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We find the illustrious author of the Novum Organon sacrificing to courtly suppleness his philosophic truth, and gravely prescribing the ingredients for a witches'ointment;—Raleigh, adopting miserable fallacies at second hand, without subjecting them to the crucible of his acute and vigorous understanding ;' — Selden, maintaining that crimes of the imagination may be punished with death;? — The detector of Vulgar Errors, and the most humane of physicians,* giving the casting weight to the vacillating bigotry of Sir Matthew Hale ;-— Hobbes, ever sceptical, penetrating and sagacious,
Lord Bacon thinks (see his Sylva Sylvarum) that soporiferous medicines are likeliest” for this purpose, such as henbane, hemlock, mandrake, moonshade, tobacco, opium, saffron, poplar leaves, &c.
: See his History of the World.
* Sir Thomas Browne's evidence at the trial of Amy Duny and Rose Cullender at Bury St. Edmunds in 1664, is too well known to need an extract from the frequently reprinted report of the case. To adopt the words of an able writer, (Retros. Review, vol. v. p. 118,) “this trial is the only place in which we ever meet with the name of Sir Thomas Browne without pleasurable associations."
5 Those who wish to have presented to them a faithful likeness of Sir Matthew Hale must not consult Burnet or Baxter, for that great judge, like Sir Epicure Mammon, sought “for his meet flatterers the gravest of divines,” but will not fail to find it in the pages of Roger North, who has depicted his character with a strength and accuracy of outline which no Vandyck or Lely of biography ever surpassed. Would that we could exchange some of those“ faultless monsters” with which that fascinating department of literature too much abounds, for a few more such instantly recognised specimens of true but erring and unequal humanity, which are as rare as they are precious. In the unabridged life of Lord Guildford by Roger North, which, with his own most interesting and yet unpublished autobiography,
yet here paralyzed, and shrinking from the subject as if afraid to touch it ; —The adventurous explorer, who sounded the depths and channels of the “Intellectual System” along all the “ wide watered” shores of antiquity, running after witches to hear them recite the Common Prayer and the Creed, as a rational test of guilt or innocence ; —The gentle spirit of Dr. Henry More, girding on the armour of persecution, and rousing itself from a Platonic reverie on the Divine Life, to assume the hood and cloak of a familiar of the Inquisition ;? —and the patient and enquiring Boyle, putting
are in my possession in his autograph, are found some additional touches which confirm the general accuracy of the portrait he has sketched of Hale in the work which has been printed. (Vide North's Life of Lord Guildford, by Roscoe, vol. i. p. 119.)
See his Dialogue on the Common Laws of England. 2 Dr. Cudworth was the friend whom More refers to without naming, Collections of Relations, p, 336, edit. 1726, 8vo.
3 There is no name in this catalogue that excites more poignant regret than that of Dr. Henry More. So exalted was his character, so serene and admirable his temper, so full of harmony his whole intellectual constitution, that, irradiated at once by all the lights of religion and philosophy, and with clearer glimpses of the land of vision and the glories behind the veil than perhaps uninspired mortality ever partook of before, he seems to have reached as near to the full standard of perfection as it is possible for frail and feeble humanity to attain. Dr. Outram said that he looked upon Dr. More as the holiest person upon the face of the earth; and the sceptical Hobbes, who never dealt in compliment, observed, “ That if his own philosophy were not true, he knew of none that he should sooner like than More's of Cambridge." His biographer, Ward, concludes his life in the following glowing terms :- “ Thus lived and died the eminent Dr. More: thus set this bright and illustrious star, vanishing by degrees out of our sight after, to the surprise and admiration of many, (like that which
aside for a while his searches for the grand Magisterium, and listening, as if spell-bound, with gratified attention to stories of witches at Oxford, and devils at Mascon. Nor is it from a retrospect of our own intellectual progress only that we find how capricious, how intermitting, and how little privileged to great names or high intellects, or even to those minds which seemed to possess the very qualifications which would operate as conductors, are those illuminating gleams of common sense which shoot athwart the gloom, and aid a nation on its tardy progress to wisdom, humanity, and justice. If on the Continent there were, in the sixteenth
was observed in Cassiopeia's chair,) it had illuminated, as it were, both worlds so long at once.” At the lapse of many years I have not forgotten the impassioned fondness with which the late and most lamented Robert Southey dwelt upon the memory of the Cambridge Plato, or the delight with which he greeted some works of his favourite author which I was fortunate enough to point out to him, with which he had not been previously acquainted. The sad reverse of the picture will be seen by those who consult the folio of More's philosophical works and Glanville's Sadducismus Triumphatus, the greatest part of which is derived from More's Collections. His hallucinations on the subject of witchcraft, from which none of the English writers of the Platonic school were exempt, are the more extraordinary, as a sister error, judicial astrology, met in More with its most able oppugner. His tract, which has excited much less attention than its merit deserves, (I have not been able to trace a single quotation from it in any author during the last century,) is entitled “Tetractys Anti-astrologica, or a Confutation of Astrology." Lond. 1681, 4to. I may mention while on the subject of More, that the second and most valuable part of the memoir of him by Ward, his devoted admirer and pupil, which was never printed, is in my possession, in manuscript.
See Boyle's letter on the subject of the latter, in the 5th vol. of the folio edition of his works.
century, two men from whom an exposure of the absurdities of the system of witchcraft might have been naturally and rationally expected, and who seem to stand out prominently from the crowd as predestined to that honourable and salutary office, those two men were John Bodin' and Thomas Erastus.? The former a lawyer—much exercised in the affairs of men — whose learning was not merely umbratic - whose knowledge of history was most philosophic and exact — of piercing penetration and sagacity tolerant liberal
"I have always considered the conclusion of Bodin's book, De Republica, the accumulative grandeur of which is even heightened in Knolles's admirable English translation, as the finest peroration to be found in any work on government. Those who are fortunate enough to possess a copy of his interdicted Examination of Religions, the title of which is, “ Colloquium heptaplomeres de abditis sublimium rerum arcanis, libris 6 digestum," which was never printed, and of which very few MSS. copies are in existence, are well aware how little he felt himself shackled in the spirit of examination which he carried into the most sacred subjects by any respect for popular notions or received systems or great authorities. My MS. copy of this extraordinary work, which came from Heber's Collection, is contained in two rather thick folio volumes.
? Few authors are better deserving of an extended biography, a desideratum which, in an age characterised by its want of literary research, is not likely to be soon supplied, than Thomas Erastus, whose theological, philosophical, and medical celebrity entitle him to rank with the greatest men of his century. At present we have to collect all that is known of his life from various scattered and contradictory sources. John Webster, in his Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, contrary to the usual candour and fairness of his judgments, speaks slightingly of Erastus. There was, however, a sufficient reason for this. Erastus had shown up the empiricism of Webster's idol Paracelsus, and was in great disfavour with the writers of the Anti-Galenic school.
minded — disposed to take no proposition upon trust, but to canvass and examine every thing for himself, and who had large views of human nature and society — in fact, the Montesquieu of the seventeenth century. The other, a physician and professor, sage, judicious, incredulous,
“ The scourge of impostors, the terror of quacks,”
who had routed irrecoverably empiricism in almost every shape - Paracelsians – Astrologers-Alchemists-Rosicrucians - and who weighed and scrutinized and analyzed every conclusion, from excommunication and the power of the keys to the revolutions of comets and their supposed effects on empires, and all with perfect fearlessness and intuitive insight into the weak points of an argument. Yet, alas! for human infirmity. Bodin threw all the weight of his reasoning and learning and vivacity into the scale of the witch supporters, and made the “hell-broth boil and bubble” anew, and increased the witch furor to downright fanaticism, by the publication of his Demo-manie, a work in which
but which it is impossible to read without being carried
I cannot concur with Mr. Hallam in the extremely low estimate he forms of the literary merit of Bodin's Demomanie, which he does not seem to have examined with the care and impartiality which he seldom is deficient in. Like all Bodin's works, it has a spirit peculiarly his own, and is, in my opinion, one of the most entertaining books to be found in the circle of Demonology.