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WERE not every chapter of the history of the human mind too precious an inheritance to be willingly relinquished, for appalling as its contents may be, the value of the materials it may furnish may be inestimable, — we might otherwise be tempted to wish that the miserable record in which the excesses occasioned by the witch mania are narrated, could be struck out of its pages, and for ever cancelled. Most assuredly, he, who is content to take the fine exaggeration of the author of Hydriotaphia as a serious and literal truth, and who believes with him that “man is a glorious animal,” must not go to the chapter which contains that record for his evidences and proofs. If he should be in search of materials for humiliation and abasement, he will find in the history of witchcraft in this country, from the beginning to the end of the seventeenth century, large and abundant materials, whether it affects the species or the individual. In truth, human nature is never seen in worse colours than in that dark and dismal review. Childhood, without
of its engaging properties, appears prematurely artful, wicked and cruel"; woman, the victim of a wretched
Take, as an instance, the children of Mr. Throgmorton, of Warbois, for bewitching whom, Mother Samuels, her husband, and daughter, suffered in 1593. No veteran professors "in the art of ingeniously tormenting" could
and debasing bigotry, has yet so little of the feminine adjuncts, that the fountains of our sympathies are almost closed; and man, tyrannizing over the sex he was bound to protect, in its helpless destitution and enfeebled decline, seems lost in prejudice and superstition and only strong in oppression. If we turn from the common herd to the luminaries of the age, to those whose works are the landmarks of literature and science, the reference is equally disappointing ;
“ The sun itself is dark
And silent as the moon
have administered the question with more consummate skill than these little incarnate fiends, till the poor old woman was actually induced, from their confident asseverations and plausible counterfeiting, to believe at last that she had been a witch all her life without knowing it. She made a confession, following the story which they had prompted, on their assurances that it was the only means to restore them, and then was hanged upon that confession, to which she adhered on the scaffold. Few tracts present a more vivid picture of manners than that in which the account of this case of witchcraft is contained. It is perhaps the rarest of the English tracts relating to witchcraft, and is entitled “ The most strange and admirable Discoverie of the three Witches of Warboys, arraigned, convicted, and executed at the last Assizes at Huntingdon, for the bewitching of the five daughters of Robert Throckmorton, Esquire, and divers other persons with sundrie Devilish and grievous torments. And also for the bewitching to Death of the Lady Crumwell, the like hath not been heard of in this age. London, Printed by the Widdowe Orwin for Thomas Man and John Winnington, and are to be sold in Paternoster Rowe at the Signe of the Talbot.” 1593, 4to. My copy was Brand's, and formed Lot 8224 in his Sale Catalogue.