that a witch could not repeat the petition in the Lord's Prayer,

"Lead us not into temptation." The witch indeed failed to meet the


In the course of this period we have two trials that reveal a connection

between witchcraft and other crimes. Perhaps it would be fairer to say

that the charge of witchcraft was sometimes made when other crimes were

suspected, but could not be proved. The first case concerned a rich

farmer in Northamptonshire who had gained the ill will of a woman named

Ann Foster. Thirty of his sheep were found dead with their "Leggs broke

in pieces, and their Bones all shattered in their Skins." A little later

his house and barns were set on fire. Ann Foster was brought to trial

for using witchcraft against him, confessed to it, and was hanged.[40]

The other case was at Brightling in Sussex, not far from London. There a

woman who was suspected as the one who had told a servant that Joseph

Cruther's house would be burned--a prophecy which came true very

shortly--was accused as a witch. She had been accused years before at

the Maidstone assizes, but had gone free. This time she was "watched"

for twenty-four hours and four ministers kept a fast over the


These cases are worth something as an indication that the charge of

witchcraft was still a method of getting rid of people whom the

community feared.

At the beginning of this chapter the years 1660 to 1688 were marked off

as constituting a single epoch in the history of the superstition. Yet

those years were by no means characterized by the same sort of court

verdicts. The sixties saw a decided increase over the years of the

Commonwealth in the number of trials and in the number of executions.

The seventies witnessed a rapid dropping off in both figures. Even more

so the eighties. By the close of the eighties the accounts of witchcraft

were exceedingly rare. The decisions of the courts in the matter were in

a state of fluctuation. Two things were happening. The justices of the

peace were growing much more reluctant to send accused witches to the

assize courts; and the itinerant judges as a body were, in spite of the

decisions of Hale and Raymond, more careful in witch trials than ever

before, and more likely to withstand public sentiment.

The changes of opinion, as reflected in the literature of the time,

especially in the literature of the subject, will show the same

tendencies. We shall take them up in the next chapter.

[1] See Raine, ed., York Depositions (Surtees Soc.), preface, xxx.

[2] Joseph Hunter, Life of Heywood (London, 1842), 167, and Heywood's

Diaries, ed. J. H. Turner (Brighouse, 1881-1885), I, 199; III, 100.

Heywood, who was one of the leading Dissenters of his time, must not be

credited with extreme superstition. In noting the death of a boy whom

his parents believed bewitched, he wrote, "Oh that they saw the lords

hand." Diary, I, 287.

[3] William Drage, Daimonomageia (London, 1665), 32-38.

[4] The Lord's Arm Stretched Out, ... or a True Relation of the

wonderful Deliverance of James Barrow ... (London, 1664).

[5] Compare Drage, op. cit., 36, 39, 42, with The Lord's Arm

Stretched Out, 17. Mary Hall, whose cure Drage celebrates, had friends

among the Baptists. Drage seems to connect her case with those of Barrow

and Hannah Crump, both of whom were helped by that "dispirited people"

whom the author of The Lord's Arm Stretched Out exalts.

[6] Drage, op. cit., 34.

[7] Yorkshire Notes and Queries, I (Bradford, 1885), 26. But a

physician in Winchester Park, whom Hannah Crump had consulted, had asked

five pounds to unbewitch her.

[8] Drage, op. cit., 39.

[9] York Depositions, 127.

[10] See E. Mackenzie, History of Northumberland (Newcastle, 1825),

II, 33-36. We do not know that the woman was excused, but the case was

before Henry Ogle and we may fairly guess the outcome.

[11] Glanvill, Sadducismus Triumphatus, pt. ii, 191-209.

[12] This is the estimate of him by North, who adds: "and he knew it."

Roger North, Life of the Rt. Hon. Francis North, Baron of Guilford ...

(London, 1742), 62-63.

[13] Diary and Correspondence of Dr. John Worthington, II, pt. I

(Chetham Soc., no. 36, 1855), 155.

[14] In his Religio Medici. See Sir Thomas Browne's Works (ed. S.

Wilkin, London, 1851-1852), II, 43.

[15] Ibid., IV, 389.

[16] Roger North, op. cit., 61.

[17] Inderwick has given a good illustration of Hale's weakness of

character: "I confess," he says, "to a feeling of pain at finding him in

October, 1660, sitting as a judge at the Old Bailey, trying and

condemning to death batches of the regicides, men under whose orders he

had himself acted, who had been his colleagues in parliament, with whom

he had sat on committees to alter the law." Interregnum, 217-218.

[18] Hist. MSS. Comm. Reports, XIV, 9, p. 480.

[19] Bishop Burnet, in his Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale (London,

1682), does not seem to have felt called upon to mention the Bury trial

at all. See also Lord Campbell, Lives of the Chief Justices (London,

1849), I, 563-567.

[20] Roger North, op. cit., 130, 131. The story, as here told,

ascribes the event to the year preceding Lord Guilford's first western

circuit--i. e., to 1674. But this perhaps need not be taken too

exactly, and the witch was probably that Elizabeth Peacock who was

acquitted in 1670 and again in the case of 1672 described above. At

least the list of "Indictments for witchcraft on the Western Circuit

from 1670 to 1712," published by Inderwick in his Sidelights on the

Stuarts (London, 1888), shows no other acquittal in Wiltshire during

this decade.

[21] For this letter see the Gentleman's Magazine, 1832, pt. I,

405-410, 489-402. The story is confirmed in part by Inderwick's finds in

the western Gaol Delivery records. As to the trustworthiness of this

unknown justice of the peace, see above, pp. 160, 162, and notes.

[22] That the judge was Sir Richard Rainsford appears from Inderwick's

list, mentioned above, note 20.

[23] A True and Impartial Relation of the Informations against ...

Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles, and Susanna Edwards (London, 1682).

And The Tryal, Condemnation and Execution of Three Witches ...

(London, 1682). See also below, note 26, and appendix A, Sec. 6.

[24] Roger North, op. cit., 130.

[25] At a trial at the York assizes in 1687 Sir John Reresby seems to

have played about the same part that North played at Exeter. Serjeant

Powell, later to be chief justice, was presiding over the case. "An old

woman was condemned for a witch. Those who were more credulous in points

of this nature than myself, conceived the evidence to be very strong

against her. The boy she was said to have bewitched fell down on a

sudden before all the court when he saw her, and would then as suddenly

return to himself again, and very distinctly relate the several injuries

she had done him: but in all this it was observed the boy was free from

any distortion; that he did not foam at the mouth, and that his fits did

not leave him gradually, but all at once; so that, upon the whole, the

judge thought it proper to reprieve her." Memoirs and Travels of Sir

John Reresby (London, 1813), 329.

[26] There is indeed some evidence that Raymond wished not to condemn

the women, but yielded nevertheless to public opinion. In a pamphlet

published five years later it is stated that the judge "in his charge to

the jury gave his Opinion that these three poor Women (as he supposed)

were weary of their Lives, and that he thought it proper for them to be

carryed to the Parish from whence they came, and that the Parish should

be charged with their Maintainance; for he thought their oppressing

Poverty had constrained them to wish for Death." Unhappily the neighbors

made such an outcry that the women were found guilty and sentenced. This

is from a later and somewhat untrustworthy account, but it fits in well

with what North says of the case. The Life and Conversation of

Temperance Floyd, Mary Lloyd [sic], and Susanna Edwards: ... (London,


[27] The second part of Glanvill's Sadducismus Triumphatus is full of

these depositions.

[28] For a full account of this affair see Glanvill's Sadducismus

Triumphatus, pt. ii, preface and Relation I. Glanvill had investigated

the matter and had diligently collected all the evidence. He was

familiar also with what the "deriders" had to say, and we can discover

their point of view from his answers. See also John Beaumont, An

Historical, Physiological and Theological Treatise of Spirits,

Apparitions, Witchcrafts, and other Magical Practices (London, 1705),


[29] Ibid., 309.

[30] Cal. St. P., Dom., 1671, 105, 171.

[31] We have two accounts of this affair: Strange and Wonderful News

from Yowell in Surry (1681), and An Account of the Tryal and

Examination of Joan Buts (1682).

[32] Roger North, op. cit., 131-132.

[33] York Depositions, 247.

[34] A True Account ... of one John Tonken, of Pensans in Cornwall ...

(1686). For other examples of spectral evidence see York Depositions,

88; Roberts, Southern Counties (London, 1856), 525-526; Gentleman's

Magazine, 1832, pt. II, 489.

[35] York Depositions, 112, 113.

[36] Drage, Daimonomageia, 12.

[37] For an account of her case, see Glanvill, Sadducismus

Triumphatus, pt. ii, 127-146.

[38] York Depositions, 191-201.

[39] For a complete account of the Julian Cox case see Glanvill,

Sadducismus Triumphatus, pt. ii, 191-209.

[40] A Full and True Relation of the Tryal ... of Ann Foster ...

(London, 1674).

[41] Sussex Archaeological Collections, XVIII, 111-113.