La Sorciere, The Witch of the Middle Ages
by Jules Michelet
LONDON: PRINTED BY WOODFALL AND KINDER, ANGEL COURT, SKINNER STREET.
THE WITCH OF THE MIDDLE AGES.
FROM THE FRENCH OF J. MICHELET.
BY L. J. TROTTER.
(The only Authorized English Translation.)
LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, AND CO., STATIONERS' HALL COURT.
CHAPTER I. THE
DEATH OF THE
CHAPTER II. WHY
THE MIDDLE AGES
CHAPTER III. THE
LITTLE DEVIL OF
CHAPTER VI. THE
CHAPTER VII. THE
KING OF THE
THE PRINCE OF
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER XI. THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
CHAPTER I. THE
WITCH IN HER
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER IV. THE
WITCHES OF THE
CHAPTER V. SATAN
CHAPTER VII. THE
THE DEMONIACS OF
CHAPTER IX. THE
AND LA CADIERE:
CADIERE IN THE
CHAPTER XII. THE
TRIAL OF CADIERE:
In this translation of a work rich in the raciest beauties and
defects of an author long since made known to the British public, the
present writer has striven to recast the trenchant humour, the scornful
eloquence, the epigrammatic dash of Mr. Michelet, in language not all
unworthy of such a word-master. How far he has succeeded others may be
left to judge. In one point only is he aware of having been less true
to his original than in theory he was bound to be. He has slurred or
slightly altered a few of those passages which French readers take as a
thing of course, but English ones, because of their different training,
are supposed to eschew. A Frenchman, in short, writes for men, an
Englishman rather for drawing-room ladies, who tolerate grossness only
in the theatres and the columns of the newspapers. Mr. Michelet's
subject, and his late researches, lead him into details, moral and
physical, which among ourselves are seldom mixed up with themes of
general talk. The coarsest of these have been pruned away, but enough
perhaps remain to startle readers of especial prudery. The translator,
however, felt that he had no choice between shocking these and sinning
against his original. Readers of a larger culture will make allowance
for such a strait, will not be so very frightened at an amount of
plain-speaking, neither in itself immoral, nor, on the whole,
impertinent. Had he docked his work of everything condemned by prudish
theories, he might have made it more conventionally decent; but
Michelet would have been puzzled to recognize himself in the poor
maimed cripple that would then have borne his name.
Nor will a reader of average shrewdness mistake the religious drift
of a book suppressed by the Imperial underlings in the interests
neither of religion nor of morals, but merely of Popery in its most
outrageous form. If its attacks on Rome seem, now and then, to involve
Christianity itself, we must allow something for excess of warmth, and
something for the nature of inquiries which laid bare the rotten
outgrowths of a religion in itself the purest known among men. In
studying the so-called Ages of Faith, the author has only found them
worthy of their truer and older title, the Ages of Darkness. It is
against the tyranny, feudal and priestly, of those days, that he raises
an outcry, warranted almost always by facts which a more mawkish
philosophy refuses to see. If he is sometimes hasty and onesided; if
the Church and the Feudal System of those days had their uses for the
time being; it is still a gain to have the other side of the subject
kept before us by way of counterpoise to the doctrines now in vogue. We
need not be intolerant; but Rome is yet alive.
Taken as a whole, Mr. Michelet's book cannot be called unchristian.
Like most thoughtful minds of the day, he yearns for some nobler and
larger creed than that of the theologians; for a creed which,
understanding Nature, shall reconcile it with Nature's God. Nor may he
fairly be called irreverent for talking, Frenchman like, of things
spiritual with the same freedom as he would of things temporal. Perhaps
in his heart of hearts he has nearly as much religious earnestness as
they who call Dr. Colenso an infidel, and shake their heads at the
doubtful theology of Frederic Robertson. At any rate, no translator who
should cut or file away so special a feature of French feeling would be
doing justice to so marked an original.
For English readers who already know the concise and sober volumes
of their countryman, Mr. Wright, the present work will offer mainly an
interesting study of the author himself. It is a curious compound of
rhapsody and sound reason, of history and romance, of coarse realism
and touching poetry, such as, even in France, few save Mr. Michelet
could have produced. Founded on truth and close inquiry, it still reads
more like a poem than a sober history. As a beautiful speculation,
which has nearly, but not quite, grasped the physical causes underlying
the whole history of magic and illusion in all ages, it may be read
with profit as well as pleasure in this age of vulgar spirit-rapping.
But the true history of Witchcraft has yet to be written by some cooler
May 11th, 1863.
To One Wizard Ten Thousand Witches 1
The Witch was the sole Physician of the People 4
Terrorism of the Middle Ages 5
The Witch was the Offspring of Despair 9
She in her Turn created Satan 12
Satan, Prince of the World, Physician, Innovator 13
His Schoolof Witches, Shepherds, and Headsmen 15
His Decline 16
CHAPTER I.THE DEATH OF THE GODS 19
Christianity thought the World was Dying 20
The World of Demons 24
The Bride of Corinth 26
CHAPTER II.WHY THE MIDDLE AGES FELL INTO DESPAIR 30
The People make their own Legends 31
But are forbidden to do so any more 35
The People guard their Territory 38
But are made Serfs 40
CHAPTER III.THE LITTLE DEVIL OF THE FIRESIDE 43
Ancient Communism of the Villa 43
The Hearth made independent 44
The Wife of the Serf 45
Her Loyalty to the Olden Gods 46
The Goblin 53
CHAPTER IV.TEMPTATIONS 57
The Serf invokes the Spirit of Hidden Treasures 58
Feudal Raids 59
The Wife turns her Goblin into a Devil 66
CHAPTER V.POSSESSION 69
The Advent of Gold in 1300 69
The Woman makes Terms with the Demon of Gold 71
Impure Horrors of the Middle Ages 75
The Village Lady 78
Hatred of the Lady of the Castle 84
CHAPTER VI.THE COVENANT 88
The Woman-serf gives Herself up to the Devil 90
The Moor and the Witch 93
CHAPTER VII.THE KING OF THE DEAD 96
The dear Dead are brought back to Earth 97
The Idea of Satan is softened 103
CHAPTER VIII.THE PRINCE OF NATURE 106
The Thaw in the Middle Ages 108
The Witch calls forth the East 109
She conceives Nature 112
CHAPTER IX.THE DEVIL A PHYSICIAN 116
Diseases of the Middle Ages 116
The Comforters, or Solaneæ 121
The Middle Ages anti-natural 128
CHAPTER X.CHARMS AND PHILTRES 131
Blue-Beard and Griselda 133
The Witch consulted by the Castle 137
Her Malice 141
CHAPTER XI.THE REBELS' COMMUNIONSABBATHSTHE BLACK MASS
The old Half-heathen Sabasies 144
The Four Acts of the Black Mass 150
Act I. The Introit, the Kiss, the Banquet 151
Act II. The Offering: the Woman as Altar and Host 153
CHAPTER XII.THE SEQUELLOVE AND DEATHSATAN DISAPPEARS 157
Act III. Love of near Kindred 158
Act IV. Death of Satan and the Witch 165
CHAPTER I.THE WITCH IN HER DECLINESATAN MULTIPLIED AND MADE
Witches and Wizards employed by the Great 172
The Wolf-lady 174
The last Philtre 179
CHAPTER II.PERSECUTIONS 180
The Hammer for Witches 181
Satan Master of the World 193
CHAPTER III.CENTURY OF TOLERATION IN FRANCE: REACTION 198
Spain begins when France stops short 199
Reaction: French Lawyers burn as many as the Priests 203
CHAPTER IV.THE WITCHES OF THE BASQUE COUNTRY 207
They give Instructions to their own Judges 212
CHAPTER V.SATAN TURNS PRIEST 218
Jokes of the Modern Sabbath 221
CHAPTER VI.GAUFFRIDI: 1610 228
Wizard Priests prosecuted by Monks 232
Jealousies of the Nuns 234
CHAPTER VII.THE DEMONIACS OF LOUDUN: URBAN GRANDIER 255
The Vicar a fine Speaker, and a Wizard 263
Sickly Rages of the Nuns 264
CHAPTER VIII.THE DEMONIACS OF LOUVIERSMADELINE BAVENT 277
Illuminism: the Devil a Quietist 277
Fight between the Devil and the Doctor 285
CHAPTER IX.THE DEVIL TRIUMPHS IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 294
CHAPTER X.FATHER GIRARD AND LA CADIÈRE 303
CHAPTER XI.CADIÈRE IN THE CONVENT 339
CHAPTER XII.TRIAL OF CADIÈRE 367
Can Satan and Jesus be reconciled? 396
The Witch is dead, but the Fairy will live again 399
Oncoming of the Religious Revival 399
It was said by Sprenger, before the year 1500, Heresy of witches, not of wizards, must we call it, for these latter are of very small
account. And by another, in the time of Louis XIII.: To one wizard,
ten thousand witches.
Witches they are by nature. It is a gift peculiar to woman and her
temperament. By birth a fay, by the regular recurrence of her ecstasy
she becomes a sibyl. By her love she grows into an enchantress. By her
subtlety, by a roguishness often whimsical and beneficent, she becomes
a Witch; she works her spells; does at any rate lull our pains to rest
and beguile them.
All primitive races have the same beginning, as so many books of
travel have shown. While the man is hunting and fighting, the woman
works with her wits, with her imagination: she brings forth dreams and
gods. On certain days she becomes a seeress, borne on boundless wings
of reverie and desire. The better to reckon up the seasons, she watches
the sky; but her heart belongs to earth none the less. Young and
flower-like herself, she looks down toward the enamoured flowers, and
forms with them a personal acquaintance. As a woman, she beseeches them
to heal the objects of her love.
In a way so simple and touching do all religion and all science
begin. Ere long everything will get parcelled out; we shall mark the
beginning of the professional man as juggler, astrologer, or prophet,
necromancer, priest, physician. But at first the woman is everything.
A religion so strong and hearty as that of Pagan Greece begins with
the Sibyl to end in the Witch. The former, a lovely maiden in the broad
daylight, rocked its cradle, endowed it with a charm and glory of its
own. Presently it fell sick, lost itself in the darkness of the Middle
Ages, and was hidden away by the Witch in woods and wilds: there,
sustained by her compassionate daring, it was made to live anew. Thus,
of every religion woman is the mother, the gentle guardian, the
faithful nurse. With her the gods fare like men: they are born and die
upon her bosom.
* * * * *
Alas! her loyalty costs her dear. Ye magian queens of Persia;
bewitching Circe; sublime Sibyl! Into what have ye grown, and how cruel
the change that has come upon you! She who from her throne in the East
taught men the virtues of plants and the courses of the stars; who, on
her Delphic tripod beamed over with the god of light, as she gave forth
her oracle to a world upon its knees;she also it is whom, a thousand
years later, people hunt down like a wild beast; following her into the
public places, where she is dishonoured, worried, stoned, or set upon
the burning coals!
For this poor wretch the priesthood can never have done with their
faggots, nor the people with their insults, nor the children with their
stones. The poet, childlike, flings her one more stone, for a woman the
cruellest of all. On no grounds whatever, he imagines her to have been
always old and ugly. The word witch brings before us the frightful
old women of Macbeth. But their cruel processes teach us the
reverse of that. Numbers perished precisely for being young and
The Sibyl foretold a fortune, the Witch accomplishes one. Here is
the great, the true difference between them. The latter calls forth a
destiny, conjures it, works it out. Unlike the Cassandra of old, who
awaited mournfully the future she foresaw so well, this woman herself
creates the future. Even more than Circe, than Medea, does she bear in
her hand the rod of natural miracle, with Nature herself as sister and
helpmate. Already she wears the features of a modern Prometheus. With
her industry begins, especially that queen-like industry which heals
and restores mankind. As the Sibyl seemed to gaze upon the morning, so
she, contrariwise, looks towards the west; but it is just that gloomy
west, which long before dawnas happens among the tops of the
Alpsgives forth a flush anticipant of day.
Well does the priest discern the danger, the bane, the alarming
rivalry, involved in this priestess of nature whom he makes a show of
despising. From the gods of yore she has conceived other gods. Close to
the Satan of the Past we see dawning within her a Satan of the Future.
* * * * *
The only physician of the people for a thousand years was the Witch.
The emperors, kings, popes, and richer barons had indeed their doctors
of Salerno, their Moors and Jews; but the bulk of people in every
state, the world as it might well be called, consulted none but the
Saga, or wise-woman. When she could not cure them, she was
insulted, was called a Witch. But generally, from a respect not unmixed
with fear, she was called good lady or fair lady (belle dame
bella donna), the very name we give to the fairies.
 Whence our old word Beldam, the more courteous
of which is all but lost in its ironical one.TRANS.
Soon there came upon her the lot which still befalls her favourite
plant, belladonna, and some other wholesome poisons which she employed
as antidotes to the great plagues of the Middle Ages. Children and
ignorant passers-by would curse those dismal flowers before they knew
them. Affrighted by their questionable hues, they shrink back, keep far
aloof from them. And yet among them are the comforters (Solaneæ)
which, when discreetly employed, have cured so many, have lulled so
many sufferings to sleep.
You find them in ill-looking spots, growing all lonely and ill-famed
amidst ruins and rubbish-heaps. Therein lies one other point of
resemblance between these flowers and her who makes use of them. For
where else than in waste wildernesses could live the poor wretch whom
all men thus evilly entreated; the woman accursed and proscribed as a
poisoner, even while she used to heal and save; as the betrothed of the
Devil and of evil incarnate, for all the good which, according to the
great physician of the Renaissance, she herself had done? When
Paracelsus, at Basle, in 1527, threw all medicine into the fire, he
avowed that he knew nothing but what he had learnt from witches.
 Alluding to the bonfire which Paracelsus, as professor of
medicine, made of the works of Galen and Avicenna.TRANS.
This was worth a requital, and they got it. They were repaid with
tortures, with the stake. For them new punishments, new pangs, were
expressly devised. They were tried in a lump; they were condemned by a
single word. Never had there been such wastefulness of human life. Not
to speak of Spain, that classic land of the faggot, where Moor and Jew
are always accompanied by the Witch, there were burnt at Trèves seven
thousand, and I know not how many at Toulouse; five hundred at Geneva
in three months of 1513; at Wurtzburg eight hundred, almost in one
batch, and fifteen hundred at Bamberg; these two latter being very
small bishoprics! Even Ferdinand II., the savage Emperor of the Thirty
Years' War, was driven, bigot as he was, to keep a watch on these
worthy bishops, else they would have burned all their subjects. In the
Wurtzburg list I find one Wizard a schoolboy, eleven years old; a Witch
of fifteen: and at Bayonne two, infernally beautiful, of seventeen
Mark how, at certain seasons, hatred wields this one word Witch, as a means of murdering whom she will. Woman's jealousy, man's greed,
take ready hold of so handy a weapon. Is such a one wealthy? She is
a Witch. Is that girl pretty? She is a Witch. You will even
see the little beggar-woman, La Murgui, leave a death-mark with that
fearful stone on the forehead of a great lady, the too beautiful dame
The accused, when they can, avert the torture by killing themselves.
Remy, that excellent judge of Lorraine, who burned some eight hundred
of them, crows over this very fear. So well, said he, does my way of
justice answer, that of those who were arrested the other day, sixteen,
without further waiting, strangled themselves forthwith.
* * * * *
Over the long track of my History, during the thirty years which I
have devoted to it, this frightful literature of witchcraft passed to
and fro repeatedly through my hands. First I exhausted the manuals of
the Inquisition, the asinine foolings of the Dominicans. (Scourges, Hammers, Ant-hills, Floggings, Lanterns,
&c., are the titles of their books.) Next, I read the Parliamentarists,
the lay judges who despised the monks they succeeded, but were every
whit as foolish themselves. One word further would I say of them here:
namely, this single remark, that, from 1300 to 1600, and yet later, but
one kind of justice may be seen. Barring a small interlude in the
Parliament of Paris, the same stupid savagery prevails everywhere, at
all hours. Even great parts are of no use here. As soon as witchcraft
comes into question, the fine-natured De Lancre, a Bordeaux magistrate
and forward politician under Henry IV., sinks back to the level of a
Nider, a Sprenger; of the monkish ninnies of the fifteenth century.
It fills one with amazement to see these different ages, these men
of diverse culture, fail in taking the least step forward. Soon,
however, you begin clearly to understand how all were checked alike, or
let us rather say blinded, made hopelessly drunk and savage, by the
poison of their guiding principle. That principle lies in the statement
of a radical injustice: On account of one man all are lost; are not
only punished but worthy of punishment; depraved and perverted
beforehand, dead to God even before their birth. The very babe at
the breast is damned.
Who says so? Everyone, even Bossuet himself. A leading doctor in
Rome, Spina, a Master of the Holy Palace, formulates the question
neatly: Why does God suffer the innocent to die?For very good
reasons: even if they do not die on account of their own sins, they are
always liable to death as guilty of the original sin. (De Strigibus, ch. 9.)
From this atrocity spring two results, the one pertaining to
justice, the other to logic. The judge is never at fault in his work:
the person brought before him is certainly guilty, the more so if he
makes a defence. Justice need never beat her head, or work herself into
a heat, in order to distinguish the truth from the falsehood. Everyhow
she starts from a foregone conclusion. Again, the logician, the
schoolman, has only to analyse the soul, to take count of the shades it
passes through, of its manifold nature, its inward strifes and battles.
He had no need, as we have, to explain how that soul may grow wicked
step by step. At all such niceties and groping efforts, how, if even he
could understand them, would he laugh and wag his head! And, oh! how
gracefully then would quiver those splendid ears which deck his empty
Especially in treating of the compact with the Devil, that
awful covenant whereby, for the poor profit of one day, the spirit
sells itself to everlasting torture, we of another school would seek to
trace anew that road accursed, that frightful staircase of mishaps and
crimes, which had brought it to a depth so low. Much, however, cares
our fine fellow for all that! To him soul and Devil seem born for each
other, insomuch that on the first temptation, for a whim, a desire, a
passing fancy, the soul will throw itself at one stroke into so
horrible an extremity.
* * * * *
Neither do I find that the moderns have made much inquiry into the
moral chronology of witchcraft. They cling too much to the connection
between antiquity and the Middle Ages; connection real indeed, but
slight, of small importance. Neither from the magician of old, nor the
seeress of Celts and Germans, comes forth the true Witch. The harmless
Sabasies (from Bacchus Sabasius), and the petty rural Sabbath of
the Middle Ages, have nothing to do with the Black Mass of the
fourteenth century, with the grand defiance then solemnly given to
Jesus. This fearful conception never grew out of a long chain of
tradition. It leapt forth from the horrors of the day.
At what date, then, did the Witch first appear? I say unfalteringly,
In the age of despair: of that deep despair which the gentry of the
Church engendered. Unfalteringly do I say, The Witch is a crime of
their own achieving.
I am not to be taken up short by the excuses which their sugary
explanations seem to furnish. Weak was that creature, and giddy, and
pliable under temptation. She was drawn towards evil by her lust.
Alas! in the wretchedness, the hunger of those days, nothing of that
kind could have ruffled her even into a hellish rage. An amorous woman,
jealous and forsaken, a child hunted out by her step-mother, a mother
beaten by her son (old subjects these of story), if such as they were
ever tempted to call upon the Evil Spirit, yet all this would make no
Witch. These poor creatures may have called on Satan, but it does not
follow that he accepted them. They are still far, ay, very far from
being ripe for him. They have not yet learned to hate God.
* * * * *
For the better understanding of this point, you should read those
hateful registers which remain to us of the Inquisition, not only in
the extracts given by Llorente, by Lamothe-Langon, &c., but in what
remains of the original registers of Toulouse. Read them in all their
flatness, in all their dryness, so dismal, so terribly savage. At the
end of a few pages you feel yourself stricken with a chill; a cruel
shiver fastens upon you; death, death, death, is traceable in every
line. Already you are in a bier, or else in a stone cell with mouldy
walls. Happiest of all are the killed. The horror of horrors is the
In pace. This phrase it is which comes back unceasingly, like an
ill-omened bell sounding again and again the heart's ruin of the living
dead: always we have the same word, Immured.
Frightful machinery for crushing and flattening; most cruel press
for shattering the soul! One turn of the screw follows another, until,
all breathless, and with a loud crack, it has burst forth from the
machine and fallen into the unknown world.
On her first appearance the Witch has neither father nor mother, nor
son, nor husband, nor family. She is a marvel, an aerolith, alighted no
one knows whence. Who, in Heaven's name, would dare to draw near her?
Her place of abode? It is in spots impracticable, in a forest of
brambles, on a wild moor where thorn and thistle intertwining forbid
approach. The night she passes under an old cromlech. If anyone finds
her there, she is isolated by the common dread; she is surrounded, as
it were, by a ring of fire.
And yetwould you believe it?she is a woman still. This very life
of hers, dreadful though it be, tightens and braces her woman's energy,
her womanly electricity. Hence, you may see her endowed with two gifts.
One is the inspiration of lucid frenzy, which in its several
degrees, becomes poesy, second-sight, depth of insight, cunning
simplicity of speech, the power especially of believing in yourself
through all your delusions. Of such a gift the man, the wizard, knows
nothing. On his side no beginning would have been made.
From this gift flows that other, the sublime power of unaided
conception, that parthenogenesis which our physiologists have come
to recognise, as touching fruitfulness of the body in the females of
several species; and which is not less a truth with regard to the
conceptions of the spirit.
* * * * *
By herself did she conceive and bring forthwhat? A second self,
who resembles her in his self-delusions. The son of her hatred,
conceived upon her love; for without love can nothing be created. For
all the alarm this child gave her, she has become so well again, is so
happily engrossed with this new idol, that she places it straightway
upon her altar, to worship it, yield her life up to it, and offer
herself up as a living and perfect sacrifice. Very often she will even
say to her judge, There is but one thing I fear; that I shall not
suffer enough for him.(Lancre.)
Shall I tell you what the child's first effort was? It was a fearful
burst of laughter. Has he not cause for mirth on his broad prairie, far
away from the Spanish dungeons and the immured of Toulouse? The whole
world is his In pace. He comes, and goes, and walks to and fro.
His is the boundless forest, his the desert with its far horizons, his
the whole earth, in the fulness of its teeming girdle. The Witch in her
tenderness calls him Robin mine, the name of that bold outlaw,
the joyous Robin Hood, who lived under the green bowers. She delights
too in calling him fondly by such names as Little Green,
Pretty-Wood, Greenwood; after the little madcap's favourite
haunts. He had hardly seen a thicket when he took to playing the
 Here, as in some other passages, the play of words in the
original is necessarily lost.TRANS.
* * * * *
What astounds one most is, that at one stroke the Witch should have
achieved an actual Being. He bears about him every token of reality. We
have heard and seen him; anyone could draw his likeness.
The Saints, those darling sons of the house, with their dreams and
meditations make but little stir; they look forward waitingly,
as men assured of their part in Elysium. What little energy they have
is all centred in the narrow round of Imitation; a word which
condenses the whole of the Middle Ages. He on the other handthis
accursed bastard whose only lot is the scourgehas no idea of waiting.
He is always seeking and will never rest. He busies himself with all
things between earth and heaven. He is exceedingly curious; will dig,
dive, ferret, and poke his nose everywhere. At the consummatum est
he only laughs, the little scoffer! He is always saying Further, or
Forward. Moreover, he is not hard to please. He takes every rebuff;
picks up every windfall. For instance, when the Church throws out
nature as impure and doubtworthy, Satan fastens on her for his own
adornment. Nay, more; he employs her, and makes her useful to him as
the fountain-head of the arts; thus accepting the awful name with which
others would brand him; to wit, the Prince of the World.
Some one rashly said, Woe to those who laugh. Thus from the first
was Satan intrusted with too pretty a part; he had the sole right of
laughing, and of declaring it an amusementrather let us say
a necessity; for laughing is essentially a natural function. Life
would be unbearable if we could not laugh, at least in our afflictions.
Looking on life as nothing but a trial, the Church is careful not to
prolong it. Her medicine is resignation, the looking for and the hope
of death. A broad field this for Satan! He becomes the physician, the
healer of the living. Better still, he acts as comforter: he is good
enough to shew us our dead, to call up the shades of our beloved.
One more trifle the Church rejected, namely, logic or free reason.
Here was a special dainty, to which the other greedily helped
himself. The Church had carefully builded up a small In pace,
narrow, low-roofed, lighted by one dim opening, a mere cranny. That was
called The School. Into it were turned loose a few shavelings,
with this commandment, Be free. They all fell lame. In three or four
centuries the paralysis was confirmed, and Ockham's standpoint is the
very same as Abélard's.
 Abélard flourished in the twelfth, William of Ockham
(pupil of Duns Scotus) in the fourteenth century.TRANS.
It is pleasant to track the Renaissance up to such a point. The
Renaissance took place indeed, but how? Through the Satanic daring of
those who pierced the vault, through the efforts of the damned who were
bent on seeing the sky. And it took place yet more largely away from
the schools and the men of letters, in the School of the Bush,
where Satan had set up a class for the Witch and the shepherd.
Perilous teaching it was, if so it happened; but the very dangers of
it heightened the eager passion, the uncontrollable yearning to see and
to know. Thus began those wicked sciences, physic debarred from
poisoning, and that odious anatomy. There, along with his survey of the
heavens, the shepherd who kept watch upon the stars applied also his
shameful nostrums, made his essays upon the bodies of animals. The
Witch would bring out a corpse stolen from the neighbouring cemetery;
and, for the first time, at risk of being burned, you might gaze upon
that heavenly wonder, which menas M. Serres has well saidare
foolish enough to bury, instead of trying to understand.
Paracelsus, the only doctor whom Satan admitted there, saw yet a
third worker, who, stealing at times into that dark assembly, displayed
there his surgical art. This was the surgeon of those happy days, the
headsman stout of hand, who could play patly enough with the fire,
could break bones and set them again; who if he killed, would sometimes
save, by hanging one only for a certain time.
By the more sacrilegious of its essays this convict university of
witches, shepherds, and headsmen, emboldened the other, obliged its
rival to study. For everyone wanted to live. The Witch would have got
hold of everything: people would for ever have turned their backs on
the doctor. And so the Church was fain to suffer, to countenance these
crimes. She avowed her belief in good poisons (Grillandus). She
found herself driven and constrained to allow of public dissections. In
1306 one woman, in 1315 another, was opened and dissected by the
Italian Mondino. Here was a holy revelation, the discovery of a greater
world than that of Christopher Columbus! Fools shuddered or howled; but
wise men fell upon their knees.
* * * * *
With such conquests the Devil was like enough to live on. Never
could the Church alone have put an end to him. The stake itself was
useless, save for some political objects.
Men had presently the wit to cleave Satan's realm in twain. Against
the Witch, his daughter, his bride, they armed his son, the doctor.
Heartily, utterly as the Church loathed the latter, yet to extinguish
the Witch, she established his monopoly nevertheless. In the fourteenth
century she proclaimed, that any woman who dared to heal others
without having duly studied, was a witch and should therefore die.
But how was she to study in public? Fancy what a scene of mingled
fun and horror would have occurred, if the poor savage had risked an
entrance into the schools! What games and merry-makings there would
have been! On Midsummer Day they used to chain cats together and burn
them in the fire. But to tie up a Witch in that hell of caterwaulers, a
Witch yelling and roasting, what fun it would have been for that
precious crew of monklings and cowlbearers!
In due time we shall see the decline of Satan. Sad to tell, we shall
find him pacified, turned into a good old fellow. He will be
robbed and plundered, until of the two masks he wore at the Sabbath,
the dirtiest is taken by Tartuffe. His spirit is still everywhere, but
of his bodily self, in losing the Witch he lost all. The wizards were
Now that we have hurled him so far downwards, are we fully aware of
what has happened? Was he not an important actor, an essential item in
the great religious machine just now slightly out of gear? All
organisms that work properly are twofold, twosided. Life can otherwise
not go on at all. It is a kind of balance between two forces, opposite,
symmetrical, but unequal; the lower answering to the other as its
counterpoise. The higher chafes at it, seeks to put it down. So doing,
it is all wrong.
When Colbert, in 1672, got rid of Satan, with very little ceremony,
by forbidding the judges to entertain pleas of witchcraft, the sturdy
Parliament of Normandy with its sound Norman logic pointed out the
dangerous drift of such a decision. The Devil is nothing less than a
dogma holding on to all the rest. If you meddle with the Eternally
Conquered, are you not meddling with the Conqueror likewise? To doubt
the acts of the former, leads to doubting the acts of the second, the
miracles he wrought for the very purpose of withstanding the Devil. The
pillars of heaven are grounded in the Abyss. He who thoughtlessly
removes that base infernal, may chance to split up Paradise itself.
Colbert could not listen, having other business to mind. But the
Devil perhaps gave heed and was comforted. Amidst such minor means of
earning a livelihood as spirit-rapping or table-turning, he grows
resigned, and believes at least that he will not die alone.
CHAPTER I. THE DEATH OF THE GODS.
Certain authors have declared that, shortly before the triumph of
Christianity, a voice mysterious ran along the shores of the Ægean Sea,
crying, Great Pan is dead! The old universal god of nature was no
more; and great was the joy thereat. Men fancied that with the death of
nature temptation itself was dead. After the troublings of so long a
storm, the soul of man was at length to find rest.
Was it merely a question touching the end of that old worship, its
overthrow, and the eclipse of old religious rites? By no means. Consult
the earliest Christian records, and in every line you may read the
hope, that nature is about to vanish, life to be extinguished; that the
end of the world, in short, is very near. It is all over with the gods
of life, who have spun out its mockeries to such a length. Everything
is falling, breaking up, rushing down headlong. The whole is becoming
as nought: Great Pan is dead!
It was nothing new that the gods must perish. Many an ancient
worship was grounded in that very idea. Osiris, Adonis die indeed in
order to rise again. On the stage itself, in plays which were only
acted for the feast days of the gods, Æschylus expressly averred by the
mouth of Prometheus, that some day they should suffer death: but how?
As conquered and laid low by the Titans, the ancient powers of nature.
Here, however, things are quite otherwise. Alike in generals and
particulars, in the past and the future, would the early Christians
have cursed Nature herself. So utterly did they condemn her, as to find
the Devil incarnate in a flower. Swiftly may the angels come again, who
erst overwhelmed the cities of the Dead Sea! Oh, that they may sweep
off, may crumple up as a veil the hollow frame of this world; may at
length deliver the saints from their long trial!
The Evangelist said, The day is coming: the Fathers, It is coming
immediately. From the breaking-up of the Empire and the invasion of
the Barbarians, St. Augustin draws the hope that very soon no city
would remain but the city of God.
And yet, how hard of dying is the world; how stubbornly bent on
living! Like Hezekiah, it begs a respite, one turn more of the dial.
Well, then, be it so until the year one thousand. But thereafter, not
* * * * *
Are we quite sure of what has been so often repeated, that the gods
of old had come to an end, themselves wearied and sickened of living;
that they were so disheartened as almost to send in their resignation;
that Christianity had only to blow upon these empty shades?
They point to the gods in Rome; they point out those in the Capitol,
admitted there only by a kind of preliminary death, on the surrender, I
might say, of all their local pith; as having disowned their country,
as having ceased to be the representative spirits of the nations. In
order to receive them, indeed, Rome had performed on them a cruel
operation: they were enervated, bleached. Those great centralized
deities became in their official life the mournful functionaries of the
Roman Empire. But the decline of that Olympian aristocracy had in no
wise drawn down the host of home-born gods, the mob of deities still
keeping hold of the boundless country-sides, of the woods, the hills,
the fountains; still intimately blended with the life of the country.
These gods abiding in the heart of oaks, in waters deep and rushing,
could not be driven therefrom.
Who says so? The Church. She rudely gainsays her own words. Having
proclaimed their death, she is indignant because they live. Time after
time, by the threatening voice of her councils she gives them notice
of their deathand lo! they are living still.
 See Mansi, Baluze; Council of Arles, 442; of Tours, 567;
of Leptines, 743; the Capitularies, &c., and even Gerson,
They are devils.Then they must be alive. Failing to make an end
of them, men suffer the simple folk to clothe, to disguise them. By the
help of legends they come to be baptized, even to be foisted upon the
Church. But at least they are converted? Not yet. We catch them
stealthily subsisting in their own heathen character.
Where are they? In the desert, on the moor, in the forest? Ay; but,
above all, in the house. They are kept up by the most intimate
household usages. The wife guards and hides them in her household
things, even in her bed. With her they have the best place in the
world, better than the temple,the fireside.
* * * * *
Never was revolution so violent as that of Theodosius. Antiquity
shows no trace of such proscription of any worship. The Persian
fire-worshipper might, in the purity of his heroism, have insulted the
visible deities, but he let them stand nevertheless. He greatly
favoured the Jews, protecting and employing them. Greece, daughter of
the light, made merry with the gods of darkness, the tunbellied Cabiri;
but yet she bore with them, adopted them as workmen, even to shaping
out of them her own Vulcan. Rome in her majesty welcomed not only
Etruria, but even the rural gods of the old Italian labourer. She
persecuted the Druids, but only as the centre of a dangerous national
Christianity conquering sought and thought to slay the foe. It
demolished the schools, by proscribing logic and uprooting the
philosophers, whom Valens slaughtered. It razed or emptied the temples,
shivered to pieces the symbols. The new legend would have been
propitious to the family, had the father not been cancelled in Saint
Joseph; had the mother been set up as an educatress, as having morally
brought forth Jesus. A fruitful road there was, but abandoned at the
very outset through the effort to attain a high but barren purity.
So Christianity turned into that lonely path where the world was
going of itself; the path of a celibacy in vain opposed by the laws of
the emperors. Down this slope it was hurled headlong by the
establishment of monkery.
But in the desert was man alone? The Devil kept him company with all
manner of temptations. He could not help himself, he was driven to
create anew societies, nay whole cities of anchorites. We all know
those dismal towns of monks which grew up in the Thebaid; how wild,
unruly a spirit dwelt among them; how deadly were their descents on
Alexandria. They talked of being troubled, beset by the Devil; and they
told no lie.
A huge gap was made in the world; and who was to fill it? The
Christians said, The Devil, everywhere the Devil: ubique dæmon.
 See the Lives of the Desert Fathers, and the authors
quoted by A. Maurie, Magie, 317. In the fourth century,
Messalians, thinking themselves full of devils, spat and blew
their noses without ceasing; made incredible efforts to spit
Greece, like all other nations, had her energumens, who were
sore tried, possessed by spirits. The relation there is quite external;
the seeming likeness is really none at all. Here we have no spirits of
any kind: they are but black children of the Abyss, the ideal of
waywardness. Thenceforth we see them everywhere, those poor
melancholics, loathing, shuddering at their own selves. Think what it
must be to fancy yourself double, to believe in that other, that
cruel host who goes and comes and wanders within you, making you roam
at his pleasure among deserts, over precipices! You waste and weaken
more and more; and the weaker grows your wretched body, the more is it
worried by the devil. In woman especially these tyrants dwell, making
her blown and swollen. They fill her with an infernal wind, they
brew in her storms and tempests, play with her as the whim seizes them,
drive her to wickedness, to despair.
And not ourselves only, but all nature, alas! becomes demoniac. If
there is a devil in the flower, how much more in the gloomy forest! The
light we think so pure teems with children of the night. The heavens
themselvesO blasphemy!are full of hell. That divine morning star,
whose glorious beams not seldom lightened a Socrates, an Archimedes, a
Plato, what is it now become? A devil, the archfiend Lucifer. In the
eventime again it is the devil Venus who draws me into temptation by
her light so soft and mild.
That such a society should wax wroth and terrible is not surprising.
Indignant at feeling itself so weak against devils, it persecutes them
everywhere, in the temples, at the altars once of the ancient worship,
then of the heathen martyrs. Let there be more feasts?they will
likely be so many gatherings of idolaters. The Family itself becomes
suspected: for custom might bring it together round the ancient Lares.
And why should there be a family?the empire is an empire of monks.
But the individual man himself, thus dumb and isolated though he be,
still watches the sky, still honours his ancient gods whom he finds
anew in the stars. This is he, said the Emperor Theodosius, who
causes famines and all the plagues of the empire. Those terrible words
turned the blind rage of the people loose upon the harmless Pagan.
Blindly the law unchained all its furies against the law.
Ye gods of Eld, depart into your tombs! Get ye extinguished, gods of
Love, of Life, of Light! Put on the monk's cowl. Maidens, become nuns.
Wives, forsake your husbands; or, if ye will look after the house, be
unto them but cold sisters.
But is all this possible? What man's breath shall be strong enough
to put out at one effort the burning lamp of God? These rash endeavours
of an impious piety may evoke miracles strange and monstrous. Tremble,
guilty that ye are!
Often in the Middle Ages will recur the mournful tale of the Bride
of Corinth. Told at a happy moment by Phlegon, Adrian's freedman, it
meets us again in the twelfth, and yet again in the sixteenth century,
as the deep reproof, the invincible protest of nature herself.
* * * * *
A young man of Athens went to Corinth, to the house of one who had
promised him his daughter. Himself being still a heathen, he knew not
that the family which he thought to enter had just turned Christian. It
is very late when he arrives. They are all gone to rest, except the
mother, who serves up for him the hospitable repast and then leaves him
to sleep. Dead tired, he drops down. Scarce was he fallen asleep, when
a figure entered the room: 'tis a girl all clothed and veiled in white;
on her forehead a fillet of black and gold. She sees him. In amazement
she lifts her white hand: 'Am I, then, such a stranger in the house
already? Alas, poor recluse!... But I am ashamed, and withdraw. Sleep
'Stay, fair maiden! Here are Bacchus, Ceres, and with thee comes
Love. Fear not, look not so pale!'
'Ah! Away from me, young man! I have nothing more to do with
happiness. By a vow my mother made in her sickness my youth and my life
are bound for ever. The gods have fled, and human victims now are our
'Ha! can it be thou, thou, my darling betrothed, who wast given me
from my childhood? The oath of our fathers bound us for evermore under
the blessing of heaven. Maiden, be mine!'
'No, my friend, not I. Thou shalt have my younger sister. If I moan
in my chilly dungeon, do thou in her arms think of me, of me wasting
away and thinking only of thee; of me whom the earth is about to cover
'Nay, I swear by this flame, the torch of Hymen, thou shalt come
home with me to my father. Rest thee, my own beloved.'
As a wedding-gift he offers her a cup of gold. She gives him her
chain, but instead of the cup desires a curl of his hair.
It is the hour of spirits; her pale lip drinks up the dark
blood-red wine. He too drinks greedily after her. He calls on the god
of Love. She still resisted, though her poor heart was dying thereat.
But he grows desperate, and falls weeping on the couch. Anon she throws
herself by his side.
'Oh! how ill thy sorrow makes me! Yet, if thou wast to touch me
Oh, horror!white as the snow, and cold as ice, such, ah me! is thy
'I will warm thee again: come to me, wert thou come from the very
Sighs and kisses many do they exchange.
'Dost thou feel how warm I am?'
Love twines and holds them fast. Tears mingle with their joy. She
changes with the fire she drinks from his mouth: her icy blood is aglow
with passion; but the heart in her bosom will not beat.
But the mother was there listening. Soft vows, cries of wailing and
'Hush, the cock is crowing: to-morrow night!' Then with kiss on
kiss they say farewell.
In wrath the mother enters; sees what? Her daughter. He would have
hidden her, covered her up. But freeing herself from him, she grew from
the couch up to the roof.
'O mother, mother, you grudge me a pleasant night; you would drive
me from this cosy spot! Was it not enough to have wrapped me in my
winding-sheet and borne me to the grave? A greater power has lifted up
the stone. In vain did your priests drone over the trench they dug for
me. Of what use are salt and water, where burns the fire of youth? The
earth cannot freeze up love. You made a promise; I have just reclaimed
'Alas, dear friend, thou must die: thou wouldst but pine and dry up
here. I have thy hair; it will be white to-morrow.... Mother, one last
prayer! Open my dark dungeon, set up a stake, and let the loving one
find rest in the flames. Let the sparks fly upward and the ashes
redden. We will go to our olden gods.'
 Here I have suppressed a shocking phrase. Goethe, so
noble in the form, is not so in the spirit of his poem. He
spoils the marvel of the legend by sullying the Greek
conception with a horrible Slavish idea. As they are weeping,
he turns the maiden into a vampire. She comes because she
thirsts for blood, that she may suck the blood from his
heart. And he makes her coldly say this impious and unclean
thing: When I have done with him, I will pass on to others:
the young blood shall fall a prey to my fury.
In the Middle Ages this story put on a grotesque garb, by way
of frightening us with the Devil Venus. On the finger of
her statue a young man imprudently places a ring, which she
clasps tight, guarding it like a bride, and going in the
night to his couch, to assert her rights. He cannot rid
himself of his infernal spouse without an exorcism. The same
tale, foolishly applied to the Virgin, is found in the
Fabliaux. If my memory does not mislead me, Luther also,
his Table Talk, takes up the old story in a very coarse
way, till you quite smell the body. The Spanish Del Rio
shifts the scene of it to Brabant. The bride dies shortly
before her marriage; the death-bells are rung. The bridegroom
rushed wildly over the country. He hears a wail. It is she
herself wandering about the heath. Seest thou notshe
sayswho leads me? But he catches her up and bears her
home. At this point the story threatened to become too
moving; but the hard inquisitor, Del Rio, cuts the thread.
On lifting her veil, says he, they found only a log of
wood covered with the skin of a corpse. The Judge le Loyer,
silly though he be, has restored the older version.
Thenceforth these gloomy taletellers come to an end. The
story is useless when our own age begins; for then the bride
has triumphed. Nature comes back from the grave, not by
stealth, but as mistress of the house.
CHAPTER II. WHY THE MIDDLE AGES FELL
Be ye as newborn babes (quasi modo geniti infantes); be
thoroughly childlike in the innocence of your hearts; peaceful,
forgetting all disputes, calmly resting under the hand of Christ. Such
is the kindly counsel tendered by the Church to this stormy world on
the morning after the great fall. In other words: Volcanoes, ruins,
ashes, and lava, become green. Ye parched plains, get covered with
One thing indeed gave promise of the peace that reneweth: the
schools were all shut up, the way of logic forsaken. A method
infinitely simple for the doing away with argument, offered all men a
gentle slope, down which they had nothing to do but go. If the creed
was doubtful, the life was all traced out in the pathway of the legend.
From first to last but the one word Imitation.
Imitate, and all will go well. Rehearse and copy. But is this the
way to that true childhood which quickens the heart of man, which leads
back to its fresh and fruitful springs? In this world that is to make
us young and childlike, I see at first nothing but the tokens of age;
only cunning, slavishness, want of power. What kind of literature is
this, confronted with the glorious monuments of Greeks and Jews? We
have just the same literary fall as happened in India from Brahminism
to Buddhism; a twaddling flow of words after a noble inspiration. Books
copy from books, churches from churches, until they cannot so much as
copy. They pillage from each other: Aix-la-Chapelle is adorned with the
marbles torn from Ravenna. It is the same with all the social life of
those days. The bishop-king of a city, the savage king of a tribe,
alike copy the Roman magistrates. Original as one might deem them, our
monks in their monasteries simply restored their ancient Villa,
as Chateaubriand well said. They had no notion either of forming a new
society or of fertilizing the old. Copying from the monks of the East,
they wanted their servants at first to be themselves a barren race of
monkling workmen. It was in spite of them that the family in renewing
itself renewed the world.
Seeing how fast these oldsters keep on oldening; how in one age we
fall from the wise monk St. Benedict down to the pedantic Benedict of
Aniane; we feel that such gentry were wholly guiltless of that great
popular creation which bloomed amidst ruins; namely, the Lives of the
Saints. If the monks wrote, it was the people made them. This young
growth might throw out some leaves and flowers from the crannies of an
old Roman ruin turned into a convent: but most assuredly not thence did
it first arise. Its roots go deep into the ground: sown by the people
and cultivated by the family, it takes help from every hand, from men,
from women, from children. The precarious, troubled life of those days
of violence, made these poor folk imaginative, prone to believe in
their own dreams, as being to them full of comfort: strange dreams
withal, rich in marvels, in fooleries; absurd, but charming.
 Benedict founded a convent at Aniane in Languedoc, in the
reign of Charlemagne.
These families, isolated in forests and mountains, as we still see
them in the Tyrol or the Higher Alps, and coming down thence but once a
week, never wanted for illusions in the desert. One child had seen
this, some woman had dreamed that. A new saint began to rise. The story
went abroad in the shape of a ballad with doggrel rhymes. They sang and
danced to it of an evening at the oak by the fountain. The priest, when
he came on Sunday to perform service in the woodland chapel, found the
legendary chant already in every mouth. He said to himself, After all,
history is good, is edifying.... It does honour to the Church. Vox
populi, vox Dei!But how did they light upon it? He could be
shown the true, the irrefragable proofs of it in some tree or stone
which had witnessed the apparition, had marked the miracle. What can he
say to that?
Brought back to the abbey, the tale will find a monk good for
nothing, who can only write; who is curious, believes everything, no
matter how marvellous. It is written out, broidered with his dull
rhetoric, and spoilt a little. But now it has come forth, confirmed and
consecrated, to be read in the refectory, ere long in the church.
Copied, loaded and overloaded with ornaments chiefly grotesque, it will
go on from age to age, until at last it comes to take high rank in the
* * * * *
When those fair stories are read again to us in these days, even as
we listen to the simple, grave, artless airs into which those rural
peoples threw all their young heart, we cannot help marking a great
inspiration; and we are moved to pity as we reflect upon their fate.
They had taken literally the touching advice of the Church: Be ye
as newborn babes. But they gave to it a meaning, the very last that
one would dream of finding in the original thought. As much as
Christianity feared and hated Nature, even so much did these others
cherish her, deeming her all guileless, hallowing her even in the
legends wherewith they mingled her up.
Those hairy animals, as the Bible sharply calls them, animals
mistrusted by the monks who fear to find devils among them, enter in
the most touching way into these beautiful stories; as the hind, for
instance, who refreshes and comforts Geneviève of Brabant.
Even outside the life of legends, in the common everyday world, the
humble friends of his hearth, the bold helpmates of his work, rise
again in man's esteem. They have their own laws, their own
festivals. If in God's unbounded goodness there is room for the
smallest creatures, if He seems to show them a pitying preference,
Wherefore, says the countryman, should my ass not have entered the
church? Doubtless, he has his faults, wherein he only resembles me the
more. He is a rough worker, but has a hard head; is intractable,
stubborn, headstrong; in short, just like myself.
 See J. Grimm, Rechts Alterthümer, and my Origines
Thence come those wonderful feasts, the fairest of the Middle Ages;
feasts of Innocents, of Fools, of the Ass. It is
the people itself, moreover, which, in the shape of an ass, draws about
its own image, presents itself before the altar, ugly, comical, abased.
Verily, a touching sight! Led by Balaam, he enters solemnly between
Virgil and the Sibyl; enters that he may bear witness. If he kicked
of yore against Balaam, it was that before him he beheld the sword of
the ancient law. But here the law is ended, and the world of grace
seems opening its two-leaved gate to the mean and to the simple. The
people innocently believes it all. Thereon comes that lofty hymn, in
which it says to the ass what it might have said to itself:
Down on knee and say Amen!
Grass and hay enough hast eaten.
Leave the bad old ways, and go!
* * * * *
For the new expels the old:
Shadows fly before the noon:
Light hath hunted out the night.
 According to the ritual of Rouen. See Ducange on the
words Festum and Kalendæ: also Martène, iii. 110.
Sibyl was crowned and followed by Jews and Gentiles, by
Moses, the Prophets, Nebuchadnezzar, &c. From a very early
time, and continually from the seventh to the seventeenth
century, the Church strove to proscribe the great people's
feasts of the Ass, of Innocents, of Children, and of Fools.
It never succeeded until the advent of the modern spirit.
How bold and coarse ye are! Was it this we asked of you, children
rash and wayward, when we told you to be as children? We offered you
milk; you are drinking wine. We led you softly, bridle in hand, along
the narrow path. Mild and fearful, ye hesitated to go forward: and now,
all at once, the bridle is broken; the course is cleared at a single
bound. Ah! how foolish we were to let you make your own saints; to
dress out the altar; to deck, to burden, to cover it up with flowers!
Why, it is hardly distinguishable! And what we do see is the old heresy
condemned of the Church, the innocence of nature: what am I
saying?a new heresy, not like to end to-morrow, the independence
Listen and obey!You are forbidden to invent, to create. No more
legends, no more new saints: we have had enough of them. You are
forbidden to introduce new chants in your worship: inspiration is not
allowed. The martyrs you would bring to light should stay modestly
within their tombs, waiting to be recognised by the Church. The clergy,
the monks are forbidden to grant the tonsure of civil freedom to
husbandmen and serfs. Such is the narrow fearful spirit that fills the
Church of the Carlovingian days. She unsays her words, she gives
herself the lie, she says to the children, Be old!
 See the Capitularies, passim.
* * * * *
A fall indeed! But is this earnest? They had bidden us all be
young.Ah! but priest and people are no longer one. A divorce without
end begins, a gulf unpassable divides them for ever. The priest
himself, a lord and prince, will come out in his golden cope, and chant
in the royal speech of that great empire which is no more. For
ourselves, a mournful company, bereft of human speech, of the only
speech that God would care to hear, what else can we do but low and
bleat with the guileless friends who never scorn us, who, in
winter-time will keep us warm in their stable, or cover us with their
fleeces? We will live with dumb beasts, and be dumb ourselves.
In sooth there is less need than before for our going to church. But
the church will not hold us free: she insists on our returning to hear
what we no longer understand. Thenceforth a mighty fog, a fog heavy and
dun as lead, enwraps the world. For how long? For a whole millennium of
horror. Throughout ten centuries, a languor unknown to all former times
seizes upon the Middle Ages, even in part on those latter days that
come midway betwixt sleep and waking, and holds them under the sway of
a visitation most irksome, most unbearable; that convulsion, namely, of
mental weariness, which men call a fit of yawning.
When the tireless bell rings at the wonted hours, they yawn; while
the nasal chant is singing in the old Latin words, they yawn. It is all
foreseen, there is nothing to hope for in the world, everything will
come round just the same as before. The certainty of being bored
to-morrow sets one yawning from to-day; and the long vista of wearisome
days, of wearisome years to come, weighs men down, sickens them from
the first with living. From brain to stomach, from stomach to mouth,
the fatal fit spreads of its own accord, and keeps on distending the
jaws without end or remedy. An actual disease the pious Bretons call
it, ascribing it, however, to the malice of the Devil. He keeps
crouching in the woods, the peasants say: if anyone passes by tending
his cattle, he sings to him vespers and other rites, until he is dead
 An illustrious Breton, the last man of the Middle Ages,
who had gone on a bootless errand to convert Rome, received
there some brilliant offers. What do you want? said the
Pope.Only one thing: to have done with the Breviary.
* * * * *
To be old is to be weak. When the Saracens, when the Norsemen
threaten us, what will come to us if the people remain old? Charlemagne
weeps, and the Church weeps too. She owns that her relics fail to guard
her altars from these Barbarian devils. Had she not better call
upon the arm of that wayward child whom she was going to bind fast, the
arm of that young giant whom she wanted to paralyse? This movement in
two opposite ways fills the whole ninth century. The people are held
back, anon they are hurled forward: we fear them and we call on them
for aid. With them and by means of them we throw up hasty barriers,
defences that may check the Barbarians, while sheltering the priests
and their saints escaped thither from their churches.
 The famous avowal made by Hincmar.
In spite of the Bald Emperor's command not to build, there grows
up a tower on the mountain. Thither comes the fugitive, crying, In
God's name, take me in, at least my wife and children! Myself with my
cattle will encamp in your outer enclosure. The tower emboldens him
and he feels himself a man. It gives him shade, and he in his turn
defends, protects his protector.
 Charles the Bald.TRANS.
Formerly in their hunger the small folk yielded themselves to the
great as serfs; but here how great the difference! He offers himself as
a vassal, one who would be called brave and valiant. He
gives himself up, and keeps himself, and reserves to himself the right
of going elsewhere. I will go further: the earth is large: I, too,
like the rest, can rear my tower yonder. If I have defended the
outworks, I can surely look after myself within.
 A difference too little felt by those who have spoken of
the personal recommendation, &c.
Thus nobly, thus grandly arose the feudal world. The master of the
tower received his vassals with some such words as these: Thou shalt
go when thou willest, and if need be with my help; at least, if thou
shouldst sink in the mire, I myself will dismount to succour thee.
These are the very words of the old formula.
 Grimm, Rechts Alterthümer, and my Origines du
* * * * *
But, one day, what do I see? Can my sight be grown dim? The lord of
the valley, as he rides about, sets up bounds that none may overleap;
ay, and limits that you cannot see. What is that? I don't understand.
That means that the manor is shut in. The lord keeps it all fast under
gate and hinge, between heaven and earth.
Most horrible! By virtue of what law is this vassus (or
valiant one) held to his power? People will thereon have it, that
vassus may also mean slave. In like manner the word
servus, meaning a servant, often indeed a proud one, even a
Count or Prince of the Empire, comes in the case of the weak to signify
a serf, a wretch whose life is hardly worth a halfpenny.
In this damnable net are they caught. But down yonder, on his
ground, is a man who avers that his land is free, a freehold, a
fief of the sun. Seated on his boundary-stone, with hat pressed
firmly down, he looks at Count or Emperor passing near. Pass on,
Emperor; go thy ways! If thou art firm on thy horse, yet more am I on
my pillar. Thou mayest pass, but so will not I: for I am Freedom.
But I lack courage to say what becomes of this man. The air grows
thick around him: he breathes less and less freely. He seems to be
under a spell: he cannot move: he is as one paralysed. His very
beasts grow thin, as if a charm had been thrown over them. His servants
die of hunger. His land bears nothing now; spirits sweep it clean by
Still he holds on: The poor man is a king in his own house. But he
is not to be let alone. He gets summoned, must answer for himself in
the Imperial Court. So he goes, like an old-world spectre, whom no one
knows any more. What is he? ask the young. Ah, he is neither a lord,
nor a serf! Yet even then is he nothing?
Who am I? I am he who built the first tower, he who succoured you,
he who, leaving the tower, went boldly forth to meet the Norse heathens
at the bridge. Yet more, I dammed the river, I tilled the meadow,
creating the land itself by drawing it God-like out of the waters. From
this land who shall drive me?
No, my friend, says a neighbouryou shall not be driven away.
You shall till this land, but in a way you little think for. Remember,
my good fellow, how in your youth, some fifty years ago, you were rash
enough to wed my father's little serf, Jacqueline. Remember the
proverb, 'He who courts my hen is my cock.' You belong to my fowl-yard.
Ungird yourself; throw away your sword! From this day forth you are my
There is no invention here. The dreadful tale recurs incessantly
during the Middle Ages. Ah, it was a sharp sword that stabbed him. I
have abridged and suppressed much, for as often as one returns to these
times, the same steel, the same sharp point, pierces right through the
There was one among them who, under this gross insult, fell into so
deep a rage that he could not bring up a single word. It was like
Roland betrayed. His blood all rushed upwards into his throat. His
flaming eyes, his mouth so dumb, yet so fearfully eloquent, turned all
the assembly pale. They started back. He was dead: his veins had burst.
His arteries spurted the red blood over the faces of his murderers.
 This befell the Count of Avesnes when his freehold was
declared a mere fief, himself a mere vassal, a serf of the
Earl of Hainault. Read, too, the dreadful story of the Great
Chancellor of Flanders, the first magistrate of Bruges, who
also was claimed as a serf.Gualterius, Scriptores Rerum
Francicarum, viii. 334.
* * * * *
The doubtful state of men's affairs, the frightfully slippery
descent by which the freeman becomes a vassal, the vassal a servant,
and the servant a serf,in these things lie the great terror of the
Middle Ages, and the depth of their despair. There is no way of escape
therefrom; for he who takes one step is lost. He is an alien, a
stray, a wild beast of the chase. The ground grows slimy to
catch his feet, roots him, as he passes, to the spot. The contagion in
the air kills him; he becomes a thing in mortmain, a dead
creature, a mere nothing, a beast, a soul worth twopence-halfpenny,
whose murder can be atoned for by twopence-halfpenny.
These are outwardly the two great leading traits in the wretchedness
of the Middle Ages, through which they came to give themselves up to
the Devil. Meanwhile let us look within, and sound the innermost depths
of their moral life.
CHAPTER III. THE LITTLE DEVIL OF THE
There is an air of dreaming about those earlier centuries of the
Middle Ages, in which the legends were self-conceived. Among
countryfolk so gently submissive, as these legends show them, to the
Church, you would readily suppose that very great innocence might be
found. This is surely the temple of God the Father. And yet the
penitentiaries, wherein reference is made to ordinary sins, speak
of strange defilements, of things afterwards rare enough under the rule
These sprang from two causes, from the utter ignorance of the times,
and from the close intermingling of near kindred under one roof. They
seem to have had but a slight acquaintance with our modern ethics.
Those of their day, all counterpleas notwithstanding, resemble the
ethics of the patriarchs, of that far antiquity which regarded marriage
with a stranger as immoral, and allowed only of marriage amongst
kinsfolk. The families thus joined together became as one. Not daring
to scatter over the surrounding deserts, tilling only the outskirts of
a Merovingian palace or a monastery, they took shelter every evening
under the roof of a large homestead (villa). Thence arose
unpleasant points of analogy with the ancient ergastulum, where
the slaves of an estate were all crammed together. Many of these
communities lasted through and even beyond the Middle Ages. About the
results of such a system the lord would feel very little concern. To
his eyes but one family was visible in all this tribe, this multitude
of people who rose and lay down together, ... who ate together of the
same bread, and drank out of the same mug.
Amidst such confusion the woman was not much regarded. Her place was
by no means lofty. If the virgin, the ideal woman, rose higher from age
to age, the real woman was held of little worth among these boorish
masses, in this medley of men and herds. Wretched was the doom of a
condition which could only change with the growth of separate
dwellings, when men at length took courage to live apart in hamlets, or
to build them huts in far-off forest-clearings, amidst the fruitful
fields they had gone out to cultivate. From the lonely hearth comes the
true family. It is the nest that forms the bird. Thenceforth they were
no more things, but men; for then also was the woman born.
* * * * *
It was a very touching moment, the day she entered her own home. Then at last the poor wretch might become pure and holy. There, as she
sits spinning alone, while her goodman is in the forest, she may brood
on some thought and dream away. Her damp, ill-fastened cabin, through
which keeps whistling the winter wind, is still, by way of a
recompense, calm and silent. In it are sundry dim corners where the
housewife lodges her dreams.
And by this time she has some property, something of her own. The
distaff, the bed, and the trunk, are all she has,
according to the old song. We may add a table, a seat, perhaps two
stools. A poor dwelling and very bare; but then it is furnished with a
living soul! The fire cheers her, the blessed box-twigs guard her bed,
accompanied now and again by a pretty bunch of vervein. Seated by her
door, the lady of this palace spins and watches some sheep. We are not
yet rich enough to keep a cow; but to that we may come in time, if
Heaven will bless our house. The wood, a bit of pasture, and some bees
about our groundsuch is our way of life! But little corn is
cultivated as yet, there being no assurance of a harvest so long of
coming. Such a life, however needy, is anyhow less hard for the woman:
she is not broken down and withered, as she will be in the days of
large farming. And she has more leisure withal. You must never judge of
her by the coarse literature of the Fabliaux and the Christmas Carols,
by the foolish laughter and license of the filthy tales we have to put
up with by and by. She is alone; without a neighbour. The bad,
unwholesome life of the dark, little, walled towns, the mutual spyings,
the wretched dangerous gossipings, have not yet begun. No old woman
comes of an evening, when the narrow street is growing dark, to tempt
the young maiden by saying how for the love of her somebody is dying.
She has no friend but her own reflections; she converses only with her
beasts or the tree in the forest.
Trois pas du côté du banc,
Et trois pas du côté du lit;
Trois pas du côté du coffre,
Et trois pasRevenez ici.
(Old Song of the Dancing Master.)
Such things speak to her, we know of what. They recall to her mind
the saws once uttered by her mother and grandmother; ancient saws
handed down for ages from woman to woman. They form a harmless reminder
of the old country spirits, a touching family religion which doubtless
had little power in the blustering hurly-burly of a great common
dwellinghouse, but now comes back again to haunt the lonely cabin.
It is a singular, a delicate world of fays and hobgoblins, made for
a woman's soul. When the great creation of the saintly Legend gets
stopped and dried up, that other older, more poetic legend comes in for
its share of welcome; reigns privily with gentle sway. It is the
woman's treasure; she worships and caresses it. The fay, too, is a
woman, a fantastic mirror wherein she sees herself in a fairer guise.
Who were these fays? Tradition says, that of yore some Gaulish
queens, being proud and fanciful, did on the coming of Christ and His
Apostles behave so insolently as to turn their backs upon them. In
Brittany they were dancing at the moment, and never stopped dancing.
Hence their hard doom; they are condemned to live until the Day of
Judgment. Many of them were turned into mice or rabbits; as the
Kow-riggwans for instance, or Elves, who meeting at night round the old
Druidic stones entangle you in their dances. The same fate befell the
pretty Queen Mab, who made herself a royal chariot out of a
walnut-shell. They are all rather whimsical, and sometimes
ill-humoured. But can we be surprised at them, remembering their woeful
lot? Tiny and odd as they are, they have a heart, a longing to be
loved. They are good and they are bad and full of fancies. On the birth
of a baby they come down the chimney, to endow it and order its future.
They are fond of good spinning-womenthey even spin divinely
themselves. Do we not talk of spinning like a fairy?
 All passages bearing on this point have been gathered
together in two learned works by M. Maury (Les Fées,
and La Magie, 1860). See also Grimm.
The fairy-tales, stripped of the absurd embellishments in which the
latest compilers muffled them up, express the heart of the people
itself. They mark a poetic interval between the gross communism of the
primitive villa, and the looseness of the time when a growing
burgess-class made our cynical Fabliaux.
 A body of tales by the Trouvères of the twelfth and
These tales have an historical side, reminding us, in the ogres,
&c., of the great famines. But commonly they soar higher than any
history, on the Blue Bird's wing, in a realm of eternal poesy;
telling us our wishes which never vary, the unchangeable history of the
The poor serf's longing to breathe, to rest, to find a treasure that
may end his sufferings, continually returns. More often, through a
lofty aspiration, this treasure becomes a soul as well, a treasure of
love asleep, as in The Sleeping Beauty: but not seldom the
charming person finds herself by some fatal enchantment hidden under a
mask. Hence that touching trilogy, that admirable crescendo of
Riquet with the Tuft, Ass's Skin, and Beauty and the
Beast. Love will not be discouraged. Through all that ugliness it
follows after and gains the hidden beauty. In the last of these tales
that feeling touches the sublime, and I think that no one has ever read
it without weeping.
A passion most real, most sincere, lurks beneath itthat unhappy,
hopeless love, which unkind nature often sets between poor souls of
very different ranks in life. On the one hand is the grief of the
peasant maid at not being able to make herself fair enough to win the
cavalier's fancy; on the other the smothered sighs of the serf, when
along his furrow he sees passing, on a white horse, too exquisite a
glory, the beautiful, the majestic Lady of the Castle. So in the East
arises the mournful idyll of the impossible loves of the Rose and the
Nightingale. Nevertheless, there is one great difference: the bird and
the flower are both beautiful; nay, are alike in their beauty. But here
the humbler being, doomed to a place so far below, avows to himself
that he is ugly and monstrous. But amidst his wailing he feels in
himself a power greater than the East can know. With the will of a
hero, through the very greatness of his desire, he breaks out of his
idle coverings. He loves so much, this monster, that he is loved, and,
in return, through that love grows beautiful.
An infinite tenderness pervades it all. This soul enchanted thinks
not of itself alone. It busies itself in saving all nature and all
society as well. Victims of every kind, the child beaten by its
step-mother, the youngest sister slighted, ill-used by her elders, are
the surest objects of its liking. Even to the Lady of the Castle does
its compassion extend; it mourns her fallen into the hands of so fierce
a lord as Blue-Beard. It yearns with pity towards the beasts; it seeks
to console them for being still in the shape of animals. Let them be
patient, and their day will come. Some day their prisoned souls shall
put on wings, shall be free, lovely, and beloved. This is the other
side of Ass's Skin and such like stories. There especially we
are sure of finding a woman's heart. The rude labourer in the fields
may be hard enough to his beasts, but to the woman they are no beasts.
She regards them with the feeling of a child. To her fancy all is
human, all is soul: the whole world becomes ennobled. It is a beautiful
enchantment. Humble as she is, and ugly as she thinks herself, she has
given all her beauty, all her grace to the surrounding universe.
* * * * *
Is she, then, so ugly, this little peasant-wife, whose dreaming
fancy feeds on things like these? I tell you she keeps house, she spins
and minds the flock, she visits the forest to gather a little wood. As
yet she has neither the hard work nor the ugly looks of the
countrywoman as afterwards fashioned by the prevalent culture of grain
crops. Nor is she like the fat townswife, heavy and slothful, about
whom our fathers made such a number of fat stories. She has no sense of
safety; she is meek and timid, and feels herself, as it were, in God's
hand. On yonder hill she can see the dark frowning castle, whence a
thousand harms may come upon her. Her husband she holds in equal fear
and honour. A serf elsewhere, by her side he is a king. For him she
saves of her best, living herself on nothing. She is small and slender
like the women-saints of the Church. The poor feeding of those days
must needs make women fine-bred, but lacking also in vital strength.
The children die off in vast numbers: those pale roses are all nerves.
Hence, will presently burst forth the epileptic dances of the
fourteenth century. Meanwhile, towards the twelfth century, there come
to be two weaknesses attached to this state of half-grown youth: by
night somnambulism; in the daytime seeing of visions, trance, and the
gift of tears.
* * * * *
This woman, for all her innocence, still has a secret which the
Church may never be told. Locked up in her heart she bears the pitying
remembrance of those poor old gods who have fallen into the state of
spirits; and spirits, you must know, are not exempt from suffering.
Dwelling in rocks, and in hearts of oak, they are very unhappy in
winter; being particularly fond of warmth. They ramble about houses;
they are sometimes seen in stables warming themselves beside the
beasts. Bereft of incense and burnt-offerings, they sometimes take of
the milk. The housewife being thrifty, will not stint her husband, but
lessens her own share, and in the evening leaves a little cream.
 This loyalty of hers is very touching indeed. In the
fifth century the peasants braved persecution by parading the
gods of the old religion in the shape of small dolls made of
linen or flour. Still the same in the eighth century. The
Capitularies threaten death in vain. In the twelfth
century, Burchard, of Worms, attests their inutility. In
1389, the Sorbonne inveighs against certain traces of
heathenism, while in 1400, Gerson talks of it as still a
Those spirits who only appear at night, regret their banishment from
the day and are greedy of lamplight. By night the housewife starts on
her perilous trip, bearing a small lantern, to the great oak where they
dwell, or to the secret fountain whose mirror, as it multiplies the
flame, may cheer up those sorrowful outlaws.
But if anyone should know of it, good heavens! Her husband is canny
and fears the Church: he would certainly give her a beating. The priest
wages fierce war with the sprites, and hunts them out of every place.
Yet he might leave them their dwelling in the oaks! What harm can they
do in the forest? Alas! no: from council to council they are hunted
down. On set days the priest will go even to the oak, and with prayers
and holy water drive away the spirits.
How would it be if no kind soul took pity on them? This woman,
however, will take them under her care. She is an excellent Christian,
but will keep for them one corner of her heart. To them alone can she
entrust those little natural affairs, which, harmless as they are in a
chaste wife's dwelling, the Church at any rate would count as
blameworthy. They are the confidants, the confessors of these touching
womanly secrets. Of them she thinks, when she puts the holy log on the
fire. It is Christmastide; but also is it the ancient festival of the
Northern spirits, the Feast of the Longest Night. So, too, the
Eve of May-day is the Pervigilium of Maia, when the tree is
planted. So, too, with the Eve of St. John, the true feast-day of life,
of flowers, and newly-awakened love. She who has no children makes it
her especial duty to cherish these festivals, and to offer them a deep
devotion. A vow to the Virgin would perhaps be of little avail, it
being no concern of Mary's. In a low whisper, she prefers addressing
some ancient genius, worshipped in other days as a rustic deity,
and afterwards by the kindness of some local church transformed into a
saint. And thus it happens that the bed, the cradle, all the
sweetest mysteries on which the chaste and loving soul can brood,
belong to the olden gods.
 A. Maury, Magie, 159.
* * * * *
Nor are the sprites ungrateful. One day she awakes, and without
having stirred a finger, finds all her housekeeping done. In her
amazement she makes the sign of the cross and says nothing. When the
good man goes she questions herself, but in vain. It must have been a
spirit. What can it be? How came it here? How I should like to see it!
But I am afraid: they say it is death to see a spirit.Yet the cradle
moves and swings of itself. She is clasped by some one, and a voice so
soft, so low that she took it for her own, is heard saying, Dearest
mistress, I love to rock your babe, because I am myself a babe. Her
heart beats, and yet she takes courage a little. The innocence of the
cradle gives this spirit also an innocent air, causing her to believe
it good, gentle, suffered at least by God.
From that day forth she is no longer alone. She readily feels its
presence, and it is never far from her. It rubs her gown, and she hears
the grazing. It rambles momently about her, and plainly cannot leave
her side. If she goes to the stable, it is there; and she believes that
the other day it was in the churn.
 This is a favourite haunt of the little rogue's. To this
day the Swiss, knowing his tastes, make him a present of some
milk. His name among them is troll (drôle); among
Germans kobold, nix. In France he is called
goblin, lutin; in England, Puck, Robin
Shakespeare says, he does sleepy servants the kindness to
pinch them black and blue, in order to rouse them.
Pity she cannot take it up and look at it! Once, when she suddenly
touched the brands, she fancied she saw the tricksy little thing
tumbling about in the sparks; another time she missed catching it in a
rose. Small as it is, it works, sweeps, arranges, saves her a thousand
It has its faults, however; is giddy, bold, and if she did not hold
it fast, might perhaps shake itself free. It observes and listens too
much. It repeats sometimes of a morning some little word she had
whispered very, very softly on going to bed, when the light was put
out. She knows it to be very indiscreet, exceedingly curious. She is
irked with feeling herself always followed about, complains of it, and
likes complaining. Sometimes, having threatened him and turned him off,
she feels herself quite at ease. But just then she finds herself
caressed by a light breathing, as it were a bird's wing. He was under a
leaf. He laughs: his gentle voice, free from mocking, declares the joy
he felt in taking his chaste young mistress by surprise. On her making
a show of great wrath, No, my darling, my little pet, says the
monkey, you are not a bit sorry to have me here.
She feels ashamed and dares say nothing more. But she guesses now
that she loves him overmuch. She has scruples about it, and loves him
yet more. All night she seems to feel him creeping up to her bed. In
her fear she prays to God, and keeps close to her husband. What shall
she do? She has not the strength to tell the Church. She tells her
husband, who laughs at first incredulously. Then she owns to a little
more,what a madcap the goblin is, sometimes even overbold. What
matters? He is so small. Thus he himself sets her mind at ease.
Should we too feel reassured, we who can see more clearly? She is
quite innocent still. She would shrink from copying the great lady up
there who, in the face of her husband, has her court of lovers and her
page. Let us own, however, that to that point the goblin has already
smoothed the way. One could not have a more perilous page than he who
hides himself under a rose; and, moreover, he smacks of the lover. More
intrusive than anyone else, he is so tiny that he can creep anywhere.
He glides even into the husband's heart, paying him court and
winning his good graces. He looks after his tools, works in his garden,
and of an evening, by way of reward, curls himself up in the chimney,
behind the babe and the cat. They hear his small voice, just like a
cricket's; but they never see much of him, save when a faint glimmer
lights a certain cranny in which he loves to stay. Then they see, or
think they see, a thin little face; and cry out, Ah! little one, we
have seen you at last!
In church they are told to mistrust the spirits, for even one that
seems innocent, and glides about like a light breeze, may after all be
a devil. They take good care not to believe it. His size begets a
belief in his innocence. Whilst he is there, they thrive. The husband
holds to him as much as the wife, and perhaps more. He sees that the
tricksy little elf makes the fortune of the house.
CHAPTER IV. TEMPTATIONS.
I have kept this picture clear of those dreadful shadows of the hour
by which it would have been sadly overdarkened. I refer especially to
the uncertainty attending the lot of these rural households, to their
constant fear and foreboding of some casual outrage which might at any
moment descend on them from the castle.
There were just two things which made the feudal rule a hell: on one
hand, its exceeding steadfastness, man being nailed, as it were,
to the ground, and emigration made impossible; on the other, a very
great degree of uncertainty about his lot.
The optimist historians who say so much about fixed rents, charters,
buying of immunities, forget how slightly all this was guaranteed. So
much you were bound to pay the lord, but all the rest he could take if
he chose; and this was very fitly called the right of seizure.
You may work and work away, my good fellow! But while you are in the
fields, yon dreaded band from the castle will fall upon your house and
carry off whatever they please for their lord's service.
Look again at that man standing with his head bowed gloomily over
the furrow! And thus he is always found, his face clouded, his heart
oppressed, as if he were expecting some evil news. Is he meditating
some wrongful deed? No; but there are two ideas haunting him, two
daggers piercing him in turn. The one is, In what state shall I find
my house this evening? The other, Would that the turning up of this
sod might bring some treasure to light! O that the good spirit would
help to buy us free!
We are assured that, after the fashion of the Etruscan spirit which
one day started up from under the ploughshare in the form of a child, a
dwarf or gnome of the tiniest stature would sometimes on such an appeal
come forth from the ground, and, setting itself on the furrow, would
say, What wantest thou? But in his amazement the poor man would ask
for nothing; he would turn pale, cross himself, and presently go quite
Did he never feel sorry afterwards? Said he never to himself, Fool
that you are, you will always be unlucky? I readily believe he did;
but I also think that a barrier of dread invincible stopped him short.
I cannot believe with the monks who have told us all things concerning
witchcraft, that the treaty with Satan was the light invention of a
miser or a man in love. On the contrary, nature and good sense alike
inform us that it was only the last resource of an overwhelming
despair, under the weight of dreadful outrages and dreadful sufferings.
* * * * *
But those great sufferings, we are told, must have been greatly
lightened about the time of St. Louis, who forbade private wars among
the nobles. My own opinion is quite the reverse. During the fourscore
or hundred years that elapsed between his prohibition and the wars with
England (1240-1340), the great lords being debarred from the accustomed
sport of burning and plundering their neighbours' lands, became a
terror to their own vassals. For the latter such a peace was simply
The spiritual, the monkish lords, and others, as shown in the
Journal of Eudes Rigault, lately published, make one shudder. It is
a repulsive picture of profligacy at once savage and uncontrolled. The
monkish lords especially assail the nunneries. The austere Rigault,
Archbishop of Rouen, confessor of the holy king, conducts a personal
inquiry into the state of Normandy. Every evening he comes to a
monastery. In all of them he finds the monks leading the life of great
feudal lords, wearing arms, getting drunk, fighting duels, keen
huntsmen over all the cultivated land; the nuns living among them in
wild confusion, and betraying everywhere the fruits of their shameless
If things are so in the Church, what must the lay lords have been?
What like was the inside of those dark towers which the folk below
regarded with so much horror? Two tales, undoubtedly historical,
namely, Blue-Beard and Griselda, tell us something
thereanent. To his vassals, his serfs, what indeed must have been this
devotee of torture who treated his own family in such a way? He is
known to us through the only man who was brought to trial for such
deeds; and that not earlier than the fifteenth century,Gilles de
Retz, who kidnapped children.
Sir Walter Scott's Front de Boeuf, and the other lords of melodramas
and romances, are but poor creatures in the face of these dreadful
realities. The Templar also in Ivanhoe, is a weak artificial
conception. The author durst not assay the foul reality of celibate
life in the Temple, or within the castle walls. Few women were taken in
there, being accounted not worth their keep. The romances of chivalry
altogether belie the truth. It is remarkable, indeed, how often the
literature of an age expresses the very opposite of its manners, as,
for instance, the washy theatre of eclogues after Florian, during
the years of the Great Terror.
 A writer of eclogues, fables and dramas; in youth a
friend of Voltaire, afterwards imprisoned during the
The rooms in these castles, in such at least as may be seen to-day,
speak more plainly than any books. Men-at-arms, pages, footmen, crammed
together of nights under low-vaulted roofs, in the daytime kept on the
battlements, on narrow terraces, in a state of most sickening
weariness, lived only in their pranks down below; in feats no longer of
arms on the neighbouring domains, but of hunting, ay, and hunting of
men; insults, I may say, without number, outrages untold on families of
serfs. The lord himself well knew that such an army of men, without
women, could only be kept in order by letting them loose from time to
The awful idea of a hell wherein God employs the very guiltiest of
the wicked spirits to torture the less guilty delivered over to them
for their sport,this lovely dogma of the Middle Ages was exemplified
to the last letter. Men felt that God was not among them. Each new raid
betokened more and more clearly the kingdom of Satan, until men came to
believe that thenceforth their prayers should be offered to him alone.
Up in the castle there was laughing and joking. The women-serfs
were too ugly. There is no question raised as to their beauty. The
great pleasure lay in deeds of outrage, in striking and making them
weep. Even in the seventeenth century the great ladies died with
laughing, when the Duke of Lorraine told them how, in peaceful
villages, his people went about harrying and torturing all the women,
even to the old.
These outrages fell most frequently, as we might suppose, on
families well to do and comparatively distinguished among the serfs;
the families, namely, of those serf-born mayors, who already in the
twelfth century appear at the head of the village. By the nobles they
were hated, jeered, cruelly plagued. Their newborn moral dignity was
not to be forgiven. Their wives and daughters were not allowed to be
good and wise: they had no right to be held in any respect. Their
honour was not their own. Serfs of the body, such was the cruel
phrase cast for ever in their teeth.
* * * * *
In days to come people will be slow to believe, that the law among
Christian nations went beyond anything decreed concerning the olden
slavery; that it wrote down as an actual right the most grievous
outrage that could ever wound man's heart. The lord spiritual had this
foul privilege no less than the lord temporal. In a parish outside
Bourges, the parson, as being a lord, expressly claimed the firstfruits
of the bride, but was willing to sell his rights to the husband.
 Lauriere, ii. 100 (on the word Marquette). Michelet,
Origines du Droit, 264.
It has been too readily believed that this wrong was formal, not
real. But the price laid down in certain countries for getting a
dispensation, exceeded the means of almost every peasant. In Scotland,
for instance, the demand was for several cows: a price immense,
impossible. So the poor young wife was at their mercy. Besides, the
Courts of Béarn openly maintain that this right grew up naturally: The
eldest-born of the peasant is accounted the son of his lord, for he
perchance it was who begat him.
 When I published my Origines in 1837, I could not
known this work, published in 1842.
All feudal customs, even if we pass over this, compel the bride to
go up to the castle, bearing thither the wedding-dish. Surely it was
a cruel thing to make her trust herself amongst such a pack of celibate
dogs, so shameless and so ungovernable.
A shameful scene we may well imagine it to have been. As the young
husband is leading his bride to the castle, fancy the laughter of
cavaliers and footmen, the frolics of the pages around the wretched
poor! But the presence of the great lady herself will check them? Not
at all. The lady in whose delicate breeding the romances tell us to
believe, but who, in her husband's absence, ruled his men, judging,
chastising, ordaining penalties, to whom her husband himself was bound
by the fiefs she brought him,such a lady would be in no wise
merciful, especially towards a girl-serf who happened also to be
good-looking. Since, according to the custom of those days, she openly
kept her gentleman and her page, she would not be sorry to sanction her
own libertinism by that of her husband.
 This delicacy appears in the treatment these ladies
inflicted on their poet Jean de Meung, author of the Roman
de la Rose.
Nothing will she do to hinder the fun, the sport they are making out
of yon poor trembler who has come to redeem his bride. They begin by
bargaining with him; they laugh at the pangs endured by the miserly
peasant; they suck the very blood and marrow of him. Why all this
fury? Because he is neatly clad; is honest, settled; is a man of mark
in the village. Why, indeed? Because she is pious, chaste, and pure;
because she loves him; because she is frightened and falls a-weeping.
Her sweet eyes plead for pity.
In vain does the poor wretch offer all he has, even to her dowry: it
is all too little. Angered at such cruel injustice, he will say perhaps
that his neighbour paid nothing. The insolent fellow! he would argue
with us! Thereon they gather round him, a yelling mob: sticks and
brooms pelt upon him like hail. They jostle him, they throw him down.
You jealous villain, you Lent-faced villain! they cry; no one takes
your wife from you; you shall have her back to-night, and to enhance
the honour done you ... your eldest child will be a baron! Everyone
looks out of window at the absurd figure of this dead man in wedding
garments. He is followed by bursts of laughter, and the noisy rabble,
down to the lowest scullion, give chase to the cuckold.
 The old tales are very sportive, but rather monotonous.
They turn on three jokes only: the despair of the cuckold,
the cries of the beaten, the wry faces of the hanged. The
first is amusing, the second laughable, the third, as crown
of all, makes people split their sides. And the three have
one point in common: it is the weak and helpless who is
* * * * *
The poor fellow would have burst, had he nothing to hope for from
the Devil. By himself he returns: is the house empty as well as
desolate? No, there is company waiting for him there: by the fireside
But soon his bride comes back, poor wretch, all pale and undone.
Alas! alas! for her condition. At his feet she throws herself and
craves forgiveness. Then, with a bursting heart, he flings his arms
round her neck. He weeps, he sobs, he roars, till the house shakes
But with her comes back God. For all her suffering, she is pure,
innocent, holy still. Satan for that nonce will get no profit: the
treaty is not yet ripe.
Our silly Fabliaux, our absurd tales, assume with regard to this
deadly outrage and all its further issues, that the woman sides with
her oppressors against her husband; they would have us believe that her
brutal treatment by the former makes her happy and transports her with
delight. A likely thing indeed! Doubtless she might be seduced by rank,
politeness, elegant manners. But no pains are ever taken to that end.
Great would be the scoffing at anyone who made true-love's wooing
towards a serf. The whole gang of men, to the chaplain, the butler,
even the footmen, would think they honoured her by deeds of outrage.
The smallest page thought himself a great lord, if he only seasoned his
love with insolence and blows.
* * * * *
One day, the poor woman, having just been ill-treated during her
husband's absence, begins weeping, and saying quite aloud, the while
she is tying up her long hair, Ah, those unhappy saints of the woods,
what boots it to offer them my vows? Are they deaf, or have they grown
too old? Why have I not some protecting spirit, strong and
mightywicked even, if it need be? Some such I see in stone at the
church-door; but what do they there? Why do they not go to their proper
dwelling, the castle, to carry off and roast those sinners? Oh, who is
there will give me power and might? I would gladly give myself in
exchange. Ah, me, what is it I would give? What have I to give on my
side? Nothing is left me. Out on this body, out on this soul, a mere
cinder now! Why, instead of this useless goblin, have I not some
spirit, great, strong, and mighty, to help me?
My darling mistress! If I am small, it is your fault; and bigger I
cannot grow. And besides, if I were very big, neither you nor your
husband would have borne with me. You would have driven me away with
your priests and your holy water. I can be strong, however, if you
please. For, mistress mine, the spirits in themselves are neither great
nor small, neither weak nor strong. For him who wishes it, the smallest
can become a giant.
In what way?
Why, nothing can be simpler. To make him a giant, you must grant
him only one gift.
What is that?
A lovely woman-soul.
Ah, wicked one! What then art thou, and what wouldst thou have?
Only what you give me every day.... Would you be better than the
lady up yonder? She has pledged her soul to her husband and to her
lover, and yet she yields it whole to her page. I am more than a page
to you, more than a servant. In how many matters have I not been your
little handmaid! Do not blush, nor be angry. Let me only say, that I am
all about you, and already perhaps in you. Else, how could I know your
thoughts, even those which you hide from yourself? Who am I, then? Your
little soul, which speaks thus openly to the great one. We are
inseparable. Do you know how long I have been with you? Some thousand
years, for I belonged to your mother, to hers, to your ancestors. I am
the Spirit of the Fireside.
Tempter! What wilt thou do?
Why, thy husband shall be rich, thyself mighty, and men shall fear
Where am I? Surely thou art the demon of hidden treasures!
Why call me demon, if I do deeds of justice, of goodness, of piety?
God cannot be everywhereHe cannot be always working. Sometimes He
likes to rest, leaving us other spirits here to carry on the smaller
husbandry, to remedy the ills which his providence passed over, which
his justice forgot to handle.
Of this your husband is an example. Poor, deserving workman, he is
killing himself and gaining nought in return. Heaven has had no time to
look after him. But I, though rather jealous of him, still love my kind
host. I pity him: his strength is going, he can bear up no longer. He
will die, like your children, already dead of misery. This winter he
was ill; what will become of him the next?
Thereon, her face in her hands, she wept two, three hours, and even
more. And when she had poured out all her tearsher bosom still
throbbing hardthe other said, I ask nothing: only, I pray, save
She had promised nothing, but from that hour she became his.
CHAPTER V. POSSESSION.
A dreadful age was the age of gold; for thus do I call that hard
time when gold first came into use. This was in the year 1300, during
the reign of that Fair King who never spake a word; the great king
who seemed to have a dumb devil, but a devil with mighty arm, strong
enough to burn the Temple, long enough to reach Rome, and with glove of
iron to deal the first good blow at the Pope.
 Philip the Fair of France, who put down the Templar in
Paris, and first secured the liberties of the Gallican
Gold thereupon becomes a great pope, a mighty god, and not without
cause. The movement began in Europe with the Crusades: the only wealth
men cared for was that which having wings could lend itself to their
enterprise; the wealth, namely, of swift exchanges. To strike blows
afar off the king wants nothing but gold. An army of gold, a fiscal
army, spreads over all the land. The lord, who has brought back with
him his dreams of the East, is always longing for its wonders, for
damascened armour, carpets, spices, valuable steeds. For all such
things he needs gold. He pushes away with his foot the serf who brings
him corn. That is not all; I want gold!
On that day the world was changed. Theretofore in the midst of much
evil there had always been a harmless certainty about the tax.
According as the year was good or bad, the rent followed the course of
nature and the measure of the harvest. If the lord said, This is
little, he was answered, My lord, Heaven has granted us no more.
But the gold, alas! where shall we find it? We have no army to seize
it in the towns of Flanders. Where shall we dig the ground to win him
his treasure? Oh, that the spirit of hidden treasures would be our
 The devils trouble the world all through the Middle
Ages; but not before the thirteenth century does Satan put on
a settled shape. Compacts, says M. Maury, are very
before that epoch; and I believe him. How could they treat
with one who as yet had no real existence? Neither of the
treating parties was yet ripe for the contract. Before the
will could be reduced to the dreadful pass of selling itself
for ever, it must be made thoroughly desperate. It is not the
unhappy who falls into despair, but the truly wretched, who
being quite conscious of his misery, and having yet more to
suffer, can find no escape therefrom. The wretched in this
way are the men of the fourteenth century, from whom they ask
a thing so impossible as payments in gold. In this and the
following chapter I have touched on the circumstances, the
feelings, the growing despair, which brought about the
enormity of compacts, and, worse still than these, the
dreadful character of the Witch. If the name was freely
used, the thing itself was then rare, being no less than a
marriage and a kind of priesthood. For ease of illustration,
I have joined together the details of so delicate a scrutiny
by a thread of fiction. The outward body of it matters
little. The essential point is to remember that such things
were not caused, as they try to persuade us, by human
fickleness, by the inconstancy of our fallen nature, by the
chance persuasions of desire. There was needed the deadly
pressure of an age of iron, of cruel needs: it was needful
that Hell itself should seem a shelter, an asylum, by
contrast with the hell below.
While all are desperate, the woman with the goblin is already seated
on her sacks of corn in the little neighbouring village. She is alone,
the rest being still at their debate in the village.
She sells at her own price. But even when the rest come up,
everything favours her, some strange magical allurement working on her
side. No one bargains with her. Her husband, before his time, brings
his rent in good sounding coin to the feudal elm. Amazing! they all
say, but the Devil is in her!
They laugh, but she does not. She is sorrowful and afraid. In vain
she tries to pray that night. Strange prickings disturb her slumber.
Fantastic forms appear before her. The small gentle sprite seems to
have grown imperious. He waxes bold. She is uneasy, indignant, eager to
rise. In her sleep she groans, and feels herself dependent, saying, No
more do I belong to myself!
* * * * *
Here is a sensible countryman, says the lord; he pays beforehand!
You charm me: do you know accounts?A little.Well then, you
shall reckon with these folk. Every Saturday you shall sit under the
elm and receive their money. On Sunday, before mass, you shall bring it
up to the castle.
What a change in their condition! How the wife's heart beats when of
a Saturday she sees her poor workman, serf though he be, seated like a
lordling under the baronial shades. At first he feels giddy, but in
time accustoms himself to put on a grave air. It is no joking matter,
indeed; for the lord commands them to show him due respect. When he has
gone up to the castle, and the jealous ones look like laughing and
designing to pay him off, You see that battlement, says the lord,
the rope you don't see, but it is also ready. The first man who
touches him shall be set up there high and quick.
* * * * *
This speech is repeated from one to another; until it has spread
around these two as it were an atmosphere of terror. Everybody doffs
his hat to them, bowing very low indeed. But when they pass by, folk
stand aloof, and get out of the way. In order to shirk them they turn
up cross roads, with backs bended, with eyes turned carefully down.
Such a change makes them first savage, but afterwards sorrowful. They
walk alone through all the district. The wife's shrewdness marks the
hostile scorn of the castle, the trembling hate of those below. She
feels herself fearfully isolated between two perils. No one to defend
her but her lord, or rather the money they pay him: but then to find
that money, to spur on the peasant's slowness, and overcome his
sluggish antagonism, to snatch somewhat even from him who has nothing,
what hard pressure, what threats, what cruelty, must be employed! This
was never in the goodman's line of business. The wife brings him to the
mark by dint of much pushing: she says to him, Be rough; at need be
cruel. Strike hard. Otherwise you will fall short of your engagements;
and then we are undone.
This suffering by day, however, is a trifle in comparison with the
tortures of the night. She seems to have lost the power of sleeping.
She gets up, walks to and fro, and roams about the house. All is still;
and yet how the house is altered; its old innocence, its sweet security
all for ever gone! Of what is that cat by the hearth a-thinking, as
she pretends to sleep, and 'tweenwhiles opens her green eyes upon me?
The she-goat with her long beard, looking so discreet and ominous,
knows more about it than she can tell. And yon cow which the moon
reveals by glimpses in her stall, why does she give me such a sidelong
look? All this is surely unnatural!
Shivering, she returns to her husband's side. Happy man, how deep
his slumber! Mine is over; I cannot sleep, I never shall sleep again.
In time, however, she falls off. But oh, what suffering visits her
then! The importunate guest is beside her, demanding and giving his
orders. If one while she gets rid of him by praying or making the sign
of the cross, anon he returns under another form. Get back, devil!
What durst thou? I am a Christian soul. No, thou shalt not touch me!
In revenge he puts on a hundred hideous forms; twining as an adder
about her bosom, dancing as a frog upon her stomach, anon like a bat,
sharp-snouted, covering her scared mouth with dreadful kisses. What is
it he wants? To drive her into a corner, so that conquered and crushed
at last, she may yield and utter the word Yes. Still she is resolute
to say No. Still she is bent on braving the cruel struggles of every
night, the endless martyrdom of that wasting strife.
* * * * *
How far can a spirit make himself withal a body? What reality can
there be in his efforts and approaches? Would she be sinning in the
flesh, if she allowed the intrusions of one who was always roaming
about her? Would that be sheer adultery? Such was the sly roundabout
way in which sometimes he stayed and weakened her resistance. If I am
only a breath, a smoke, a thin air, as so many doctors call me, why are
you afraid, poor fearful soul, and how does it concern your husband?
It is the painful doom of the soul in these Middle Ages, that a
number of questions which to us would seem idle, questions of pure
scholastics, disturb, frighten, and torment it, taking the guise of
visions, sometimes of devilish debatings, of cruel dialogues carried on
within. The Devil, fierce as he shows himself in the demoniacs, remains
always a spirit throughout the days of the Roman Empire, even in the
time of St. Martin or the fifth century. With the Barbarian inroads he
waxes barbarous, and takes to himself a body. So great a body does he
become, that he amuses himself in breaking with stones the bell of the
convent of St. Benedict. More and more fleshly is he made to appear, by
way of frightening the plunderers of ecclesiastical goods. People are
taught to believe that sinners will be tormented not in the spirit
only, but even bodily in the flesh; that they will suffer material
tortures, not those of ideal flames, but in very deed such exquisite
pangs as burning coals, gridirons, and red-hot spits can awaken.
This conception of the torturing devils inflicting material agonies
on the souls of the dead, was a mine of gold to the Church. The living,
pierced with grief and pity, asked themselves if it were possible to
redeem these poor souls from one world to another; if to these, too,
might be applied such forms of expiation, by atonement and compromise,
as were practised upon earth? This bridge between two worlds was found
in Cluny, which from its very birth, about 900, became at once among
the wealthiest of the monastic orders.
So long as God Himself dealt out his punishments, making heavy
his hand, or striking with the sword of the Angel, according
to the grand old phrase, there was much less of horror; if his hand was
heavy as that of a judge, it was still the hand of a Father. The Angel
who struck remained pure and clean as his own sword. Far otherwise is
it when the execution is done by filthy demons, who resemble not the
angel that burned up Sodom, but the angel that first went forth
therefrom. In that place they stay, and their hell is a kind of Sodom,
wherein these spirits, fouler than the sinners yielded into their
charge, extract a horrible joy from the tortures they are inflicting.
Such was the teaching to be found in the simple carvings hung out at
the doors of churches. By these men learned the horrible lesson of the
pleasures of pain. On pretence of punishing, the devils wreaked upon
their victims the most outrageous whims. Truly an immoral and most
shameful idea was this, of a sham justice that befriended the worse
side, deepening its wickedness by the present of a plaything, and
corrupting the Demon himself!
* * * * *
Cruel times indeed! Think how dark and low a heaven it was, how
heavily it weighed on the head of man! Fancy the poor little children
from their earliest years imbued with such awful ideas, and trembling
within their cradles! Look at the pure innocent virgin believing
herself damned for the pleasure infused in her by the spirit! And the
wife in her marriage-bed tortured by his attacks, withstanding him, and
yet again feeling him within her!a fearful feeling known to those who
have suffered from tænia. You feel in yourself a double life; you trace
the monster's movements, now boisterous, anon soft and waving, and
therein the more troublesome, as making you fancy yourself on the sea.
Then you rush off in wild dismay, terrified at yourself, longing to
escape, to die.
Even at such times as the demon was not raging against her, the
woman into whom he had once forced his way would wander about as one
burdened with gloom. For thenceforth she had no remedy. He had taken
fast hold of her, like an impure steam. He is the Prince of the Air, of
storms, and not least of the storms within. All this may be seen rudely
but forcefully presented under the great doorway of Strasburg
Cathedral. Heading the band of Foolish Virgins, the wicked woman
who lures them on to destruction is filled, blown out by the Devil, who
overflows ignobly and passes out from under her skirts in a dark stream
of thick smoke.
This blowing-out is a painful feature in the possession; at
once her punishment and her pride. This proud woman of Strasburg bears
her belly well before her, while her head is thrown far back. She
triumphs in her size, delights in being a monster.
To this, however, the woman we are following has not yet come. But
already she is puffed up with him, and with her new and lofty lot. The
earth has ceased to bear her. Plump and comely in these better days,
she goes down the street with head upright, and merciless in her scorn.
She is feared, hated, admired.
In look and bearing our village lady says, I ought to be the great
lady herself. And what does she up yonder, the shameless sluggard,
amidst all those men, in the absence of her lord? And now the rivalry
is set on foot. The village, while it loathes her, is proud thereat.
If the lady of the castle is a baroness, our woman is a queen; and
more than a queen,we dare not say what. Her beauty is a dreadful, a
fantastic beauty, killing in its pride and pain. The Demon himself is
in her eyes.
* * * * *
He has her and yet has her not. She is still herself, and
preserves herself. She belongs neither to the Demon nor to God.
The Demon may certainly invade her, may encompass her like a fine
atmosphere. And yet he has gained nothing at all; for he has no will
thereto. She is possessed, bedevilled, and she does not
belong to the Devil. Sometimes he uses her with dreadful cruelty, and
yet gains nothing thereby. He places a coal of fire on her breast, or
within her bowels. She jumps and writhes, but still says, No, butcher,
I will stay as I am.
Take care! I will lash you with so cruel a scourge of vipers, I
will smite you with such a blow, that you will afterwards go weeping
and rending the air with your cries.
The next night he will not come. In the morningit was Sundayher
husband went up to the castle. He came back all undone. The lord had
said: A brook that flows drop by drop cannot turn the mill. You bring
me a halfpenny at a time, which is good for nought. I must set off in a
fortnight. The king marches towards Flanders, and I have not even a
war-horse, my own being lame ever since the tourney. Get ready for
business: I am in want of a hundred pounds.
But, my lord, where shall I find them?
You may sack the whole village, if you will; I am about to give you
men enough. Tell your churls, if the money is not forthcoming they are
lost men; yourself especiallyyou shall die. I have had enough of you:
you have the heart of a woman; you are slack and sluggish. You shall
dieyou shall pay for your cowardice, your effeminacy. Stay; it makes
but very small difference whether you go down now, or whether I keep
you here. This is Sunday: right loudly would the folk yonder laugh to
see you dangling your legs from my battlements.
All this the unhappy man tells again to his wife; and preparing
hopelessly for death, commends his soul to God. She being just as
frightened, can neither lie down nor sleep. What is to be done? How
sorry she is now to have sent the spirit away! If he would but come
back! In the morning, when her husband rises, she sinks crushed upon
the bed. She has hardly done so, when she feels on her chest a heavy
weight. Gasping for breath, she is like to choke. The weight falls
lower till it presses on her stomach, and therewithal on her arms she
feels the grasp as of two steel hands.
You wanted me, and here I am. So, at last, stubborn one, I have
your soulat last!
But oh, sir, is it mine to give away? My poor husband! you used to
love himyou said so: you promised
Your husband! You forget. Are you sure your thoughts were always
kept upon him? Your soul! I ask for it as a favour; but it is already
No, sir, she saysher pride once more returning to her, even in
so dire a straitno, sir; that soul belongs to me, to my husband, to
our marriage rites.
Ah, incorrigible little fool! you would struggle still, even now
that you are under the goad! I have seen your soul at all hours; I know
it better than you yourself. Day by day did I mark your first
reluctances, your pains, and your fits of despair. I saw how
disheartened you were when, in a low tone, you said that no one could
be held to an impossibility. And then I saw you growing more resigned.
You were beaten a little, and you cried out not very loud. As for me, I
ask for your soul simply because you have already lost it. Meanwhile,
your husband is dying. What is to be done? I am sorry for you: I have
you in my power; but I want something more. You must grant it frankly
and of free will, or else he is a dead man.
She answered very low, in her sleep, Ah me! my body and my
miserable flesh, you may take them to save my husband; but my heart,
never. No one has ever had it, and I cannot give it away.
So, all resignedly she waited there. And he flung at her two words:
Keep them, and they will save you. Therewith she shuddered, felt
within her a horrible thrill of fire, and, uttering a loud cry, awoke
in the arms of her astonished husband, to drown him in a flood of
* * * * *
She tore herself away by force, and got up, fearing lest she should
forget those two important words. Her husband was alarmed; for, without
looking even at him, she darted on the wall a glance as piercing as
that of Medea. Never was she more handsome. In her dark eye and the
yellowish white around it played such a glimmer as one durst not
facea glimmer like the sulphurous jet of a volcano.
She walked straight to the town. The first word was Green.
Hanging at a tradesman's door she beheld a green gownthe colour of
the Prince of the Worldan old gown, which as she put it on became new
and glossy. Then she walked, without asking anyone, straight to the
door of a Jew, at which she knocked loudly. It was opened with great
caution. The poor Jew was sitting on the ground, covered over with
ashes. My dear, I must have a hundred pounds.
Oh, madam, how am I to get them? The Prince-bishop of the town has
just had my teeth drawn to make me say where my gold lies. Look at
my bleeding mouth.
 This was a common way of extracting help from the Jews.
King John Lackland often tried it.
I know, I know; but I come to obtain from you the very means of
destroying your Bishop. When the Pope gets a cuffing, the Bishop will
not hold out long.
Who says so?
 Toledo seems to have been the holy city of Wizards, who
in Spain were numberless. These relations with the civilized
Moors, with the Jews so learned and paramount in Spain, as
managers of the royal revenues, had given them a very high
degree of culture, and in Toledo they formed a kind of
University. In the sixteenth century, it was christianised,
remodelled, reduced to mere white magic. See the
Deposition of the Wizard Achard, Lord of Beaumont, a
Physician of Poitou. Lancre, Incredulité, p. 781.
He hung his head. She spoke and blew: within her was her own soul
and the Devil to boot. A wondrous warmth filled the room: he himself
was aware of a kind of fiery fountain. Madam, said he, looking at her
from under his eyes, poor and ruined as I am, I had some pence still
in store to sustain my poor children.
You will not repent of it, Jew. I will swear to you the great
oath that kills whoso breaks it. What you are about to give me, you
shall receive back in a week, at an early hour in the morning. This I
swear by your great oath and by mine, which is yet greater: '
* * * * *
A year went by. She had grown round and plump; had made herself one
mass of gold. Men were amazed at her power of charming. Every one
admired and obeyed her. By some devilish miracle the Jew had grown so
generous as to lend at the slightest signal. By herself she maintained
the castle, both through her own credit in the town, and through the
fear inspired in the village by her rough extortion. The all-powerful
green gown floated to and fro, ever newer and more beautiful. Her own
beauty grew, as it were, colossal with success and pride. Frightened at
a result so natural, everyone said, At her time of life how tall she
Meanwhile we have some news: the lord is coming home. The lady, who
for a long time had not dared to come forth, lest she might meet the
face of this other woman down below, now mounted her white horse.
Surrounded by all her people, she goes to meet her husband; she stops
and salutes him.
And, first of all, she says, How long I have been looking for you!
Why did you leave your faithful wife so long a languishing widow? And
yet I will not take you in to-night, unless you grant me a boon.
Ask it, ask it, fair lady, says the gentleman laughing; but make
haste, for I am eager to embrace you. How beautiful you have grown!
She whispered in his ear, so that no one knew what she said. Before
going up to the castle the worthy lord dismounts by the village church,
and goes in. Under the porch, at the head of the chief people, he
beholds a lady, to whom without knowing her he offers a low salute.
With matchless pride she bears high over the men's heads the towering
horned bonnet (hennin) of the period; the triumphal cap of
the Devil, as it was often called, because of the two horns wherewith
it was embellished. The real lady, blushing at her eclipse, went out
looking very small. Anon she muttered, angrily, There goes your serf.
It is all over: everything has changed places: the ass insults the
 The absurd head-dress of the women, with its one and
often two horns sloping back from the head, in the fourteenth
As they are going off, a bold page, a pet of the lady's, draws from
his girdle a well-sharpened dagger, and with a single turn cleverly
cuts the fine robe along her loins. The crowd was astonished, but
began to make it out when it saw the whole of the Baron's household
going off in pursuit of her. Swift and merciless about her whistled and
fell the strokes of the whip. She flies, but slowly, being already
grown somewhat heavy. She has hardly gone twenty paces when she
stumbles; her best friend having put a stone in her way to trip her up.
Amidst roars of laughter she sprawls yelling on the ground. But the
ruthless pages flog her up again. The noble handsome greyhounds help in
the chase and bite her in the tenderest places. At last, in sad
disorder, amidst the terrible crowd, she reaches the door of her house.
It is shut. There with hands and feet she beats away, crying, Quick,
quick, my love, open the door for me! There hung she, like the hapless
screech-owl whom they nail up on a farm-house door; and still as hard
as ever rained the blows. Within the house all is deaf. Is the husband
there? Or rather, being rich and frightened, does he dread the crowd,
lest they should sack his house?
 Such cruel outrages were common in those days. By the
French and Anglo-Saxon laws, lewdness was thus punished.
Grimm, 679, 711. Sternhook, 19, 326. Ducange, iii. 52.
Michelet, Origines, 386, 389. By and by, the same rough
usage is dealt out to honest women, to citizen's wives, whose
pride the nobles seek to abase. We know the kind of ambush
into which the tyrant Hagenbach drew the honourable ladies of
the chief burghers in Alsace, probably in scorn of their rich
and royal costume, all silks and gold. In my Origines I
have also related the strange claim made by the Lord of Pacé,
in Anjou, on the pretty (and honest) women of the
neighbourhood. They were to bring to the castle fourpence and
a chaplet of flowers, and to dance with his officers: a
dangerous trip, in which they might well fear some such
affronts as those offered by Hagenbach. They were forced to
obey by the threat of being stripped and pricked with a goad
bearing the impress of the lord's arms.
And now she has borne such misery, such strokes, such sounding
buffets, that she sinks down in a swoon. On the cold stone threshold
she finds herself seated, naked, half-dead, her bleeding flesh covered
with little else than the waves of her long hair. Some one from the
castle says, No more now! We do not want her to die.
They leave her alone, to hide herself. But in spirit she can see the
merriment going on at the castle. The lord however, somewhat dazed,
said that he was sorry for it. But the chaplain says, in his meek way,
If this woman is bedevilled, as they say, my lord, you owe it
to your good vassals, you owe it to the whole country, to hand her over
to Holy Church. Since all that business with the Templars and the Pope,
what way the Demon is making! Nothing but fire will do for him. Upon
which a Dominican says, Your reverence has spoken right well. This
devilry is a heresy in the highest degree. The bedevilled, like the
heretic, should be burnt. Some of our good fathers, however, do not
trust themselves now even to the fire. Wisely they desire that, before
all things, the soul may be slowly purged, tried, subdued by fastings;
that it may not be burnt in its pride, that it shall not triumph at the
stake. If you, madam, in the greatness of your piety, of your charity,
would take the trouble to work upon this woman, putting her for some
years in pace in a safe cell, of which you only should have the
key,by thus keeping up the chastening process you might be doing good
to her soul, shaming the Devil, and giving herself up meek and humble
into the hands of the Church.
CHAPTER VI. THE COVENANT.
Nothing was wanting but the victim. They knew that to bring this
woman before her was the most charming present she could receive.
Tenderly would she have acknowledged the devotion of anyone who would
have given her so great a token of his love, by delivering that poor
bleeding body into her hands.
But the prey was aware of the hunters. A few minutes later and she
would have been carried off, to be for ever sealed up beneath the
stone. Wrapping herself in some rags found by chance in the stable, she
took to herself wings of some kind, and before midnight gained some
out-of-the-way spot on a lonely moor all covered with briars and
thistles. It was on the skirts of a wood, where by the uncertain light
she might gather a few acorns, to swallow them like a beast. Ages had
elapsed since evening; she was utterly changed. Beauty and queen of the
village no more, she seemed with the change in her spirit to have
changed her postures also. Among her acorns she squatted like a boar or
a monkey. Thoughts far from human circled within her as she heard, or
seemed to hear the hooting of an owl, followed by a burst of shrill
laughter. She felt afraid, but perhaps it was the merry mockbird
mimicking all those sounds, according to its wonted fashion.
But the laughter begins again: whence comes it? She can see nothing.
Apparently it comes from an old oak. Distinctly, however, she hears
these words: So, here you are at last! You have come with an ill
grace; nor would you have come now, if you had not tried the full depth
of your last need. You were fain first to run the gauntlet of whips; to
cry out and plead for mercy, haughty as you were; to be mocked, undone,
forsaken, unsheltered even by your husband. Where would you have been
this night, if I had not been charitable enough to show you the in
pace getting ready for you in the tower? Late, very late, you are
in coming to me, and only after they have called you the old woman. In your youth you did not treat me well, when I was your wee goblin,
so eager to serve you. Now take your turn, if so I wish it, to serve me
and kiss my feet.
You were mine from birth through your inborn wickedness, through
those devilish charms of yours. I was your lover, your husband. Your
own has shut his door against you: I will not shut mine. I welcome you
to my domains, my free prairies, my woods. How am I the gainer, you may
say? Could I not long since have had you at any hour? Were you not
invaded, possessed, filled with my flame? I changed your blood and
renewed it: not a vein in your body where I do not flow. You know not
yourself how utterly you are mine. But our wedding has yet to be
celebrated with all the forms. I have some manners, and feel rather
scrupulous. Let us be one for everlasting.
Oh! sir, in my present state, what should I say? For a long, long
while back have I felt, too truly felt, that you were all my fate. With
evil intent you caressed me, loaded me with favours, and made me rich,
in order at length to cast me down. Yesterday, when the black greyhound
bit my poor naked flesh, its teeth scorched me, and I said, ''Tis he!'
At night when that daughter of Herodias with her foul language scared
the company, somebody put them up to the promising her my blood; and
that was you!
True; but 'twas I who saved you and brought you hither. I did
everything, as you have guessed. I ruined you, and why? That I might
have you all to myself. To speak frankly, I was tired of your husband.
You took to haggling and pettifogging: far otherwise do I go to work; I
want all or none. This is why I have moulded and drilled you, polished
and ripened you, for my own behoof. Such, you see, is my delicacy of
taste. I don't take, as people imagine, those foolish souls who would
give themselves up at once. I prefer the choicer spirits, who have
reached a certain dainty stage of fury and despair. Stop: I must let
you know how pleasant you look at this moment. You are a great beauty,
a most desirable soul. I have loved you ever so long, but now I am
hungering for you.
I will do things on a large scale, not being one of those husbands
who reckon with their betrothed. If you wanted only riches, you should
have them in a trice. If you wanted to be queen in the stead of Joan of
Navarre, that too, though difficult, should be done, and the King would
not lose much thereby in the matter of pride and haughtiness. My wife
is greater than a queen. But, come, tell me what you wish.
Sir, I ask only for the power of doing evil.
A delightful answer, very delightful! Have I not cause to love you?
In reality those words contain all the law and all the prophets. Since
you have made so good a choice, all the rest shall be thrown in, over
and above. You shall learn all my secrets. You shall see into the
depths of the earth. The whole world shall come and pour out gold at
thy feet. See here, my bride, I give you the true diamond, Vengeance. I know you, rogue; I know your most hidden desires. Ay, our hearts on
that point understand each other well! Therein at least shall I have
full possession of you. You shall behold your enemy on her knees at
your feet, begging and praying for mercy, and only too happy to earn
her release by doing whatever she has made you do. She will burst into
tears; and you will graciously say, No: whereon she will cry,
'Death and damnation!' ... Come, I will make this my special business.
Sir, I am at your service. I was thankless indeed, for you have
always heaped favours on me. I am yours, my master, my god! None other
do I desire. Sweet are your endearments, and very mild your service.
And so she worships him, tumbling on all-fours. At first she pays
him, after the forms of the Temple, such homage as betokens the utter
abandonment of the will. Her master, the Prince of this World, the
Prince of the Winds, breathes upon her in his turn, like an eager
spirit. She receives at once the three sacraments, in reverse
orderbaptism, priesthood, and marriage. In this new Church, the exact
opposite of the other, everything must be done the wrong way. Meekly,
patiently, she endures the cruel initiation, borne up by that one
 This will be explained further on. We must guard against
the pedantic additions of the sixteenth century writers.
* * * * *
Far from being crushed or weakened by the infernal thunderbolt, she
arose with an awful vigour and flashing eyes. The moon, which for a
moment had chastely covered herself, took flight on seeing her again.
Blown out to an amazing degree by the hellish vapour, filled with fire,
with fury, and with some new ineffable desire, she grew for a while
enormous with excess of fulness, and displayed a terrible beauty. She
looked around her, and all nature was changed. The trees had gotten a
tongue, and told of things gone by. The herbs became simples. The
plants which yesterday she trod upon as so much hay, were now as people
discoursing on the art of medicine.
She awoke on the morrow far, very far, from her enemies, in a state
of thorough security. She had been sought after, but they had only
found some scattered shreds of her unlucky green gown. Had she in her
despair flung herself headlong into the torrent? Or had she been
carried off alive by the Devil? No one could tell. Either way she was
certainly damned, which greatly consoled the lady for having failed to
Had they seen her they would hardly have known her again, she was so
changed. Only the eyes remained, not brilliant, but armed with a very
strange and a rather deterring glimmer. She herself was afraid of
frightening: she never lowered them, but looked sideways, so that the
full force of their beams might be lost by slanting them. From the
sudden browning of her hue people would have said that she had passed
through the flame. But the more watchful felt that the flame was rather
in herself, that she bore about her an impure and scorching heat. The
fiery dart with which Satan had pierced her was still there, and, as
through a baleful lamp, shot forth a wild, but fearfully witching
sheen. Shrinking from her, you would yet stand still, with a strange
trouble filling your every sense.
She saw herself at the mouth of one of those troglodyte caves, such
as you find without number in the hills of the Centre and the West of
France. It was in the borderland, then wild, between the country of
Merlin and the country of Melusina. Some moors stretching out of sight
still bear witness to the ancient wars, the unceasing havoc, the many
horrors, which prevented the country being peopled again. There the
Devil was in his home. Of the few inhabitants most were his zealous
worshippers. Whatever attractions he might have found in the rough
brakes of Lorraine, the black pine-forests of the Jura, or the briny
deserts of Burgos, his preferences lay, perhaps, in our western
marches. There might be found not only the visionary shepherd, that
Satanic union of the goat and the goatherd, but also a closer
conspiracy with nature, a deeper insight into remedies and poisons, a
mysterious connection, whose links we know not, with Toledo the
learned, the University of the Devil.
The winter was setting in: its breath having first stripped the
trees, had heaped together the leaves and small boughs of dead wood.
All this she found prepared for her at the mouth of her gloomy den. By
a wood and moor, half a mile across, you came down within reach of some
villages, which had grown up beside a watercourse. Behold your
kingdom! said the voice within her. To-day a beggar, to-morrow you
shall be queen of the whole land.
CHAPTER VII. THE KING OF THE DEAD.
At first she was not much affected by promises like these. A lonely
hermitage without God, amidst the great monotonous breezes of the West,
amidst memories all the more ruthless for that mighty solitude, of such
heavy losses, such sharp affronts; a widowhood so hard and sudden, away
from the husband who had left her to her shameall this was enough to
bow her down. Plaything of fate, she seemed like the wretched weed upon
the moor, having no root, but tossed to and fro, lashed and cruelly cut
by the north-east winds; or rather, perhaps, like the grey,
many-cornered coral, which only sticks fast to get more easily broken.
The children trampled on her; the people said, with a laugh, She is
the bride of the winds.
Wildly she laughed at herself when she thought on the comparison.
But, from the depth of her dark cave, she heard,
Ignorant and witless, you know not what you say. The plant thus
tossing to and fro may well look down upon the rank and vulgar herbs.
If it tosses, it is, at least, all self-containeditself both flower
and seed. Do thou be like it; be thine own root, and even in the
whirlwind thou wilt still bear thy blossom: our own flowers for
ourselves, as they come forth from the dust of tombs and the ashes of
To thee, first flower of Satan, do I this day grant the knowledge
of my former name, my olden power. I was, I am, the King of the Dead. Ay, have I not been sadly slandered? 'Tis I who alone can make them
reappear; a boon untold, for which I surely deserved an altar.
* * * * *
To pierce the future and to call up the past, to forestal and to
live again the swift-flying moments, to enlarge the present with that
which has been and that which will bethese are the two things
forbidden to the Middle Ages; but forbidden in vain. Nature is
invincible; nothing can be gained in such a quarter. He who thus errs
is a man. It is not for him to be rooted to his furrow, with
eyes cast down, looking nowhere beyond the steps he takes behind his
oxen. No: we will go forward with head upraised, looking further and
looking deeper! This earth that we measure out with so much care, we
kick our feet upon withal, and keep ever saying to it, What dost thou
hold in thy bowels? What secrets lie therein? Thou givest us back the
grain we entrust to thee; but not that human seed, those beloved dead,
we have lent into thy charge. Our friends, our loves, that lie there,
will they never bud again? Oh, that we might see them, if only for one
hour, if only for one moment!
Some day we ourselves shall reach the unknown land, whither they
have already gone. But shall we see them again there? Shall we dwell
with them? Where are they, and what are they doing? They must be kept
very close prisoners, these dear dead of mine, to give me not one
token! And how can I make them hear me? My father, too, whose only hope
I was, who loved me with so mighty a love, why comes he never to me?
Ah, me! on either side is bondage, imprisonment, mutual ignorance; a
dismal night, where we look in vain for one glimmer!
 The glimmer shines forth in Dumesnil's Immortalité,
and La Foi Nouvelle, in the Ciel et Terre of
Henry Martin, &c.
These everlasting thoughts of Nature, from having in olden times
been simply mournful, became in the Middle Ages painful, bitter,
weakening, and the heart thereby grew smaller. It seems as if they had
reckoned on flattening the soul, on pressing and squeezing it down to
the compass of a bier. The burial of the serf between four deal boards
was well suited to such an end: it haunted one with the notion of being
smothered. A person thus enclosed, if ever he returned in one's dreams,
would no longer appear as a thin luminous shadow encircled by a halo of
Elysium, but only as the wretched sport of some hellish griffin-cat.
What a hateful and impious idea, that my good, kind father, my mother
so revered by all, should become the plaything of such a beast! You may
laugh now, but for a thousand years it was no laughing matter: they
wept bitterly. And even now the heart swells with wrath, the very pen
grates angrily upon the paper, as one writes down these blasphemous
* * * * *
Moreover, it was surely a cruel device to transfer the Festival of
the Dead from the Spring, where antiquity had placed it, to November.
In May, where it fell at first, they were buried among the flowers. In
March, wherein it was afterwards placed, it became the signal for
labour and the lark. The dead and the seed of corn entered the earth
together with the same hope. But in November, when all the work is
done, the weather close and gloomy for many days to come; when the folk
return to their homes; when a man, re-seating himself by the hearth,
looks across on that place for evermore emptyah, me! at such a time
how great the sorrow grows! Clearly, in choosing a moment already in
itself so funereal, for the obsequies of Nature, they feared that a man
would not find cause enough of sorrow in himself!
The coolest, the busiest of men, however taken up they be with
life's distracting cares, have, at least, their sadder moments. In the
dark wintry morning, in the night that comes on so swift to swallow us
up in its shadow, ten years, nay, twenty years hence, strange feeble
voices will rise up in your heart: Good morning, dear friend, 'tis we!
You are alive, are working as hard as ever. So much the better! You do
not feel our loss so heavily, and you have learned to do without us;
but we cannot, we never can, do without you. The ranks are closed, the
gap is all but filled. The house that was ours is full, and we have
blessed it. All is well, is better than when your father carried you
about; better than when your little girl said, in her turn, to you,
'Papa, carry me.' But, lo! you are in tears. Enough, till we meet
Alas, and are they gone? That wail was sweet and piercing: but was
it just? No. Let me forget myself a thousand times rather than I should
forget them! And yet, cost what it will to say so, say it we must, that
certain traces are fading off, are already less clear to see; that
certain features are not indeed effaced, but grown paler and more dim.
A hard, a bitter, a humbling thought it is, to find oneself so weak and
fleeting, wavering as unremembered water; to feel that in time one
loses that treasure of grief which one had hoped to preserve for ever.
Give it me back, I pray: I am too much bounden to so rich a fountain of
tears. Trace me again, I implore you, those features I love so well.
Could you not help me at least to dream of them by night?
* * * * *
More than one such prayer is spoken in the month of November. And
amidst the striking of the bells and the dropping of the leaves, they
clear out of church, saying one to another in low tones: I say,
neighbour; up there lives a woman of whom folk speak well and ill. For
myself, I dare say nothing; but she has power over the world below. She
calls up the dead, and they come. Oh, if she mightwithout sin, you
know, without angering Godmake my friends come to me! I am alone, as
you must know, and have lost everything in this world. But who knows
what this woman is, whether of hell or heaven? I won't go (he is dying
of curiosity all the while); I won't. I have no wish to endanger my
soul: besides, the wood yonder is haunted. Many's the time that things
unfit to see have been found on the moor. Haven't you heard about
Jacqueline, who was there one evening looking for one of her sheep?
Well, when she returned, she was crazy. I won't go.
Thus unknown to each other, many of the men at least went thither.
For as yet the women hardly dared so great a risk. They remark the
dangers of the road, ask many questions of those who return therefrom.
The new Pythoness is not like her of Endor, who raised up Samuel at the
prayer of Saul. Instead of showing you the ghosts, she gives you
cabalistic words and powerful potions to bring them back in your
dreams. Ah, how many a sorrow has recourse to these! The grandmother
herself, tottering with her eighty years, would behold her grandson
again. By an unwonted effort, yet not without a pang of shame at
sinning on the edge of the grave, she drags herself to the spot. She is
troubled by the savage look of a place all rough with yews and thorns,
by the rude, dark beauty of that relentless Proserpine. Prostrate,
trembling, grovelling on the ground, the poor old woman weeps and
prays. Answer there is none. But when she dares to lift herself up a
little, she sees that Hell itself has been a-weeping.
* * * * *
It is simply Nature recovering herself. Proserpine blushes
self-indignantly thereat. Degenerate soul! she calls herself, why
this weakness? You came hither with the firm desire of doing nought but
evil. Is this your master's lesson? How he will laugh at you for this!
Nay! Am I not the great shepherd of the shades, making them come
and go, opening unto them the gate of dreams? Your Dante, when he drew
my likeness, forgot my attributes. When he gave me that useless tail,
he did not see that I held the shepherd's staff of Osiris; that from
Mercury I had inherited his caduceus. In vain have they thought to
build up an insurmountable wall between the two worlds; I have wings to
my heels, I have flown over. By a kindly rebellion of that slandered
Spirit, of that ruthless monster, succour has been given to those who
mourned; mothers, lovers, have found comfort. He has taken pity on them
in defiance of their new god.
The scribes of the Middle Ages, being all of the priestly class,
never cared to acknowledge the deep but silent changes of the popular
mind. It is clear that from thenceforth compassion goes over to Satan's
side. The Virgin herself, ideal as she is of grace, makes no answer to
such a want of the heart. Neither does the Church, who expressly
forbids the calling up of the dead. While all books delight in keeping
up either the swinish demon of earlier times, or the griffin butcher of
the second period, Satan has changed his shape for those who cannot
write. He retains somewhat of the ancient Pluto; but his pale nor
wholly ruthless majesty, that permitted the dead to come back, the
living once more to see the dead, passes ever more and more into the
nature of his father, or his grandfather, Osiris, the shepherd of
Through this one change come many others. Men with their mouths
acknowledge the hell official and the boiling caldrons; but in their
hearts do they truly believe therein? Would it be so easy to win these
infernal favours for hearts beset with hateful traditions of a hell of
torments? The one idea neutralizes without wholly effacing the other,
and between them grows up a vague mixed image, resembling more and more
nearly the hell of Virgil. A mighty solace was here offered to the
human heart. Blessed above all was the relief thus given to the poor
women, whom that dreadful dogma about the punishment of their loved
dead had kept drowned in tears and inconsolable. The whole of their
lifetime had been but one long sigh.
* * * * *
The Sibyl was musing over her master's words, when a very light step
became audible. The day has scarcely dawned: it is after Christmas,
about the first day of the new year. Over the crisp and rimy grass
approaches a small, fair woman, all a-trembling, who has no sooner
reached the spot, than she swoons and loses her breath. Her black gown
tells plainly of her widowhood. To the piercing gaze of Medea, without
moving or speaking, she reveals all: there is no mystery about her
shrinking figure. The other says to her with a loud voice: You need
not tell me, little dumb creature, for you would never get to the end
of it. I will speak for you. Well, you are dying of love! Recovering a
little, she clasps her hands together, and sinking almost on her knees,
tells everything, making a full confession. She had suffered, wept,
prayed, and would have silently suffered on. But these winter feasts,
these family re-unions, the ill-concealed happiness of other women who,
without pity for her, showed off their lawful loves, had driven the
burning arrow again into her heart. Alas, what could she do? If he
might but return and comfort her for one moment! Be it even at the
cost of my life; let me die, but only let me see him once more!
Go back to your house: shut the door carefully: put up the shutter
even against any curious neighbour. Throw off your mourning, and put on
your wedding-clothes; place a cover for him on the table; but yet he
will not come. You will sing the song he made for you, and sang to you
so often, but yet he will not come. Then you shall draw out of your box
the last dress he wore, and, kissing it, say, 'So much the worse for
thee if thou wilt not come!' And presently when you have drunk this
wine, bitter, but very sleepful, you will lie down as a wedded bride.
Then assuredly he will come to you.
The little creature would have been no woman, if next morning she
had not shown her joy and tenderness by owning the miracle in whispers
to her best friend. Say nought of it, I beg. But he himself told me,
that if I wore this gown and slept a deep sleep every Sunday, he would
A happiness not without some danger. Where would the rash woman be,
if the Church learned that she was no longer a widow; that re-awakened
by her love, the spirit came to console her?
But strange to tell, the secret is kept. There is an understanding
among them all, to hide so sweet a mystery. For who has no concern
therein? Who has not lost and mourned? Who would not gladly see this
bridge created between two worlds? O thou beneficent Witch! Blessed be
thou, spirit of the nether world!
CHAPTER VIII. THE PRINCE OF NATURE.
Hard is the long sad winter of the North-west. Even after its
departure it renews its visits, like a drowsy sorrow which ever and
again comes back and rages afresh. One morning everything wakes up
decked with bright needles. In this cruel mocking splendour that makes
one shiver through and through, the whole vegetable world seems turned
mineral, loses its sweet diversity, and freezes into a mass of rough
The poor Sibyl, as she sits benumbed by her hearth of leaves,
scourged by the flaying north-east winds, feels at her heart a cruel
pang, for she feels herself all alone. But that very thought again
brings her relief. With returning pride returns a vigour that warms her
heart and lights up her soul. Intent, quick, and sharp, her sight
becomes as piercing as those needles; and the world, the cruel world
that caused her suffering, is to her transparent as glass. Anon she
rejoices over it, as over a conquest of her making.
For is she not a queen, a queen with courtiers of her own? The crows
have clearly some connection with her. In grave, dignified body they
come like ancient augurs, to talk to her of passing things. The wolves
passing by salute her timidly with sidelong glances. The bear, then
oftener seen than now, would sometimes, in his heavily good-natured
way, seat himself awkwardly at the threshold of her den, like a hermit
calling on a fellow-hermit, just as we often see him in the Lives of
the Desert Fathers.
All those birds and beasts with whom men only made acquaintance in
hunting or slaying them, were outlawed as much as she. With all these
she comes to an understanding; for Satan as the chief outlaw, imparts
to his own the pleasures of natural freedom, the wild delight of living
in a world sufficient unto itself.
* * * * *
Rough freedom of loneliness, all hail! The whole earth seems still
clothed in a white shroud, held in bondage by a load of ice, of
pitiless crystals, so uniform, sharp, and agonizing. After the year
1200 especially, the world is shut in like a transparent tomb, wherein
all things look terribly motionless, hard, and stiff.
The Gothic Church has been called a crystallization; and so it
truly is. About 1300, architecture gave up all its old variety of form
and living fancies, to repeat itself for evermore, to vie with the
monotonous prisms of Spitzbergen, to become the true and awful likeness
of that hard crystal city, in which a dreadful dogma thought to bury
all life away.
But for all the props, buttresses, flying-buttresses, that keep the
monument up, one thing there is that makes it totter. There is no loud
battering from without, but a certain softness in the very foundations,
which attacks the crystal with an imperceptible thaw. What thing do I
mean? The humble stream of warm tears shed by a whole world, until they
have become a very sea of wailings. What do I call it? A breath of the
future, a stirring of the natural life, which shall presently rise
again in irresistible might. The fantastic building of which more than
one side is already sinking, says, not without terror, to itself, It
is the breath of Satan.
Beneath this Hecla-glacier lies a volcano which has no need of
bursting out; a mild, slow, gentle heat, which caresses it from below,
and, calling it nearer, says in a whisper, Come down.
* * * * *
The Witch has something to laugh at, if from the gloom she can see
how utterly Dante and St. Thomas, in the bright light yonder,
ignore the true position of things. They fancy that the Devil wins his
way by cunning or by terror. They make him grotesque and coarse, as in
his childhood, when Jesus could still send him into the herd of swine.
Or else they make him subtle as a logician of the schools, or a
fault-finding lawyer. If he had been no better than this compound of
beast and disputant,if he had only lived in the mire or on fine-drawn
quibbles about nothing, he would very soon have died of hunger.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, who died in
People were too ready to crow over him, when he was shewn by
Bartolus pleading against the womanthat is, the Virginwho gets
him nonsuited and condemned with costs. At that time, indeed, the very
contrary was happening on earth. By a master-stroke of his he had won
over the plaintiff herself, his fair antagonist, the Woman; had seduced
her, not indeed by verbal pleadings, but by arguments not less real
than they were charming and irresistible. He put into her hands the
fruits of science and of nature.
 Bartolus or Bartoli, a lawyer and law-writer of the
No need for controversies, for pleas of any kind: he simply shows
himself. In the East, the new-found Paradise, he begins to work. From
that Asian world, which men had thought to destroy, there springs forth
a peerless day-dawn, whose beams travel afar until they pierce the deep
winter of the West. There dawns on us a world of nature and of art,
accursed of the ignorant indeed, but now at length come forward to
vanquish its late victors in a pleasant war of love and motherly
endearments. All are conquered, all rave about it; they will have
nothing but Asia herself. With her hands full she comes to meet us. Her
tissues, shawls, her carpets so agreeably soft, so wondrously
harmonized, her bright and well-wrought blades, her richly damascened
arms, make us aware of our own barbarism. Moreover, little as that may
seem, these accursed lands of the miscreant, ruled by Satan, are
visibly blessed with the fairest fruits of nature, that elixir of the
powers of God; with the first of vegetables, coffee; with the
first of beasts, the Arab horse. What am I saying?with a whole
world of treasures, silk, sugar, and a host of herbs all-powerful to
relieve the heart, to soothe and lighten our sufferings.
All this breaks upon our view about the year 1300. Spain herself,
whose brain is wholly fashioned out of Moors and Jews, for all that she
is again subdued by the barbarous children of the Goth, bears witness
in behalf of those miscreants. Wherever the Mussulman children
of the Devil are at work, all is prosperous, the springs well forth,
the ground is covered with flowers. A right worthy and harmless travail
decks it with those wondrous vineyards, through which men recruit
themselves, drowning all care, and seeming to drink in draughts of very
goodness and heavenly compassion.
* * * * *
To whom does Satan bring the foaming cup of life? In this fasting
world, which has so long been fasting from reason, what man was there
strong enough to take all this in without growing giddy, without
getting drunken and risking the loss of his wits?
Is there yet a brain so far from being petrified or crystallized by
the teaching of St. Thomas, as to remain open to the living world, to
its vegetative forces? Three magicians, Albert the Great, Roger Bacon,
Arnaud of Villeneuve, by strong efforts make their way to Nature's
secrets; but those lusty intellects lack flexibility and popular power.
Satan falls back on his own Eve. The woman is still the most natural
thing in the world; still keeps her hold on those traits of roguish
innocence one sees in a kitten or a child of very high spirit. Besides,
she figures much better in that world-comedy, that mighty game
wherewith the universal Proteus disports himself.
 Three eminent schoolmen of the thirteenth century, whose
scientific researches pointed the way to future
But being light and changeful, she is all the less liable to be
carked and hardened by pain! This woman, whom we have seen outlawed
from the world, and rooted on her wild moor, affords a case in point.
Have we yet to learn whether, bruised and soured as she is, with her
heart full of hate, she will re-enter the natural world and the
pleasant paths of life? Assuredly her return thither will not find her
in good tune, will happen mainly through a round of ill. In the coming
and going of the storm she is all the more scared and violent for being
so very weak.
When in the mild warmth of spring, from the air, the depths of the
earth, from the flowers and their languages, a new revelation rises
round her on every side, she is taken dizzy at the first. Her swelling
bosom overflows. The Sibyl of science has her tortures, like her of
Cumæ or of Delphi. The schoolmen find their fun in saying, It is the
wind and nought else that blows her out. Her lover, the Prince of the
Air, fills her with dreams and delusions, with wind, with smoke, with
emptiness. Foolish irony! So far from this being the true cause of her
drunkenness, it is nothing empty, it is a real, a substantial thing,
which has loaded her bosom all too quickly.
* * * * *
Have you ever seen the agave, that hard wild African shrub, so
sharp, bitter, and tearing, with huge bristles instead of leaves? Ten
years through it loves and dies. At length one day the amorous shoot,
which has so long been gathering in the rough thing, goes off with a
noise like gunfire, and darts skyward. And this shoot becomes a whole
tree, not less than thirty feet high, and bristling with sad flowers.
Some such analogy does the gloomy Sibyl feel, when one morning of a
spring-time, late in coming, and therefore impetuous at the last, there
takes place all around her a vast explosion of life.
And all things look at her, and all things bloom for her. For every
thing that has life says softly, Whoso understands me, I am his.
What a contrast! Here is the wife of the desert and of despair, bred
up in hate and vengeance, and lo! all these innocent things agree to
smile upon her! The trees, soothed by the south wind, pay her gentle
homage. Each herb of the field, with its own special virtue of scent,
or remedy, or poisonvery often the three things are oneoffers
itself to her, saying, Gather me.
All things are clearly in love. Are they not mocking me? I had been
readier for hell than for this strange festival. O spirit, art thou
indeed that spirit of dread whom once I knew, the traces of whose
cruelty I bear about mewhat am I saying, and where are my
senses?the wound of whose dealing scorches me still?
Ah, no! 'Tis not the spirit whom I hoped for in my rage; 'he who
always says, No!' This other one utters a yes of love, of drunken
dizziness. What ails him? Is he the mad, the dazed soul of life?
They spoke of the great Pan as dead. But here he is in the guise of
Bacchus, of Priapus, eager with long-delayed desire, threatening,
scorching, teeming. No, no! Be this cup far from me! Trouble only
should I drink from it,who knows? A despair yet sharper than my past
Meanwhile wherever the woman appears, she becomes the one great
object of love. She is followed by all, and for her sake all despise
their own proper kind. What they say about the black he-goat, her
pretended favourite, may be applied to all. The horse neighs for her,
breaking everything and putting her in danger. The awful king of the
prairie, the black bull, bellows with grief, should she pass him by at
a distance. And, behold, yon bird despondingly turns away from his hen,
and with whirring wings hastes to convince the woman of his love!
Such is the new tyranny of her master, who, by the funniest hap of
all, foregoes the part accredited to him as king of the dead, to burst
forth a very king of life.
No! she says; leave me to my hatred: I ask for nothing more. Let
me be feared and fearful! The beauty I would have, is only that which
dwells in these black serpents of my hair, in this countenance furrowed
with grief, and the scars of thy thunderbolt. But the Lord of Evil
replies with cunning softness: Oh, but you are only the more
beautiful, the more impressible, for this fiery rage of yours! Ay, call
out and curse on, beneath one and the same goad! 'Tis but one storm
calling another. Swift and smooth is the passage from wrath to
Neither her fury nor her pride would have saved her from such
allurements. But she is saved by the boundlessness of her desire. There
is nought will satisfy her. Each kind of life for her is all too
bounded, wanting in power. Away from her, steed and bull and loving
bird! Away, ye creatures all! for one who desires the Infinite, how
weak ye are!
She has a woman's longing; but for what? Even for the whole, the
great all-containing whole. Satan did not foresee that no one creature
would content her.
That which he could not do, is done for her in some ineffable way.
Overcome by a desire so wide and deep, a longing boundless as the sea,
she falls asleep. At such a moment, all else forgot, no touch of hate,
no thought of vengeance left in her, she slumbers on the plain,
innocent in her own despite, stretched out in easy luxuriance like a
sheep or a dove.
She sleeps, she dreams; a delightful dream! It seemed as if the
wondrous might of universal life had been swallowed up within her; as
if life and death and all things thenceforth lay fast in her bowels; as
if in return for all her suffering, she was teeming at last with Nature
CHAPTER IX. THE DEVIL A PHYSICIAN.
That still and dismal scene of the Bride of Corinth, is repeated
literally from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century. While it was
yet night, just before the daybreak, the two lovers, Man and Nature,
meet again, embrace with rapture, and, at that same momenthorrible to
tell!behold themselves attacked by fearful plagues. We seem still to
hear the loved one saying to her lover, It is all over: thy hair will
be white to-morrow. I am dead, and thou too wilt die.
Three dreadful blows happen in these three centuries. In the first
we have a loathsome changing of the outer man, diseases of the skin,
above all, leprosy. In the second, the evil turns inwards, becomes a
grotesque excitement of the nerves, a fit of epileptic dancing. Then
all grows calm, but the blood is changed, and ulcers prepare the way
for syphilis, the scourge of the fifteenth century.
* * * * *
Among the chief diseases of the Middle Ages, so far as one can look
therein, to speak generally, had been hunger, weakness, poverty of
blood, that kind of consumption which is visible in the sculptures of
that time. The blood was like clear water, and scrofulous ailments were
rife everywhere. Barring the well-paid doctors, Jew or Arab, of the
kings, the art of medicine was practised only with, holy water at the
church door. Thither on Sundays, after the service, would come a crowd
of sick, to whom words like these were spoken: You have sinned and God
has afflicted you. Be thankful: so much the less will you suffer in the
next world. Resign yourselves to suffer and to die. The Church has
prayers for the dead. Weak, languishing, hopeless, with no desire to
live, they followed this counsel faithfully, and let life go its way.
A fatal discouragement, a wretched state of things, that would have
prolonged without end these ages of lead, and debarred them from all
progress! Worst of all things is it to resign oneself so readily, to
welcome death with so much docility, to have strength for nothing, to
desire nothing. Of more worth was that new era, that close of the
Middle Ages, which at the cost of cruel sufferings first enabled us to
regain our former energy; namely, the resurrection of desire.
* * * * *
Some Arab writers have asserted that the widespread eruption of
skin-diseases which marks the thirteenth century, was caused by the
taking of certain stimulants to re-awaken and renew the defaults of
passion. Undoubtedly the burning spices brought over from the East,
tended somewhat to such an issue. The invention of distilling and of
divers fermented drinks may also have worked in the same direction.
But a greater and far more general fermentation was going on. During
the sharp inward struggle between two worlds and two spirits, a third
surviving silenced both. As the fading faith and the newborn reason
were disputing together, somebody stepping between them caught hold of
man. You ask who? A spirit unclean and raging, the spirit of sour
desires, bubbling painfully within.
Debarred from all outlet, whether of bodily enjoyment, or the free
flow of soul, the sap of life thus closely rammed together, was sure to
corrupt itself. Bereft of light, of sound, of speech, it spoke through
pains and ominous excrescences. Then happened a new and dreadful thing.
The desire put off without being diminished, finds itself stopped short
by a cruel enchantment, a shocking metamorphosis. Love was
advancing blindly with open arms. It recoils groaning; but in vain
would it flee: the fire of the blood keeps raging; the flesh eats
itself away in sharp titillations, and sharper within rages the coal of
fire, made fiercer by despair.
 Leprosy has been traced to Asia and the Crusades; but
Europe had it in herself. The war declared by the Middle Ages
against the flesh and all cleanliness bore its fruits. More
than one saint boasted of having never washed even his hands.
And how much did the rest wash? To have stripped for a moment
would have been sinful. The worldlings carefully follow the
teaching of the monks. This subtle and refined society, which
sacrificed marriage and seemed inspired only with the poetry
of adultery, preserved a strange scruple on a point so
harmless. It dreaded all cleansing, as so much defilement.
There was no bathing for a thousand years!
What remedy does Christian Europe find for this twofold ill? Death
and captivity; nothing more. When the bitter celibacy, the hopeless
love, the passion irritable and ever-goading, bring you into a morbid
state; when your blood is decomposing, then you shall go down into an
In pace, or build your hut in the desert. You must live with the
handbell in your hand, that all may flee before you. No human being
must see you: no consolation may be yours. If you come near, 'tis
* * * * *
Leprosy is the last stage, the apogee of this scourge; but a
thousand other ills, less hideous but still cruel, raged everywhere.
The purest and the most fair were stricken with sad eruptions, which
men regarded as sin made visible, or the chastisement of God. Then
people did what the love of life had never made them do: they forsook
the old sacred medicine, the bootless holy water, and went off to the
Witch. From habit and fear as well, they still repaired to church; but
thenceforth their true church was with her, on the moor, in the forest,
in the desert. To her they carried their vows.
Prayers for healing, prayers for pleasure. On the first effervescing
of their heated blood, folk went to the Sibyl, in great secrecy, at
uncertain hours. What shall I do? and what is this I feel within me? I
burn: give me some lenitive. I burn: grant me that which causes my
A bold, a blamable journey, for which they reproach themselves at
night. Let this new fatality be never so urgent, this fire be never so
torturing, the Saints themselves never so powerless; still, have not
the indictment of the Templars and the proceedings of Pope Boniface
unveiled the Sodom lying hid beneath the altar? But a wizard Pope, a
friend of the Devil, who also carried him away, effects a change in all
their ideas. Was it not with the Demon's help that John XXII., the son
of a shoemaker, a Pope no more of Rome, succeeded in amassing in his
town of Avignon more gold than the Emperor and all the kings? As the
Pope is, so is the bishop. Did not Guichard, Bishop of Troyes, procure
from the Devil the death of the King's daughters? No death we ask
forwe; but pleasant thingsfor life, for health, for beauty, and for
pleasure: the things of God which God refuses. What shall we do? Might
we but win them through the grace of the Prince of this World!
* * * * *
When the great and mighty doctor of the Renaissance, Paracelsus,
cast all the wise books of ancient medicine into the fire, Latin, and
Jewish, and Arabic, all at once, he declared that he had learned none
but the popular medicine, that of the good women, the
shepherds, and the headsmen, the latter of whom made often
good horse-doctors and clever surgeons, resetting bones broken or put
out of joint.
 The name given in fear and politeness to the witches.
I make no doubt but that his admirable and masterly work on The
Diseases of Womenthe first then written on a theme so large, so
deep, so tendercame forth from his special experience of those women
to whom others went for aid; of the witches, namely, who always acted
as the midwives: for never in those days was a male physician admitted
to the woman's side, to win her trust in him, to listen to her secrets.
The witches alone attended her, and became, especially for women, the
chief and only physician.
* * * * *
What we know for surest with regard to their medicinal practice is,
that for ends the most different, alike to stimulate and to soothe,
they made use of one large family of doubtful and very dangerous
plants, called, by reason of the services they rendered, The
Comforters, or Solaneæ.
 Man's ingratitude is painful to see. A thousand other
plants have come into use: a hundred exotic vegetables have
become the fashion. But the good once done by these poor
Comforters is clean forgotten!Nay, who now remembers
even acknowledges the old debt of humanity to harmless
nature? The Asclepias acida, Sarcostemma, or
which for five thousand years was the Holy Wafer of the
East, its very palpable God, eaten gladly by five hundred
millions of men,this plant, in the Middle Ages called the
Poison-queller (vince-venenum), meets with not one word
historical comment in our books of Botany. Perhaps two
thousand years hence they will forget the wheat. See Langlois
on the Soma of India and the Hom of Persia.
l'Académie des Inscriptions, xix. 326.
A vast and popular family, many kinds of which abound to excess
under our feet, in the hedges, everywherea family so numerous that of
one kind alone we have eight hundred varieties. There is nothing
easier, nothing more common, to find. But these plants are mostly
dangerous in the using. It needs some boldness to measure out a dose,
the boldness, perhaps, of genius.
 M. d'Orbigny's Dictionary of Natural History,
Let us, step by step, mount the ladder of their powers. The
first are simply pot-herbs, good for food, such as the mad-apples and
the tomatoes, miscalled love-apples. Other, of the harmless kinds,
are sweetness and tranquillity itself, as the white mullens, or lady's
fox-gloves, so good for fomentations.
 I have found this ladder nowhere else. It is the more
important, because the witches who made these essays at the
risk of passing for poisoners, certainly began with the
weakest, and rose gradually to the strongest. Each step of
power thus gives its relative date, and helps us in this dark
subject to set up a kind of chronology. I shall complete it
in the following chapters, when I come to speak of the
Mandragora and the Datura. I have chiefly followed Pouchet's
Solanées and Botanique Générale.
Going higher up, you come on a plant already suspicious, which many
think a poison, a plant which at first seems like honey and afterwards
tastes bitter, reminding one of Jonathan's saying, I have eaten a
little honey, and therefore shall I die. But this death is
serviceable, a dying away of pain. The bittersweet should have been
the first experiment of that bold homoeopathy which rose, little by
little, up to the most dangerous poisons. The slight irritation and the
tingling which it causes might point it out as a remedy for the
prevalent diseases of that time, those, namely, of the skin.
The pretty maiden who found herself woefully adorned with uncouth
red patches, with pimples, or with ringworm, would come crying for such
relief. In the case of an elder woman the hurt would be yet more
painful. The bosom, most delicate thing in nature, with its innermost
vessels forming a matchless flower, becomes, through its injective and
congestive tendencies, the most perfect instrument for causing pain.
Sharp, ruthless, restless are the pains she suffers. Gladly would she
accept all kinds of poison. Instead of bargaining with the Witch, she
only puts her poor hard breast between her hands.
From the bittersweet, too weak for such, we rise to the dark
nightshades, which have rather more effect. For a few days the woman is
soothed. Anon she comes back weeping. Very well, to-night you may come
again. I will fetch you something, as you wish me; but it will be a
It was a heavy risk for the Witch. At that time they never thought
that poisons could act as remedies, if applied outwardly or taken in
very weak doses. The plants they compounded together under the name of
witches' herbs, seemed to be but ministers of death. Such as were
found in her hands would have proved her, in their opinion, a poisoner
or a dealer in accursed charms. A blind crowd, all the more cruel for
its growing fears, might fell her with a shower of stones, or make her
undergo the trial by waterthe noyade. Or evenmost dreadful
doom of all!they might drag her with a rope round her neck to the
churchyard, where a pious festival was held and the people edified by
seeing her thrown to the flames.
However, she runs the risk, and fetches home the dreadful plant. The
other woman comes back to her abode by night or morning, whenever she
is least afraid of being met. But a young shepherd, who saw her there,
told the village, If you had seen her as I did, gliding among the
rubbish of the ruined hut, looking about her on all sides, muttering I
know not what! Oh, but she has frightened me very much! If she had seen
me, I was a lost man. She would have changed me into a lizard, a toad,
or a bat. She took a paltry herbthe paltriest I ever sawof a pale
sickly yellow, with red and black marks, like the flames, as they say,
of hell. The horror of the thing is, that the whole stalk was hairy
like a man, with long, black, sticky hairs. She plucked it roughly,
with a grunt, and suddenly I saw her no more. She could not have run
away so quick; she must have flown. What a dreadful thing that woman
is! How dangerous to the whole country!
Certainly the plant inspires dread. It is the henbane, a cruel and
dangerous poison, but a powerful emollient, a soft sedative poultice,
which melts, unbends, lulls to sleep the pain, often taking it quite
Another of these poisonsthe Belladonna, so called, undoubtedly, in
thankful acknowledgment, had great power in laying the convulsions that
sometimes supervened in childbirth, and added a new danger, a new fear,
to the danger and the fear of that most trying moment. A motherly hand
instilled the gentle poison, casting the mother herself into a sleep,
and smoothing the infant's passage, after the manner of the modern
chloroform, into the world.
 Madame La Chapelle and M. Chaussier have renewed to good
purpose these practices of the older medicine. Pouchet,
Belladonna cures the dancing-fits while making you dance. A daring
homoeopathy this, which at first must frighten: it is medicine
reversed, contrary in most things to that which alone the
Christians studied, which alone they valued, after the example of the
Jews and Arabs.
How did men come to this result? Undoubtedly by the simple effect of
the great Satanic principle, that everything must be done the wrong
way, the very opposite way to that followed by the holy people.
These latter have a dread of poisons. Satan uses them and turns them
into remedies. The Church thinks by spiritual means, by sacraments and
prayers, to act even on the body. Satan, on the other hand, uses
material means to act even upon the soul, making you drink of
forgetfulness, love, reverie, and every passion. To the blessing of the
priest he opposes the magnetic passes made by the soft hands of women,
who cheat you of your pains.
* * * * *
By a change of system, and yet more of dress, as in the substitution
of linen for wool, the skin-diseases lost their intensity. Leprosy
abated, but seemed to go inwards and beget deeper ills. The fourteenth
century wavered between three scourgesthe epileptic dancings, the
plague, and the sores which, according to Paracelsus, led the way to
The first danger was not the least. About 1350 it broke out in a
frightful manner with the dance of St. Guy, and was singular especially
in this, that it did not act upon each person separately. As if carried
on by one same galvanic current, the sick caught each other by the
hand, formed immense chains, and spun and spun round till they died.
The spectators, who laughed at first, presently catching the contagion,
let themselves go, fell into the mighty current, increased the terrible
What would have happened if the evil had held on as long as leprosy
did even in its decline?
It was the first step, as it were, towards epilepsy. If that
generation of sufferers had not been cured, it would have begotten
another decidedly epileptic. What a frightful prospect! Think of Europe
covered with fools, with idiots, with raging madmen! We are not told
how the evil was treated and checked. The remedy prescribed by most,
the falling upon these jumpers with kicks and cuffings, was entirely
fitted to increase the frenzy and turn it into downright epilepsy.
Doubtless there was some other remedy, of which people were loth to
speak. At the time when witchcraft took its first great flight, the
widespread use of the Solaneæ, above all, of belladonna,
vulgarized the medicine which really checked those affections. At the
great popular gatherings of the Sabbath, of which we shall presently
speak, the witches' herb, mixed with mead, beer, cider, or
perry (the strong drinks of the West), set the multitude dancing a
dance luxurious indeed, but far from epileptic.
 We should think that few physicians would quite agree
with M. Michelet.TRANS.
 Cider was first made in the twelfth century.
* * * * *
But the greatest revolution caused by the witches, the greatest step
the wrong way against the spirit of the Middle Ages, was what may
be called the reënfeoffment of the stomach and the digestive organs.
They had the boldness to say, There is nothing foul or unclean.
Thenceforth the study of matter was free and boundless. Medicine became
That this principle was greatly abused, we do not deny; but the
principle is none the less clear. There is nothing foul but moral evil.
In the natural world all things are pure: nothing may be withheld from
our studious regard, nothing be forbidden by an idle spiritualism,
still less by a silly disgust.
It was here especially that the Middle Ages showed themselves in
their true light, as anti-natural, out of Nature's oneness
drawing distinctions of castes, of priestly orders. Not only do they
count the spirit noble, and the body ignoble; but even
parts of the body are called noble, while others are not, being
evidently plebeian. In like manner heaven is noble, and hell is not;
but why?Because heaven is high up. But in truth it is neither high
nor low, being above and beneath alike. And what is hell? Nothing at
all. Equally foolish are they about the world at large and the smaller
world of men.
This world is all one piece: each thing in it is attached to all the
rest. If the stomach is servant of the brain and feeds it, the brain
also works none the less for the stomach, perpetually helping to
prepare for it the digestive sugar.
 This great discovery was made by Claude Bernard.
* * * * *
There was no lack of injurious treatment. The witches were called
filthy, indecent, shameless, immoral. Nevertheless, their first steps
on that road may be accounted as a happy revolution in things most
moral, in charity and kindness. With a monstrous perversion of ideas
the Middle Ages viewed the flesh in its representative,
woman,accursed since the days of Eveas a thing impure. The Virgin,
exalted as Virgin more than as Our Lady, far from lifting
up the real woman, had caused her abasement, by setting men on the
track of a mere scholastic puritanism, where they kept rising higher
and higher in subtlety and falsehood.
Woman herself ended by sharing in the hateful prejudice and deeming
herself unclean. She hid herself at the hour of childbed. She blushed
at loving and bestowing happiness on others. Sober as she mostly was in
comparison with man, living as she mostly did on herbs and fruits,
sharing through her diet of milk and vegetables the purity of the most
innocent breeds, she almost besought forgiveness for being born, for
living, for carrying out the conditions of her life.
* * * * *
The medical art of the Middle Ages busied itself peculiarly about
the man, a being noble and pure, who alone could become a priest, alone
could make God at the altar. It also paid some attention to the beasts,
beginning indeed with them; but of children it thought seldom: of women
not at all.
The romances, too, with their subtleties pourtray the converse of
the world. Outside the courts and highborn adulterers, which form the
chief topic of these romances, the woman is always a poor Griselda,
born to drain the cup of suffering, to be often beaten, and never cared
In order to mind the woman, to trample these usages under foot, and
to care for her in spite of herself, nothing less would serve than the
Devil, woman's old ally, her trusty friend in Paradise, and the Witch,
that monster who deals with everything the wrong way, exactly
contrariwise to that of the holier people. The poor creature set such
little store by herself. She would shrink back, blushing, and loth to
say a word. The Witch being clever and evil-hearted, read her to the
inmost depths. Ere long she won her to speak out, drew from her her
little secret, overcame her refusals, her modest, humble hesitations.
Rather than undergo the remedy, she was willing almost to die. But the
cruel sorceress made her live.
CHAPTER X. CHARMS AND PHILTRES.
Let no one hastily conclude from the foregoing chapter that I
attempt to whiten, to acquit entirely, the dismal bride of the Devil.
If she often did good, she could also do no small amount of ill. There
is no great power which is not abused. And this one had three centuries
of actual reigning, in the interlude between two worlds, the older
dying and the new struggling painfully to begin. The Church, which in
the quarrels of the sixteenth century will regain some of her strength,
at least for fighting, in the fourteenth is down in the mire. Look at
the truthful picture drawn by Clémangis. The nobles, so proudly arrayed
in their new armour, fall all the more heavily at Crécy, Poitiers,
Agincourt. All who survive end by being prisoners in England. What a
theme for ridicule! The citizens, the very peasants make merry and
shrug their shoulders. This general absence of the lords gave, I fancy,
no small encouragement to the Sabbath gatherings which had always taken
place, but at this time might first have grown into vast popular
How mighty the power thus wielded by Satan's sweetheart, who cures,
foretels, divines, calls up the souls of the dead; who can throw a
spell upon you, turn you into a hare or wolf, enable you to find a
treasure, and, best of all, ensure your being beloved! It is an awful
power which combines all others. How could a stormy soul, a soul most
commonly gangrened, and sometimes grown utterly wayward, have helped
employing it to wreak her hate and revenge; sometimes even out of a
mere delight in malice and uncleanness?
All that once was told the confessor, is now imparted to her: not
only the sins already done, but those also which folk purpose doing.
She holds each by her shameful secret, by the avowal of her uncleanest
desires. To her they entrust both their bodily and mental ills; the
lustful heats of a blood inflamed and soured; the ceaseless prickings
of some sharp, urgent, furious desire.
To her they all come: with her there is no shame. In plain blunt
words they beseech her for life, for death, for remedies, for poisons.
Thither comes a young woman, to ask through her tears for the means of
saving her from the fruits of her sin. Thither comes the step-mothera
common theme in the Middle Agesto say that the child of a former
marriage eats well and lives long. Thither comes the sorrowing wife
whose children year by year are born only to die. And now, on the other
hand, comes a youth to buy at any cost the burning draught that shall
trouble the heart of some haughty dame, until, forgetful of the
distance between them, she has stooped to look upon her little page.
* * * * *
In these days there are but two types, two forms of marriage, both
of them extreme and outrageous.
The scornful heiress of a fief, who brings her husband a crown or a
broad estate, an Eleanor of Guyenne for instance, will, under her
husband's very eyes, hold her court of lovers, keeping herself under
very slight control. Let us leave romances and poems, to look at the
reality in its dread march onward to the unbridled rage of the
daughters of Philip the Fair, of the cruel Isabella, who by the hands
of her lovers impaled Edward II. The insolence of the feudal women
breaks out diabolically in the triumphant two-horned bonnet and other
But in this century, when classes are beginning to mingle slightly,
the woman of a lower rank, when she marries a lord, has to fear the
hardest trials. So says the truthful history of the humble, the meek,
the patient Griselda. In a more popular form it becomes the tale of
Blue-Beard, a tale which seems to me quite earnest and historical.
The wife so often killed and replaced by him could only have been his
vassal. He would have reckoned wholly otherwise with the daughter or
sister of a baron, who might avenge her. If I am not misled by a
specious conjecture, we must believe that this tale is of the
fourteenth century, and not of those preceding, in which the lord would
never have deigned to take a wife below himself.
Specially remarkable in the moving tale of Griselda is the
fact, that throughout her heavy trials, she never seeks support in
being devout or in loving another. She is evidently faithful, chaste,
and pure. It never comes into her mind to love elsewhere.
Of the two feudal women, the Heiress and Griselda, it is peculiarly
the first who has her household of gentlemen, her courts of love, who
shows favour to the humblest lovers, encouraging them, delivering, as
Eleanor did, the famous sentence, soon to become quite classical:
There can be no love between married folk.
Thereupon a secret hope, but hot and violent withal, arises in more
than one young heart. If he must give himself to the Devil, he will
rush full tilt on this adventurous intrigue. Let the castle be never so
surely closed, one fine opening is still left for Satan. In a game so
perilous, what chance of success reveals itself? Wisdom answers, None.
But what if Satan said, Yes?
We must remember how great a distance feudal pride set between the
nobles themselves. Words are misleading: one cavalier might be
far below another.
The knight banneret, who brought a whole army of vassals to his
king's side, would look with utter scorn from one end of his long table
on the poor lackland knights seated at the other. How much
greater his scorn for the simple varlets, grooms, pages, &c., fed upon
his leavings! Seated at the lowermost end of the tables close to the
door, they scraped the dishes sent down to them, often empty, from the
personages seated above beside the hearth. It never would cross the
great lord's mind, that those below would dare to lift eyes of fancy
towards their lovely mistress, the haughty heiress of a fief, sitting
near her mother, crowned by a chaplet of white roses. Whilst he bore
with wondrous patience the love of some stranger knight, appointed by
his lady to bear her colours, he would have savagely punished the
boldness of any servant who looked so high. Of this kind was the raging
jealousy shown by the Lord of Fayel, who was stirred to deadly wrath,
not because his wife had a lover, but because that lover was one of his
household, the castellan or simple constable of his castle of Coucy.
The deeper and less passable seemed the gulf between the great
heiress, lady of the manor, and the groom or page who, barring his
shirt, had nothing, not even his coat, but what belonged to his master,
the stronger became love's temptation to overleap that gulf.
The youth was buoyed up by the very impossibility. At length, one
day that he managed to get out of the tower, he ran off to the Witch
and asked her advice. Would a philtre serve as a spell to win her? Or,
failing that, must he make an express covenant? He never shrank at all
from the dreadful idea of yielding himself to Satan. We will take care
for that, young man: but hie thee up again; you will find some change
* * * * *
The change, however, is in himself. He is stirred by some ineffable
hope, that escapes in spite of him from a deep downcast eye, scored by
an ever-darting flame. Somebody, we may guess who, having eyes for him
alone, is moved to throw him, as she passes, a word of pity. Oh,
rapture! Kind Satan! Charming, adorable Witch!
He cannot eat nor drink until he has been to see the latter again.
Respectfully kissing her hand, he almost falls at her feet. Whatever
she may ask him, whatever she may bid him do, he will obey her. That
moment, if she wishes it, he will give her his golden chain, will give
her the ring upon his finger, though he had it from a dying mother. But
the Witch, in her native malice, in her hatred of the Baron, feels an
especial comfort in dealing him a secret blow.
Already a vague anxiety disturbs the castle. A dumb tempest, without
lightning or thunder, broods over it, like an electric vapour on a
marsh. All is silence, deep silence; but the lady is troubled. She
suspects that some supernatural power has been at work. For why indeed
be thus drawn to this youth, more than to some one else, handsomer,
nobler, renowned already for deeds of arms? There is something toward,
down yonder! Has that woman cast a spell upon her, or worked some
hidden charm? The more she asks herself these questions, the more her
heart is troubled.
* * * * *
The Witch has something to wreak her malice upon at last. In the
village she was a queen; but now the castle comes to her, yields itself
up to her on that side where its pride ran the greatest risk. For us
this passion has a peculiar interest, as the rush of one soul towards
its ideal against every social harrier, against the unjust decree of
fate. To the Witch, on her side, it holds out the deep, keen delight of
humbling the lady's pride, and revenging perhaps her own wrongs; the
delight of serving the lord as he served his vassals, of levying upon
him, through the boldness of a mere child, the firstfruits of his
outrageous wedding-rights. Undoubtedly, in these intrigues where the
Witch had to play her part, she often acted from a depth of levelling
hatred natural to a peasant.
Already it was something gained to have made the lady stoop to love
a menial. We should not be misled by such examples as John of Saintré
and Cherubin. The serving-boy filled the lowest offices in the
household. The footman proper did not then exist, while on the other
hand, few, if any maidservants lived in military strongholds. Young
hands did everything, and were not disgraced thereby. The service,
specially the body-service of the lord and lady, honoured and raised
them up. Nevertheless, it often placed the highborn page in situations
sorrowful enough, prosaic, not to say ridiculous. The lord never
distresses himself about that. And the lady must indeed be charmed by
the Devil, not to see what every day she saw, her well-beloved employed
in servile and unsuitable tasks.
* * * * *
In the Middle Ages the very high and the very low are continually
brought together. That which is hidden by the poems, we can catch a
glimpse of otherwhere. With those ethereal passions, many gross things
were clearly blended.
All we know of the charms and philtres used by the witches is very
fantastic, not seldom marked by malice, and recklessly mixed up with
things that seem to us the least likely to have awakened love. By these
methods they went a long way without the husband's perceiving in his
blindness the game they made of him.
These philtres were of various kinds. Some were for exciting and
troubling the senses, like the stimulants so much abused in the East.
Others were dangerous, and often treacherous draughts to whose
illusions the body would yield itself without the will. Others again
were employed as tests when the passion was defied, when one wished to
see how far the greediness of desire might derange the senses, making
them receive as the highest and holiest of favours, the most
disagreeable services done by the object of their love.
The rude way in which a castle was constructed, with nothing in it
but large halls, led to an utter sacrifice of the inner life. It was
long enough before they took to building in one of the turrets a closet
or recess for meditation and the saying of prayers. The lady was easily
watched. On certain days set or waited for, the bold youth would
attempt the stroke, recommended him by the Witch, of mingling a philtre
with her drink.
This, however, was a dangerous matter, not often tried. Less
difficult was it to purloin from the lady things which escaped her
notice, which she herself despised. He would treasure up the very
smallest paring of a nail; he would gather up respectfully one or two
beautiful hairs that might fall from her comb. These he would carry to
the Witch, who often asked, as our modern sleep-wakers do, for
something very personal and strongly redolent of the person, but
obtained without her leave; as, for instance, some threads torn out of
a garment long worn and soiled with the traces of perspiration. With
much kissing, of course, and worshipping, the lover was fain
reluctantly to throw these treasures into the fire, with a view to
gathering up the ashes afterwards. By and by, when she came to look at
her garment, the fine lady would remark the rent, but guessing at the
cause, would only sigh and hold her tongue. The charm had already begun
* * * * *
Even if she hesitated from regard for her marriage-vow, certain it
is that life in a space so narrow, where they were always in each
other's sight, so near and yet so far, became a downright torment. And
even when she had once shown her weakness, still before her husband and
others equally jealous the moments of happiness would assuredly be
rare. Hence sprang many a foolish outbreak of unsatisfied desire. The
less they came together, the more deeply they longed to do so. A
disordered fancy sought to attain that end by means grotesque,
unnatural, utterly senseless. So by way of establishing a means of
secret correspondence between the two, the Witch had the letters of the
alphabet pricked on both their arms. If one of them wanted to send a
thought to the other, he brightened and brought out by sucking the
blood-red letters of the wished-for word. Immediately, so it is said,
the corresponding letters bled on the other's arm.
Sometimes in these mad fits they would drink each of the other's
blood, so as to mingle their souls, it was said, in close communion.
The devouring of Coucy's heart, which the lady found so good that she
never ate again, is the most tragical instance of these monstrous vows
of loving cannibalism. But when the absent one did not die, but only
the love within him, then the lady would seek counsel of the Witch,
begging of her the means of holding him, of bringing him back.
The incantations used by the sorceress of Theocritus and Virgil,
though employed also in the Middle Ages, were seldom of much avail. An
attempt was made to win back the lover by a spell seemingly copied from
antiquity, by means of a cake, of a confarreatio like that
which, both in Asia and Europe, had always been the holiest pledge of
love. But in this case it is not the soul only, it is the flesh also
they seek to bind; there must be so true an identity established
between the two, that, dead to all other women, he shall live only for
her. It was a cruel ceremony on the woman's side. No haggling, madam,
says the Witch. Suddenly the proud dame grows obedient, even to letting
herself be stripped bare: for thus indeed it must be.
 One form of wedding among the Romans, in which the
bride-cake was broken between the pair, in token of their
What a triumph for the Witch! And if this lady were the same as she
who had once made her run the gauntlet, how meet the vengeance, how
dread the requital now! But it is not enough to have stripped her thus
naked. About her loins is fastened a little shelf, on which a small
oven is set for the cooking of the cake. Oh, my dear, I cannot bear it
longer! Make haste, and relieve me.
You must bear it, madam; you must feel the heat. When the cake is
done, he will be warmed by you, by your flame.
It is over; and now we have the cake of antiquity, of the Indian and
the Roman marriage, but spiced and warmed up by the lecherous spirit of
the Devil. She does not say with Virgil's wizard,
Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnin!
 Hither, ye spells of mine, bring Daphnis home from the
city!Virgil, Eclogue viii.
But she takes him the cake, steeped, as it were, in the other's
suffering, and kept warm by her love. He has hardly bitten it when he
is overtaken by an odd emotion, by a feeling of dizziness. Then as the
blood rushes up to his heart he turns red and hot. Passion fastens anew
on him, and inextinguishable desire.
 I am wrong in saying inextinguishable. Fresh philtres
were often needed; and the blame of this must lie with the
lady, from whom the Witch in her mocking, malignant rage
exacted the most humiliating observances.
CHAPTER XI. THE REBELS'
COMMUNIONSABBATHSTHE BLACK MASS.
We must now speak of the Sabbaths; a word which at different
times clearly meant quite different things. Unhappily, we have no
detailed accounts of these gatherings earlier than the reign of Henry
IV. By that time they were nothing more than a great lewd farce
carried on under the cloak of witchcraft. But these very descriptions
of a thing so greatly corrupted are marked by certain antique touches
that tell of the successive periods and the different forms through
which it had passed.
 The least bad of these is by Lancre, a man of some wit,
whose evident connection with some young witches gave him
something to say. The accounts of the Jesuit Del Rio and the
Dominican Michaëlis are the absurd productions of two
credulous and silly pedants.
* * * * *
We may set out with this firm idea that, for many centuries, the
serf led the life of a wolf or a fox; that he was an animal of the
night, moving about, I may say, as little as possible in the
daytime, and truly living in the night alone.
Still, up to the year 1000, so long as the people made their own
saints and legends, their daily life was not to them uninteresting.
Their nightly Sabbaths were only a slight relic of paganism. They held
in fear and honour the Moon, so powerful over the good things of earth.
Her chief worshippers, the old women, burn small candles to Dianom
the Diana of yore, whose other names were Luna and Hecate. The
Lupercal (or wolf-man) is always following the women and children,
disguised indeed under the dark face of ghost Hallequin (Harlequin).
The Vigil of Venus was kept as a holiday precisely on the first of May.
On Midsummer Day they kept the Sabaza by sacrificing the he-goat of
Bacchus Sabasius. In all this there was no mockery; nothing but a
harmless carnival of serfs.
But about the year 1000 the church is well-nigh shut against the
peasant through the difference between his language and hers. By 1100
her services became quite unintelligible. Of the mysteries played at
the church-doors, he has retained chiefly the comic side, the ox and
the ass, &c. On these he makes Christmas carols, which grow ever more
and more burlesque, forming a true Sabbatic literature.
* * * * *
Are we to suppose that the great and fearful risings of the twelfth
century had no influence on these mysteries, on this night-life of the
wolf, the game bird, the wild quarry. The great
sacraments of rebellion among the serfs, when they drank of each
other's blood, or ate of the ground by way of solemn pledge, may
have been celebrated at the Sabbaths. The Marseillaise of that time,
sung by night rather than day, was perhaps a Sabbatic chant:
Nous sommes hommes commes ils sont!
Tout aussi grand coeur nous avons!
Tout autant souffrir nous pouvons!
 At the battle of Courtray. See also Grimm and my
We are fashioned of one clay:
Big as theirs our hearts are aye:
We can bear as much as they.TRANS.
But the tombstone falls again in 1200. Seated thereon the Pope and
the King, with their enormous weight, have sealed up man. Has he now
his old life by night? More than ever. The old pagan dances must by
this time have waxed furious. Our negroes of the Antilles, after a
dreadful day of heat and hard work, would go and dance away some four
leagues off. So it was with the serf too. But with his dances there
must have mingled a merriment born of revenge, satiric farces,
burlesques and caricatures of the baron and the priest: a whole
literature of the night indeed, that knew not one word of the
literature of the day, that knew little even of the burgher Fabliaux.
* * * * *
Of such a nature were the Sabbaths before 1300. Before they could
take the startling form of open warfare against the God of those days,
much more was needed still, and especially these two things: not only a
descending into the very depths of despair, but also an utter losing
of respect for anything.
To this pass they do not come until the fourteenth century, under
the Avignon popes, and during the Great Schism; when the Church with
two heads seems no longer a church; when the king and all his nobles,
being in shameful captivity to the English, are extorting the means of
ransom from their oppressed and outraged people. Then do the Sabbaths
take the grand and horrible form of the Black Mass, of a ritual
upside down, in which Jesus is defied and bidden to thunder on the
people if He can. In the thirteenth century this devilish drama was
still impossible, through the horror it would have caused. And later
again, in the fifteenth, when everything, even suffering itself, had
become exhausted, so fierce an outburst could not have issued forth; so
monstrous an invention no one would have essayed. It could only have
belonged to the age of Dante.
* * * * *
It took place, I fancy, at one gush; an explosion as it were of
genius raving, bringing impiety up to the height of a great popular
passion-fit. To understand the nature of these bursts of rage, we must
remember that, far from imagining the fixedness of God's laws, a people
brought up by their own clergy to believe and depend on miracles, had
for ages past been hoping and waiting for nothing else than a miracle
which never came. In vain they demanded one in the desperate hour of
their last worst strait. Heaven thenceforth appeared to them as the
ally of their savage tormentors, nay, as itself a tormentor too.
Thereon began the Black Mass and the Jacquerie.
 The Peasants' war which raged in France in 1364.
In the elastic shell of the Black Mass, a thousand variations of
detail may afterwards have been inserted; but the shell itself was
strongly made and, in my opinion, all of one piece.
This drama I succeeded in reproducing in my History of France, in
the year 1857. There was small difficulty in casting it anew in its
four acts. Only at that time I left in it too many of the grotesque
adornments which clothed the Sabbath of a later period; nor did I
clearly enough define what belonged to the older shell, so dark and
* * * * *
Its date is strongly marked by certain savage tokens of an age
accursed, and yet more by the ruling place therein assigned to woman, a
fact most characteristic of the fourteenth century.
It is strange to mark how, at that period, the woman who enjoys so
little freedom still holds her royal sway in a hundred violent
fashions. At this time she inherits fiefs, brings her kingdoms to the
king. On the lower levels she has still her throne, and yet more in the
skies. Mary has supplanted Jesus. St. Francis and St. Dominic have seen
the three worlds in her bosom. By the immensity of her grace she washes
away sin; ay, and sometimes helps the sinner,as in the story of a nun
whose place the Virgin took in the choir, while she herself was gone to
meet her lover.
Up high, and down very low, we see the woman. Beatrice reigns in
heaven among the stars, while John of Meung in the Romaunt of the
Rose is preaching the community of women. Pure or sullied, the
woman is everywhere. We might say of her what Raymond Lulle said of
God: What part has He in the world? The whole.
But alike in heaven and in poetry the true heroine is not the
fruitful mother decked out with children; but the Virgin, or some
barren Beatrice, who dies young.
A fair English damsel passed over into France, it is said, about the
year 1300, to preach the redemption of women. She looked on herself as
* * * * *
In its earliest phase the Black Mass seemed to betoken this
redemption of Eve, so long accursed of Christianity. The woman fills
every office in the Sabbath. She is priestess, altar, pledge of holy
communion, by turns. Nay, at bottom, is she not herself as God?
* * * * *
Many popular traits may be found herein, and yet it comes not wholly
from the people. The peasant who honoured strength alone, made small
account of the woman; as we see but too clearly in our old laws and
customs. From him the woman would not have received the high place she
holds here. It is by her own self the place is won.
I would gladly believe that the Sabbath in its then shape was
woman's work, the work of such a desperate woman as the Witch was then.
In the fourteenth century she saw open before her a horrible career of
torments lighted up for three or four hundred years by the stake. After
1300 her medical knowledge is condemned as baleful, her remedies are
proscribed as if they were poisons. The harmless drawing of lots, by
which lepers then thought to better their luck, brought on a massacre
of those poor wretches. Pope John XXII. ordered the burning of a bishop
suspected of Witchcraft. Under a system of such blind repression there
was just the same risk in daring little as in daring much. Danger
itself made people bolder; and the Witch was able to dare anything.
* * * * *
Human brotherhood, defiance of the Christian heaven, a distorted
worship of nature herself as Godsuch was the purport of the Black
They decked an altar to the arch-rebel of serfs, to Him who had
been so wronged, the old outlaw, unfairly hunted out of heaven,
the Spirit by whom earth was made, the Master who ordained the budding
of the plants. Such were the names of honour given him by his
worshippers, the Luciferians, and also, according to a very
likely opinion, by the Knights of the Temple.
The greatest miracle of those unhappy times is, the greater
abundance found at the nightly communion of the brotherhood, than was
to be found elsewhere by day. By incurring some little danger the Witch
levied her contributions from those who were best off, and gathered
their offerings into a common fund. Charity in a Satanic garb grew very
powerful, as being a crime, a conspiracy, a form of rebellion. People
would rob themselves of their food by day for the sake of the common
meal at night.
* * * * *
Figure to yourself, on a broad moor, and often near an old Celtic
cromlech, at the edge of a wood, this twofold scene: on one side a
well-lit moor and a great feast of the people; on the other, towards
yon wood, the choir of that church whose dome is heaven. What I call
the choir is a hill commanding somewhat the surrounding country.
Between these are the yellow flames of torch-fires, and some red
brasiers emitting a fantastic smoke. At the back of all is the Witch,
dressing up her Satan, a great wooden devil, black and shaggy. By his
horns, and the goatskin near him, he might be Bacchus; but his manly
attributes make him a Pan or a Priapus. It is a darksome figure, seen
differently by different eyes; to some suggesting only terror, while
others are touched by the proud melancholy wherein the Eternally
Banished seems absorbed.
 This is taken from Del Rio, but is not, I think,
peculiar to Spain. It is an ancient trait, and marked by the
* * * * *
Act First. The magnificent In troit taken by Christendom from
antiquity, that is, from those ceremonies where the people in long
train streamed under the colonnades on their way to the sanctuary, is
now taken back for himself by the elder god upon his return to power.
The Lavabo, likewise borrowed from the heathen lustrations,
reappears now. All this he claims back by right of age.
His priestess is always called, by way of honour, the Elder; but she
would sometimes have been young. Lancre tells of a witch of seventeen,
pretty, and horribly savage.
The Devil's bride was not to be a child: she must be at least thirty
years old, with the form of a Medea, with the beauty that comes of
pain; an eye deep, tragic, lit up by a feverish fire, with great
serpent tresses waving at their will: I refer to the torrent of her
black untamable hair. On her head, perhaps, you may see the crown of
vervein, the ivy of the tomb, the violets of death.
When she has had the children taken off to their meal, the service
begins: I will come before thine altar; but save me, O Lord, from the
faithless and violent man (from the priest and the baron).
Then come the denial of Jesus, the paying of homage to the new
master, the feudal kiss, like the greetings of the Temple, when all was
yielded without reserve, without shame, or dignity, or even purpose;
the denial of an olden god being grossly aggravated by a seeming
preference for Satan's back.
It is now his turn to consecrate his priestess. The wooden deity
receives her in the manner of an olden Pan or Priapus. Following the
old pagan form she sits a moment upon him in token of surrender, like
the Delphian seeress on Apollo's tripod. After receiving the breath of
his spirit, the sacrament of his love, she purifies herself with like
formal solemnity. Thenceforth she is a living altar.
* * * * *
The Introit over, the service is interrupted for the feast. Contrary
to the festive fashion of the nobles, who all sit with their swords
beside them, here, in this feast of brethren, are no arms, not even a
As a keeper of the peace, each has a woman with him. Without a woman
no one is admitted. Be she a kinswoman or none, a wife or none; be she
old or young, a woman he must bring with him.
What were the drinks passed round among them? Mead, or beer, or
wine; strong cider or perry? The last two date from the twelfth
The illusive drinks, with their dangerous admixture of belladonna,
did they already appear at that board? Certainly not. There were
children there. Besides, an excess of commotion would have prevented
This whirling dance, the famous Sabbath-round, was quite
enough to complete the first stage of drunkenness. They turned back to
back, their arms behind them, not seeing each other, but often touching
each other's back. Gradually no one knew himself, nor whom he had by
his side. The old wife then was old no more. Satan had wrought a
miracle. She was still a woman, desirable, after a confused fashion
* * * * *
Act Second. Just as the crowd, grown dizzy together, was led, both
by the attraction of the women and by a certain vague feeling of
brotherhood, to imagine itself one body, the service was resumed at the
Gloria. The altar, the host, became visible. These were represented
by the woman herself. Prostrate, in a posture of extreme abasement, her
long black silky tresses lost in the dust; she, this haughty
Proserpine, offered up herself. On her back a demon officiated, saying
the Credo, and making the offering.
 This important fact of the woman being her own altar, is
known to us by the trial of La Voisin, which M. Ravaisson,
Sen., is about to publish with the other Papers of the
At a later period this scene came to be immodest. But at this time,
amidst the calamities of the fourteenth century, in the terrible days
of the Black Plague, and of so many a famine, in the days of the
Jacquerie and those hateful brigands, the Free Lances,on a people
thus surrounded by danger, the effect was more than serious. The whole
assembly had much cause to fear a surprise. The risk run by the Witch
in this bold proceeding was very great, even tantamount to the
forfeiting of her life. Nay, more; she braved a hell of suffering, of
torments such as may hardly be described. Torn by pincers, and broken
alive; her breasts torn out; her skin slowly singed, as in the case of
the wizard bishop of Cahors; her body burned limb by limb on a small
fire of red-hot coal, she was like to endure an eternity of agony.
Certainly all were moved when the prayer was spoken, the
harvest-offering made, upon this devoted creature who gave herself up
so humbly. Some wheat was offered to the Spirit of the Earth,
who made wheat to grow. A flight of birds, most likely from the woman's
bosom, bore to the God of Freedom the sighs and prayers of the
serfs. What did they ask? Only that we, their distant descendants,
might become free.
 This grateful offering of wheat and birds is peculiar to
France. In Lorraine, and no doubt in Germany, black beasts
were offered, as the black cat, the black goat, or the black
What was the sacrament she divided among them? Not the ridiculous
pledge we find later in the reign of Henry IV., but most likely that
confarreatio which we saw in the case of the philtres, the hallowed
pledge of love, a cake baked on her own body, on the victim who,
perhaps, to-morrow would herself be passing through the fire. It was
her life, her death, they ate there. One sniffs already the scorching
Last of all they set upon her two offerings, seemingly of flesh; two
images, one of the latest dead, the other of the newest-born in
the district. These shared in the special virtue assigned to her who
acted as altar and Host in one, and on these the assembly made a show
of receiving the communion. Their Host would thus be threefold, and
always human. Under a shadowy likeness of the Devil the people
worshipped none other than its own self.
The true sacrifice was now over and done. The woman's work was
ended, when she gave herself up to be eaten by the multitude. Rising
from her former posture, she would not withdraw from the spot until she
had proudly stated, and, as it were, confirmed the lawfulness of her
proceedings by an appeal to the thunderbolt, by an insolent defiance of
the discrowned God.
In mockery of the Agnus Dei, and the breaking of the
Christian Host, she brought a toad dressed up, and pulled it to pieces.
Then rolling her eyes about in a frightful way she raised them to
heaven, and beheading the toad, uttered these strange words: Ah,
Philip, if I had you here, you should be served in the same
 Lancre, 136. Why Philip, I cannot say. By Satan Jesus
is always called John or Janicot (Jack). Was she
of Philip of Valois, who brought on the wasting hundred
years' war with England?
* * * * *
No answer being outwardly given to her challenge, no thunderbolt
hurled upon her head, they imagine that she has triumphed over the
Christ. The nimble band of demons seized their moment to astonish the
people with various small wonders which amazed and overawed the more
credulous. The toads, quite harmless in fact, but then accounted
poisonous, were bitten and torn between their dainty teeth. They jumped
over large fires and pans of live coal, to amuse the crowd and make
them laugh at the fires of Hell.
Did the people really laugh after a scene so tragical, so very bold?
I know not. Assuredly there was no laughing on the part of her who
first dared all this. To her these fires must have seemed like those of
the nearest stake. Her business rather lay in forecasting the future of
that devilish monarchy, in creating the Witch to be.
CHAPTER XII. THE SEQUELLOVE AND
And now the multitude is made free, is of good cheer. For some hours
the serf reigns in short-lived freedom. His time indeed is scant
enough. Already the sky is changing, the stars are going down. Another
moment, and the cruel dawn remits him to his slavery, brings him back
again under hostile eyes, under the shadow of the castle, beneath the
shadow of the church; back again to his monotonous toiling, to the old
unending weariness of heart, governed as it were by two bells, whereof
one keeps saying Always, the other Never. Anon they will be seen
coming each out of his own house, heavily, humbly, with an air of calm
Let them at least enjoy the one short moment! Let each of these
disinherited, for once fulfil his fancy, for once indulge his musings.
What soul is there so all unhappy, so lost to all feeling, as never to
have one good dream, one fond desire; never to say, If this would only
The only detailed accounts we have, as I said before, are modern,
belonging to a time of peace and well-doing, when France was blooming
afresh, in the latter years of Henry VI., years of thriving luxury,
entirely different from that dark age when the Sabbath was first set
No thanks to Mr. Lancre and others, if we refrain from pourtraying
the Third Act as like the Church-Fair of Rubens, a very miscellaneous
orgie, a great burlesque ball, which allowed of every kind of union,
especially between near kindred. According to those authors, who would
make us groan with horror, the main end of the Sabbath, the explicit
doctrine taught by Satan, was incest; and in those great gatherings,
sometimes of two thousand souls, the most startling deeds were done
before the whole world.
This is hard to believe; and the same writers tell of other things
which seem quite opposed to a view so cynical. They say that people
went to those meetings only in pairs, that they sat down to the feast
by twos, that even if one person came alone, she was assigned a young
demon, who took charge of her, and did the honours of the feast. They
say, too, that jealous lovers were not afraid to go thither in company
with the curious fair.
We also find that the most of them came by families, children and
all. The latter were sent off only during the first act, not during the
feast, nor the services, nor yet while this third act was going on; a
fact which proves that some decency was observed. Moreover, the scene
was twofold. The household groups stayed on the moor in a blaze of
light. It was only beyond the fantastic curtain of torch-smoke that the
darker spaces, where people could roam in all directions, began.
The judges, the inquisitors, for all their enmity, are fain to allow
the existence here of a general spirit of peace and mildness. Of the
three things that startle us in the feasts of nobles, there is not one
here; no swords, no duels, no tables reeking blood. No faithless
gallantries here bring dishonour on some intimate friend. Unknown,
unneeded here, for all they say, is the unclean brotherhood of the
Temple; in the Sabbath, woman is everything.
The question of incest needs explaining. All alliances between
kinsfolk, even those most allowable in the present day, were then
regarded as a crime. The modern law, which is charity itself,
understands the heart of man and the well-being of families. It
allows the widower to marry his wife's sister, the best mother his
children could have. Above all, it allows a man to wed his cousin, whom
he knows and may trust fully, whom he has loved perhaps from childhood,
his playfellow of old, regarded by his mother with special favour as
already the adopted of her own heart. In the Middle Ages all this was
 Of course the allusion here, as shown in the next
following sentence, is to French law in particular. As for
the marriage of cousins, there is much to say on both sides
of the question.TRANS.
The peasant being fondest of his own family was driven to despair.
It was a monstrous thing for him to marry a cousin, even in the sixth
degree. It was impossible for him to get married in his own village
where the question of kinship stood so much in his way. He had to look
for a wife elsewhere, afar off. But in those days there was not much
intercourse or acquaintance between different places, and each hated
its own neighbours. On feast days one village would fight another
without knowing the reason why, as may sometimes still be seen in
countries never so thinly peopled. No one durst go seek a wife in the
very spot where men had been fighting together, where he himself would
have been in great danger.
There was another difficulty. The lord of the young serf forbade his
marrying in the next lordship. Becoming the serf of his wife's lord he
would have been wholly lost to his own. Thus he was debarred by the
priest from his cousin, by the lord from a stranger; and so it happened
that many did not marry at all.
The result was just what they pretended to avoid. In the Sabbath the
natural sympathies sprang forth again. There the youth found again her
whom he had known and loved at first, her whose little husband he had
been called at ten years old. Preferring her as he certainly did, he
paid but little heed to canonical hindrances.
When we come to know the Mediæval Family better, we give up
believing the declamatory assumptions of a general mingling together of
the people forming so great a crowd. On the contrary, we feel that each
small group is so closely joined together, as to be utterly barred to
the entrance of a stranger.
The serf was not jealous towards his own kin, but his poverty and
wretchedness made him exceedingly afraid of worsening his lot by
multiplying children whom he could not support. The priest and the lord
on their part wished to increase the number of their serfswanted the
woman to be always bearing; and the strangest sermons were often
delivered on this head, varied sometimes with threats and cruel
reproaches. All the more resolute was the prudence of the man. The
woman, poor creature, unable to bear children fit to live on such
conditions, bearing them only to her sorrow, had a horror of being made
big. She never would have ventured to one of these night festivals
without being first assured, again and again, that no woman ever came
 The ingenious M. Génin has very recently collected the
most curious information on this point.
 Boguet, Lancre, and other authors, are agreed on this
They were drawn thither by the banquet, the dancing, the lights, the
amusements; in nowise by carnal pleasure. The last thing they cared for
was to heighten their poverty, to bring one more wretch into the world,
to give another serf to their lord.
* * * * *
Cruel indeed was the social system of those days. Authority bade men
marry, but rendered marriage nearly impossible, at once by the
excessive misery of most, and the senseless cruelty of the canonical
The result was quite opposed to the purity thus preached. Under a
show of Christianity existed the patriarchate of Asia alone.
Only the firstborn married. The younger brothers and sisters worked
under him and for him. In the lonely farms of the mountains of the
South, far from all neighbours and every woman, brothers and sisters
lived together, the latter serving and in all ways belonging to the
former; a way of life analogous to that in Genesis, to the marriages of
the Parsees, to the customs still obtaining in certain shepherd tribes
of the Himalayas.
The mother's fate was still more revolting. She could not marry her
son to a kinswoman, and thus secure to herself a kindly-affected
daughter-in-law. Her son married, if he could, a girl from a distant
village, an enemy often, whose entrance proved baneful either to the
children of a former marriage, or to the poor mother, who was often
driven away by the stranger wife. You may not think it, but the fact is
certainly so. At the very least she was ill-used; banished from the
fireside, from the very table.
There is a Swiss law forbidding the removal of the mother from her
place by the chimney-corner.
She was exceedingly afraid of her son's marrying. But her lot was
little happier if he did not marry. None the less servant was she of
the young master of the house, who succeeded to all his father's
rights, even to that of beating her. This impious custom I have seen
still followed in the South: a son of five-and-twenty chastising his
mother when she got drunk.
* * * * *
How much greater her suffering in those days of savagery! Then it
was rather he who came back from the feast half-drunken, hardly knowing
what he was about. But one room, but one bed, was all they had between
them. She was by no means free from fear. He had seen his friends
married, and felt soured thereat. Thenceforth her way is marked by
tears, by utter weakness, by a woful self-surrender. Threatened by her
only God, her son, heart-broken at finding herself in a plight so
unnatural, she falls desperate. She tries to drown all her memories in
sleep. At length comes an issue for which neither of them can fairly
account, an issue such as nowadays will often happen in the poorer
quarters of large towns, where some poor woman is forced, frightened,
perhaps beaten, into bearing every outrage. Thus conquered, and, spite
of her scruples, far too resigned, she endured thenceforth a pitiable
bondage; a life of shame and sorrow, and abundant anguish, growing with
the yearly widening difference between their several ages. The woman of
six-and-thirty might keep watch over a son of twenty years: but at
fifty, alas! or still later, where would he be? From the great Sabbath
where thronged the people of far villages, he would be bringing home a
strange woman for his youthful mistress, a woman hard, heartless,
devoid of ruth, who would rob her of her son, her seat by the fire, her
bed, of the very house which she herself had made.
To believe Lancre and others, Satan accounted the son for
praiseworthy, if he kept faithful to his mother, thus making a virtue
of a crime. If this be true, we must assume that the woman was
protected by a woman, that the Witch sided with the mother, to defend
her hearth against a daughter-in-law who, stick in hand, would have
sent her forth to beg.
Lancre further maintains that never was good Witch, but she sprang
from the love of a mother for her son. In this way, indeed, was born
the Persian soothsayer, the natural fruit, they say, of so hateful a
mystery; and thus the secrets of the magical art were kept confined to
one family which constantly renewed itself.
An impious error led them to imitate the harmless mystery of the
husbandman, the unceasing vegetable round whereby the corn resown in
the furrow, brings forth its corn.
The less monstrous unions of brother with sister, so common in the
East, and in Greece, were cold and rarely fruitful. They were wisely
abandoned; nor would people ever have returned to them, but for that
rebellious spirit which, being aroused by absurd restrictions, flung
itself foolishly into the opposite extreme. Thus from unnatural laws,
hatred begot unnatural customs.
A cruel, an accursed time, a time big with despair!
* * * * *
We have been long discoursing; but the dawn is well-nigh come. In a
moment the hour will strike for the spirits to take themselves away.
The Witch feels her dismal flowers already withering on her brow.
Farewell, her royalty, perhaps her life! Where would they be, if the
day still found her there?
Of Satan, what shall she make? A flame, a cinder? He asks for
nothing better; knowing well, in his craftiness, that the only way to
live and to be born again, is first to die.
And will he die, he who as the mighty summoner of the dead, granted
to them that mourn their only joy on earth, the love they had lost, the
dream they had cherished? Ah, no! he is very sure to live.
Will he die, he that mighty spirit who, finding Creation accurst,
and Nature lying cold upon the ground, flung thither like a dirty
foster-child from off the Church's garment, gathered her up and placed
her on his bosom? In truth it cannot be.
Will he die, he the one great physician of the Middle Ages, of a
world that, falling sick, was saved by his poisons and bidden, poor
fool, to live?
As the gay rogue is sure of living, he dies wholly at his ease. He
shuffles out of himself, cleverly burns up his fine goatskin, and
disappears in a blaze of dawn.
But she who made Satan, who made all things, good or ill,
whose countenance was given to so many forms of love, of devotion, and
of crime,to what end will she come? Behold her all lonely on her
She is not, as they say, the dread of all. Many will bless her. More
than one have found her beautiful, would sell their share in Paradise
to dare be near her. But all around her is a wide gulf. They who
admire, are none the less afraid of this all-powerful Medea, with her
fair deep eyes, and the thrilling adders of her dark overflowing hair.
To her thus lonely for ever, for evermore without love, what is
there left? Nothing but the Demon who had suddenly disappeared.
'Tis well, good Devil, let us go. I am utterly loath to stay here
any more. Hell itself is far preferable. Farewell to the world!
She must live but a very little longer, to play out the dreadful
drama she had herself begun. Near her, ready saddled by the obedient
Satan, stood a huge black horse, the fire darting from his eyes and
nostrils. She sprang upon him with one bound.
They follow her with their eyes. The good folk say with alarm, What
is to become of her? With a frightful burst of laughter, she goes off,
vanishing swift as an arrow. They would like much to know what becomes
of the poor woman, but that they never will.
 See the end of the Witch of Berkeley, as told by William
CHAPTER I. THE WITCH IN HER
DECLINESATAN MULTIPLIED AND MADE COMMON.
The Devil's delicate fondling, the lesser Witch, begotten of the
Black Mass after the greater one's disappearance, came and bloomed in
all her malignant cat-like grace. This woman is quite the reverse of
the other: refined and sidelong in manner, sly and purring demurely,
quick also at setting up her back. There is nothing of the Titan about
her, to be sure. Far from that, she is naturally base; lewd from her
cradle and full of evil daintinesses. Her whole life is the expression
of those unclean thoughts which sometimes in a dream by night may
assail him who would shrink with horror from any such by day.
She who is born with such a secret in her blood, with such
instinctive mastery of evil, she who has looked so far and so low down,
will have no religion, no respect for anything or person in the world;
none even for Satan, since he is a spirit still, while she has a
particular relish for all things material.
In her childhood she spoiled everything. Tall and pretty she
startled all by her slovenly habits. With her Witchcraft becomes a
mysterious cooking up of some mysterious chemistry. From an early date
she delights to handle repulsive things, to-day a drug, to-morrow an
intrigue. Among diseases and love-affairs she is in her element. She
will make a clever go-between, a bold and skilful empiric. War will be
made against her as a fancied murderer, as a woman who deals in
poisons. And yet she has small taste for such things, is far from
murderous in her desires. Devoid of goodness, she yet loves life, loves
to work cures, to prolong others' lives. She is dangerous in two ways:
on the one hand by selling receipts for barrenness, and even for
abortion; while on the other, her headlong libertine fancy leads her to
compass a woman's fall with her cursed potions, to triumph in the
wicked deeds of love.
Different, indeed, is this one from the other! She is a
manufacturer: the other was the ungodly one, the demon, the great
rebellion, the wife, we might almost say, the mother of Satan; for out
of her and her inward strength he grew up. But this one is the Devil's
daughter notwithstanding. Two things she derives from him, her
uncleanness, her love of handling life. These are her allotted walk, in
these she is quite an artist; an artist already trading in her lore,
and we are admitted into the business.
It was said that she would perpetuate herself by the incest from
which she sprang. But she has no need of that: numberless little ones
will she beget without help from another. In less than fifty years, at
the opening of the fifteenth century, under Charles VI., a mighty
contagion was spread abroad. Whoever thought he had any secrets or any
receipts, whoever fancied himself a seer, whoever dreamed and travelled
in his dreams, would call himself a pet of Satan. Every moonstruck
woman adopted the awful name of Witch!
A perilous, profitable name, cast at her in their hatred by people
who alternately insult and implore the unknown power. It is none the
less accepted, nay, is often claimed. To the children who follow her,
to the woman who, with threatening fists, hurl the name at her like a
stone, she turns round, saying proudly, 'Tis true, you have said
The business improves, and men are mingled in it. Hence another fall
for the art. Still the least of the witches retains somewhat of the
Sibyl. Those other frowsy charlatans, those clownish jugglers,
mole-catchers, ratkillers, who throw spells over beasts, who sell
secrets which they have not, defiled these times with the stench of a
dismal black smoke, of fear and foolery. Satan grows enormous, gets
multiplied without end. 'Tis a poor triumph, however, for him. He grows
dull and sick at heart. Still the people keep flowing towards him, bent
on having no other God than he. Himself only is to himself untrue.
* * * * *
In spite of two or three great discoveries, the fifteenth century
is, to my thinking, none the less a century tired out, a century of few
It opened right worthily with the Sabbath Royal of St. Denis, the
wild and woful ball given by Charles VI. in the abbey so named, to
commemorate the burial of Du Guesclin, which had taken place so many
years before. For three days and nights was Sodom wallowing among the
graves. The foolish king, not yet grown quite an idiot, compelled his
royal forefathers to share in the ball, by making their dry bones dance
in their biers. Death, becoming a go-between whether he would or no,
lent a sharp spur to the voluptuous revel. Then broke out those unclean
fashions of an age when ladies made themselves taller by wearing the
Devil's horned-bonnet, and gloried in dressing as if they were all with
child. To this fashion they clung for the next forty years. The
younger folk on their side, not to be behind in shamelessness, eclipsed
them in the display of naked charms. The woman wore Satan on her
forehead in the shape of a horned head-dress: on the feet of the
bachelor and the page he was visible in the tapering scorpion-like tips
of their shoes. Under the mask of animals they represented the lowest
side of brute nature. The famous child stealer, Retz, here took his
first flight in villany. The great feudal ladies, unbridled Jezebels,
with less sense of shame in them than the men, scorned all disguise
whatever; displayed themselves with face uncovered. In their sensual
rages, in their mad parade of debauchery, the king, the whole company
might see the bottomless pit itself yawning for the life, the feeling,
the body, and the soul of each.
 Even in a very mystic theme, in a work of such genius as
the Lamb of Van Eyck (says John of Bruges), all the
seem big. It was only the quaint fashion of the fifteenth
Out of such doings come forth the conquered of Agincourt, a poor
generation of effete nobles, in whose miniatures you shiver to see the
falling away of their sorry limbs, as shown through the treacherous
tightness of their clothes.
 This wasting away of a used-up, enervated race, mars the
effect of all those splendid miniatures of the Court of
Burgundy, the Duke of Berry, &c. No amount of clever handling
could make good works of art out of subjects so very
* * * * *
Much to be pitied is the Witch who, when the great lady came home
from that royal feast, became her bosom-counsellor and agent charged
with the doing of impossible things.
In her own castle, indeed, the lady is almost, if not all alone,
amidst a crowd of single men. To judge from romances you would think
she delighted in girding herself with an array of fair girls. Far
otherwise are we taught by history and common sense. Eleanor is not so
silly as to match herself against Rosamond. With all their own
rakishness, those queens and great ladies could be frightfully jealous;
witness she who is said by Henry Martin to have caused the death of a
girl admired by her husband, under the outrageous handling of his
soldiery. The power wielded by the lady's love depends, we repeat, on
her being alone. Whatever her age and figure, she becomes the dream of
all. The Witch takes mischievous delight in making her abuse her
goddesship, in tempting her to make game of the men she humbles and
befools. She goes to all lengths of boldness, even treating them like
very beasts. Look at them being transformed! Down on all fours they
tumble, like fawning monkeys, absurd bears, lewd dogs, or swine eager
to follow their contemptuous Circé.
Her pity rises thereat? Nay, but she grows sick of it all, and kicks
those crawling beasts with her foot. The thing is impure, but not
heinous enough. An absurd remedy is found for her complaint. These
others being so nought, she is to have something yet more
noughtnamely, a little sweetheart. The advice is worthy of the Witch.
Love's spark shall be lighted before its time in some young innocent,
sleeping the pure sleep of childhood! Here you have the ugly tale of
little John of Saintré, pink of cherubim, and other paltry puppets of
the Age of Decay.
Through all those pedantic embellishments and sentimental
moralizings, one clearly marks the vile cruelty that lies below. The
fruit was killed in the flower. Here, in a manner, is the very eating
of children, which was laid so often to the Witch's charge. Anyhow,
she drained their lives. The fair lady who caresses one in so tender
and motherly a way, what is she but a vampire, draining the blood of
the weak? The upshot of such atrocities we may gather from the tale
itself. Saintré becomes a perfect knight, but so utterly frail and weak
as to be dared and defied by the lout of a peasant priest, in whom the
lady, become better advised, has seen something that will suit her
* * * * *
Such idle whimsies heighten the surfeit, the mad rage of an empty
mind. Circé among her beasts grows so weary and heartsick that she
would be a beast herself. She fancies herself wild, and locks herself
up. From her tower she casts an evil eye towards the gloomy forest. She
fancies herself a prisoner, and rages like a wolf chained fast. Let
the old woman come this moment: I want her. Run! Two minutes later
again: What! is she not come yet?
At last she is come. Hark you: I have a sore longinginvincible,
as you knowto choke you, to drown you, or to give you up to the
bishop, who already claims you. You have but one way of escape, that
is, to satisfy another longing of mine by changing me into a wolf. I
feel wretchedly bored, weary of keeping still. I want, by night at
least, to run free about the forest. Away with stupid servants, with
dogs that stun me with their noise, with clumsy horses that kick out
and shy at a thicket.
But if you were caught, my lady
Insolent woman! You would rather die, then?
At least you have heard the story of the woman-wolf, whose paw was
cut off. But, oh! how sorry I should be.
 Among the great ladies imprisoned in their castles, this
dreadful fancy was not rare. They hungered and thirsted for
freedom, for savage freedom. Boguet mentions how, among the
hills of Auvergne, a hunter one night drew his sword upon a
she-wolf, but missing her, cut off her paw. She fled away
limping. He came to a neighbouring castle to seek the
hospitality of him who dwelt there. The gentleman, on seeing
him, asked if he had had good sport. By way of answer he
thought to draw out of his pouch the she-wolf's paw; but what
was his amazement to find instead of the paw a hand, and on
one of the fingers a ring, which the gentleman recognized as
belonging to his wife! Going at once in search of her, he
found her hurt and hiding her fore-arm. To the arm which had
lost its hand he fitted that which the hunter had brought
him, and the lady was fain to own that she it was, who in the
likeness of a wolf had attacked the hunter, and afterwards
saved herself by leaving a paw on the battle-field. The
husband had the cruelty to give her up to justice, and she
That is my concern. I will hear nothing more, I am in a hurryhave
been barking already. What happiness, to hunt all by myself in the
clear moonlight; by myself to fasten on the hind, or man likewise if he
comes near me; to attack the tender children, and, above all, to set my
teeth in the women; ay, the women, for I hate them allnot one like
yourself. Don't start, I won't bite youyou are not to my taste, and
besides, you have no blood in you! 'Tis blood I craveblood!
She can no longer refuse. Nothing easier, my lady. To-night, at
nine o'clock, you will drink this. Lock yourself up, and then turning
into a wolf, while they think you are still here, you can scour the
It is done; and next morning the lady finds herself worn out and
depressed. In one night she must have travelled some thirty leagues.
She has been hunting and slaying until she is covered with blood. But
the blood, perhaps, comes from her having torn herself among the
A great triumph and danger also for her who has wrought this
miracle. From the lady, however, whose command provoked it, she
receives but a gloomy welcome. Witch, 'tis a fearful power you have; I
should never have guessed it. But now I fear and dread you. Good cause,
indeed, they have to hate you. A happy day will it be when you are
burnt. I can ruin you when I please. One word of mine about last night,
and my peasants would this evening whet their scythes upon you. Out,
you black-looking, hateful old hag!
* * * * *
The great folk, her patrons, launch her into strange adventures. For
what can she refuse to her terrible protectors, when nothing but the
castle saves her from the priest, from the faggot? If the baron, on his
return from a crusade, being bent on copying the manners of the Turks,
sends for her, and orders her to steal him a few children, what can she
do? Raids such as those grand ones in which two thousand pages were
sometimes carried off from Greek ground to enter the seraglio, were by
no means unknown to the Christians; were known from the tenth century
to the barons of England, at a later date to the knights of Rhodes and
Malta. The famous Giles of Retz, the only one brought to trial, was
punished, not for having stolen his small serfs, a crime not then
uncommon, but for having sacrificed them to Satan. She who actually
stole them, and was ignorant, doubtless, of their future lot, found
herself between two perils: on the one hand the peasant's fork and
scythe; on the other, those torments which awaited her, when recusant,
within the tower. Retz's terrible Italian would have made nothing of
pounding her in a mortar.
 See my History of France, and still more the learned
and careful account by the lamented Armand Guéraud: Notice
sur Gilles de Rais, Nantes, 1855. We there find that the
purveyors of that horrible child's charnel-house were mostly
On all sides the perils and the profits went together. A position
more frightfully corrupting could not have been found. The Witches
themselves did not deny the absurd powers imputed to them by the
people. They averred that by means of a doll stuck over with needles
they could weave their spells around whomever they pleased, making him
waste away until he died. They averred that mandragora, torn from
beneath the gallows by the teeth of a dog, who invariably died
therefrom, enabled them to pervert the understanding; to turn men into
beasts, to give women over to idiotcy and madness. Still more dreadful
was the furious frenzy caused by the Thorn-apple, or Datura, which made
men dance themselves to death, and go through a thousand shameful
antics, without their own knowledge or remembrance.
 Pouchet, on the Solaneæ and General Botany. Nysten,
Dictionary of Medicine, article Datura. The
employed these potions but too often. A butcher of Aix and
his wife, whom they wanted to rob of their money, were made
to drink of some such, and became so maddened thereby, that
they danced all one night naked in a cemetery.
* * * * *
Hence there grew up against them a feeling of boundless hatred,
mingled with as extreme a fear. Sprenger, who wrote the Hammer for
Witches, relates with horror how, in a season of snow, when all the
roads were broken up, he saw a wretched multitude, wild with terror,
and spell-bound by evils all too real, fill up all the approaches to a
little German town. Never, says he, did you behold so mighty a
pilgrimage to our Lady of Grace, or her of the wilderness. All these
people, who hobbled, crawled, and stumbled among the quagmires, were on
their way to the Witch, to beseech the grace of the Devil upon
themselves. How proud and excited must the old woman have felt at
seeing so large a concourse prostrate before her feet!
 The Witch delighted in causing the noble and the great
to undergo the most outrageous trials of their love. We know
that queens and ladies of rank (in Italy even to the last
century) held their court at times the most forbidding, and
exacted the most unpleasant services from their favourites.
There was nothing too mean, too repulsive, for the domestic
brutethe cicisbeo, the priest, the half-witted
undergo, in the stupid belief that the power of a philtre
increased with its nastiness. This was sad enough when the
ladies were neither young, nor beautiful, nor witty. But what
of that other astounding fact, that a Witch, who was neither
a great lady, nor young, nor fair, but poor, and perhaps a
serf, clad only in dirty rags, could still by her malice, by
the strange power of her raging lewdness, by some
bewitchingly treacherous spell, stupefy the gravest
personages, and abase them to so low a depth? Some monks of a
monastery on the Rhine, wherein, as in many other German
convents, none but a noble of four hundred years' standing
could gain admission, sorrowfully owned to Sprenger that they
had seen three of their brethren bewitched in turn, and a
fourth killed by a woman, who boldly said, I did it, and
will do so again: they cannot escape me, for they have
eaten, &c. (Sprenger, Malleus maleficarum, quæstio, vii.
p. 84.) The worst of it is, says Sprenger, that we have no
means of punishing or examining her: so she lives still.
CHAPTER II. THE HAMMER FOR WITCHES.
The witches took small care to hide their game. Rather they boasted
of it; and it was, indeed, from their own lips that Sprenger picked up
the bulk of the tales that grace his handbook. It is a pedantic work,
marked out into the absurd divisions and subdivisions employed by the
followers of St. Thomas Aquinas; but a work sincere withal, and
frank-spoken, written by a man so thoroughly frightened by this
dreadful duel between God and the Devil, wherein God generally
allows the Devil to win, that the only remedy he can discern is to
pursue the latter fire in hand, and burn with all speed those bodies
which he had chosen for his dwelling-place.
Sprenger's sole merit is the fact of his having written a complete
book, which crowns a mighty system, a whole literature. To the old
Penitentiaries, handbooks of confessors for the inquisition of sin,
succeeded the Directories for the inquisition of heresy, the
greatest sin of all. But for Witchcraft, the greatest of all heresies,
special handbooks or directories were appointed. Hammers for Witches,
to wit. These handbooks, continually enriched by the zeal of the
Dominicans, attained perfection in the Malleus of Sprenger, the
book by which he himself was guided during his great mission to
Germany, and which for a century after served as a guide and light for
the courts of the Inquisition.
How was Sprenger led to the study of these things? He tells us that
being in Rome, at a refectory where the monks were entertaining some
pilgrims, he saw two from Bohemia; one a young priest, the other his
father. The father sighing prayed for a successful journey. Touched
with a kindly feeling Sprenger asked him why he sorrowed. Because his
son was possessed: at great cost and with much trouble he had
brought him to the tomb of the saints, at Rome.
Where is this son of yours? said the monk.
By your side.
At this answer I shrank back alarmed. I scanned the young priest's
figure, and was amazed to see him eat with so modest an air, and answer
with so much gentleness. He informed me that, on speaking somewhat
sharply to an old woman, she had laid him under a spell, and that spell
was under a tree. What tree? The Witch steadily refused to say.
Sprenger's charity led him to take the possessed from church to
church, from relic to relic. At every halting-place there was an
exorcism, followed by furious cries, contortions, jabbering in every
language, and gambols without number: all this before the people, who
followed the pair with shuddering admiration. The devils, so abundant
in Germany, were scarcer among the Italians. For some days Rome talked
of nothing else. The noise made by this affair doubtless brought the
Dominican into public notice. He studied, collected all the Mallei, and other manuscript handbooks, and became a first-rate authority in
the processes against demons. His Malleus was most likely
composed during the twenty years between this adventure and the
important mission entrusted to Sprenger by Pope Innocent VIII., in
* * * * *
For that mission to Germany a clever man was specially needed; a man
of wit and ability, who might overcome the dislike of honest German
folk for the dark system it would be his care to introduce. In the Low
Countries Rome had suffered a rude check, which brought the Inquisition
into vogue there, and consequently closed France against it: Toulouse
alone, as being the old Albigensian country, having endured the
Inquisition. About the year 1460 a Penitentiary of Rome, being made
Dean of Arras, thought to strike an awe-inspiring blow at the
Chambers of Rhetoric, literary clubs which had begun to handle
religious questions. He had one of these Rhetoricians burnt for a
wizard, and along with him some wealthy burgesses, and even a few
knights. The nobles were angry at this near approach to themselves: the
public voice was raised in violent outcry. The Inquisition was cursed
and spat upon, especially in France. The Parliament of Paris roughly
closed its doors upon it; and thus by her awkwardness did Rome lose her
opportunity of establishing that Reign of Terror throughout the North.
 Officer charged with the absolution of
About 1484 the time seemed better chosen. The Inquisition had grown
to so dreadful a height in Spain, setting itself even above the king,
that it seemed already confirmed as a conquering institution, able to
move forward alone, to make its way everywhere, and seize upon
everything. In Germany, indeed, it was hindered by the jealous
antagonism of the spiritual princes, who, having courts of their own,
and holding inquisitions by themselves, would never agree to accept
that of Rome. But the position of these princes towards the popular
movements by which they were then so greatly disquieted, soon rendered
them more manageable. All along the Rhine, and throughout Swabia, even
on the eastern side towards Salzburg, the country seemed to be
undermined. At every moment burst forth some fresh revolt of the
peasantry. A vast underground volcano, an invisible lake of fire,
showed itself, as it were, from place to place, in continual spouts of
flame. More dreaded than that of Germany, the foreign Inquisition
appeared at a most seasonable hour for spreading terror through the
country, and crushing the rebellious spirits, by roasting, as the
wizards of to-day, those who might else have been the insurgents of
to-morrow. It was a beautiful derivative, an excellent popular
weapon for putting down the people. This time the storm got turned upon
the Wizards, as in 1349, and on many other occasions it had been
launched against the Jews.
Only the right man was needed. He who should be the first to set up
his judgment-seat in sight of the jealous courts of Mentz and Cologne,
in presence of the mocking mobs of Strazburg or Frankfort, must indeed
be a man of ready wit. He would need great personal cleverness to atone
for, to cause a partial forgetfulness of his hateful mission. Rome,
too, has always plumed herself on choosing the best men for her work.
Caring little for questions, and much for persons, she thought rightly
enough that the successful issue of her affairs depended on the special
character of her several agents abroad. Was Sprenger the right man? He
was a German to begin with, a Dominican enjoying beforehand the support
of that dreaded order through all its convents, through all its
schools. Need was there of a worthy son of the schools, a good
disputant, of a man well skilled in the Sum, grounded firm
in his St. Thomas, able at any moment to quote texts. All this Sprenger
certainly was: and best of all, he was a fool.
 A mediæval text-book on theology.TRANS.
* * * * *
It has been often said that diabolus comes from dia,
'two,' and bolus, 'a pill or ball,' because devouring alike soul
and body, he makes but one pill, one mouthful of the two. Buthe goes
on to say with the gravity of Sganarellein Greek etymology
diabolus means 'shut up in a house of bondage,' or rather 'flowing
down' (Teufel?), that is to say, falling, because he fell from heaven.
Whence comes the word sorcery (maléfice)? From
maleficiendo, which means male de fide sentiendo. A
curious etymology, but one that will hold a great deal. Once trace a
resemblance between witchcraft and evil opinions, and every wizard
becomes a heretic, every doubter a wizard. All who think wrongly can be
burnt for wizards. This was done at Arras; and they long to establish
the same rule, little by little, everywhere else.
 Thinking ill of the faith.TRANS.
Herein lies the once sure merit of Sprenger. A fool, but a fearless
one, he boldly lays down the most unwelcome theses. Others would have
striven to shirk, to explain away, to diminish, the objections that
might be made. Not he, however. From the first page he puts plainly
forward, one by one, the natural manifest reasons for not believing in
the Satanic miracles. To these he coldly adds: They are but so many
heretical mistakes. And without stopping to refute those reasons,
he copies you out the adverse passages found in the Bible, St. Thomas,
in books of legends, in the canonists, and the scholiasts. Having first
shown you the right interpretation, he grinds it to powder by dint of
He sits down satisfied, calm as a conqueror; seeming to say, Well,
what say you now? Will you dare use your reason again? Go and doubt
away then; doubt, for instance, that the Devil delights in setting
himself between wife and husband, although the Church and all the
canonists repeatedly admit this reason for a divorce!
Of a truth this is unanswerable: nobody will breathe so much as a
whisper in reply. Since Sprenger heads his handbook for judges by
declaring the slightest doubt heretical, the judge stands bound
accordingly; he feels that he cannot stumble, that if unhappily he
should ever be tempted by an impulse of doubt or humanity, he must
begin by condemning himself and delivering his own body to the flames.
* * * * *
The same method prevails everywhere: first the sensible meaning,
which is then confronted openly, without reserve, by the negation of
all good sense. Some one, for instance, might be tempted to say that as
love is in the soul, there is no need to account for it by the
mysterious working of the Devil. That is surely specious, is it not?
By no means, says Sprenger.
I mark a difference. He who cuts wood does not cause it to burn: he
only does so indirectly. The woodcutter is Love; see Denis the
Areopagite, Origen, John of Damascus. Therefore, love is but the
indirect cause of love.
What a thing, you see, to have studied! No weak school could have
turned out such a man. Only Paris, Louvain, or Cologne, had machinery
fit to mould the human brain. The school of Paris was mighty: for
dog-Latin who can be matched with the Janotus of Gargantua?
But mightier yet was Cologne, glorious queen of darkness, whence Hutten
drew the type of his Obscuri viri, that thriving and fruitful
race of obscurantists and ignoramuses.
 A character in Rabelais. Date nobis clochas nostras,
&c.Gargantua, ch. 19.TRANS.
 Ulrich von Hutten, friend of Luther, and author of the
witty Epistolæ obscurorum virorum.TRANS.
This massive logician, so full of words, so devoid of meaning, sworn
foe of nature as well as reason, takes his seat with a proud reliance
on his books and gown, on his dirt and dust. On one side of his
judgement-table lies the Sum, on the other the Directory.
Beyond these he never goes: at all else he only smiles. On such a man
as he there is no imposing: he is not the man to utter anent astrology
or alchemy nonsense not so foolish but that others might be led thereby
to observe truly. And yet Sprenger is a freethinker: he is sceptical
about old receipts! Albert the Great may aver, that some sage in a
spring of water will suffice to raise a storm, but Sprenger only shakes
his head. Sage indeed! Tell that to others, I beg. For all my little
experience, I see herein the craft of One who would put us on the wrong
scent, that cunning Prince of the Air; but he will fare ill, for he has
to deal with a doctor more subtle than the Subtle One himself.
I should have liked to see face to face this wonderful specimen of a
judge, and the people who were brought before him. The creatures that
God might bring together from two different worlds would not be more
unlike, more strange to each other, more utterly wanting in a common
language. The old hag, a skeleton in tatters, with an eye flashing
forth evil things, a being thrice cooked in hell-fire; and the
ill-looking hermit shepherd of the Black Forest or the upper Alpine
wastessuch are the savages offered to the leaden gaze of a
scholarling, to the judgement of a schoolman.
Not long will they let him toil in his judgment-seat. They will tell
all without being tortured. Come the torture will indeed, but
afterwards, by way of complement and crown to the law-procedure. They
explain and relate to order whatever they have done. The Devil is the
Witch's bedfellow, the shepherd's intimate friend. She, for her part,
smiles triumphantly, feels a manifest joy in the horror of those
Truly, the old woman is very mad, and equally so the shepherd. Are
they foolish? Not at all, but far otherwise. They are refined, subtle,
skilled in growing herbs, and seeing through walls. Still more clearly
do they see those monumental ass's ears that overshadow the doctor's
cap. Clearest of all is the fear he has of them, for in vain does he
try to bear him boldly; he does nought but tremble. He himself owns
that, if the priest who adjures the demon does not take care, the Devil
will change his lodging only to pass into the priest himself, feeling
all the more proud of dwelling in a body dedicated to God. Who knows
but these simple Devils of Witches and shepherds might even aspire to
inhabit an inquisitor? He is far from easy in mind when in his loudest
voice he says to the old woman, If your master is so mighty, why do I
not feel his blows?
And, indeed I felt them but too strongly, says the poor man in his
book. When I was in Ratisbon, how often he would come knocking at my
windowpanes! How often he stuck pins in my cap! A hundred visions too
did I have of dogs, monkeys, &c.
* * * * *
The dearest delight of that great logician, the Devil, is, by the
mouth of the seeming old woman, to push the doctor with awkward
arguments, with crafty questions, from which he can only escape by
acting like the fish who saves himself by troubling the water and
turning it black as ink. For instance, The Devil does no more than God
allows him: why, then, punish his tools? Or again, We are not free.
As in the case of Job, the Devil is allowed by God to tempt and beset
us, to urge us on by blows. Should we, then, punish him who is not
free? Sprenger gets out of that by saying, We are free beings. Here
come plenty of texts. You are made serfs only by covenant with the
Evil One. The answer to this would be but too ready: If God allows
the Evil One to tempt us into making covenants, he renders covenants
I am very good, says he, to listen to yonder folk. He is a fool
who argues with the Devil. So say all the rest likewise. They all
cheer the progress of the trial: all are strongly moved, and show in
murmurs their eagerness for the execution. They have seen enough of men
hanged. As for the Wizard and the Witch, 'twill be a curious treat to
see those two faggots crackling merrily in the flames.
The judge has the people on his side, so he is not embarrassed.
According to his Directory three witnesses would be enough. Are
not three witnesses readily found, especially to witness a falsehood?
In every slanderous town, in every envious village teeming with the
mutual hate of neighbours, witnesses abound. Besides, the Directory
is a superannuated book, a century old. In that century of light, the
fifteenth, all is brought to perfection. If witnesses are wanting, we
are content with the public voice, the general clamour.
 Faustin Hélie, in his learned and luminous Traité de
l'Instruction Criminelle (vol. i. p. 398), has clearly
explained the manner in which Pope Innocent III., about 1200,
suppressed the safeguards theretofore required in any
prosecution, especially the risk incurred by prosecutors of
being punished for slander. Instead of these were established
the dismal processes of Denunciation and Inquisition.
frightful levity of these latter methods is shown by Soldan.
Blood was shed like water.
A genuine outcry, born of fear; the piteous cry of victims, of the
poor bewitched. Sprenger is greatly moved thereat. Do not fancy him one
of those unfeeling schoolmen, the lovers of a dry abstraction. He has a
heart: for which very reason he is so ready to kill. He is
compassionate, full of lovingkindness. He feels pity for yon weeping
woman, but lately pregnant, whose babe the witch had smothered by a
look. He feels pity for the poor man whose land she wasted with hail.
He pities the husband, who though himself no wizard, clearly sees his
wife to be a witch, and drags her with a rope round her neck before
Sprenger, who has her burnt.
From a cruel judge escape was sometimes possible; but from our
worthy Sprenger it was hopeless. His humanity is too strong: it needs
great management, a very large amount of ready wit, to avoid a burning
at his hands. One day there was brought before him the plaint of three
good ladies of Strasburg who, at one same hour of the same day, had
been struck by an arm unseen. Ah, indeed! They are fain to accuse a man
of evil aspect, of having laid them under a spell. On being brought
before the inquisitor, the man vows and swears by all the saints that
he knows nothing about these ladies, has never so much as seen them.
The judge is hard of believing: nor tears nor oaths avail aught with
him. His great compassion for the ladies made him inexorable, indignant
at the man's denials. Already he was rising from his seat. The man
would have been tortured into confessing his guilt, as the most
innocent often did. He got leave to speak, and said: I remember,
indeed, having struck some one yesterday at the hour named; but whom?
No Christian beings, but only three cats which came furiously biting at
my legs. The judge, like a shrewd fellow, saw the whole truth of the
matter; the poor man was innocent; the ladies were doubtless turned on
certain days into cats, and the Evil One amused himself by sending them
at the legs of Christian folk, in order to bring about the ruin of
these latter by making them pass for wizards.
A judge of less ability would never have hit upon this. But such a
man was not always to be had. It was needful to have always handy on
the table of the Inquisition a good fool's guide, to reveal to simple
and inexperienced judges the tricks of the Old Enemy, the best way of
baffling him, the clever and deep-laid tactics employed with such happy
effect by the great Sprenger in his campaigns on the Rhine. To that end
the Malleus, which a man was required to carry in his pocket,
was commonly printed in small 18mo, a form at that time scarce. It
would not have been seemly for a judge in difficulties to open a folio
on the table before his audience. But his handbook of folly he might
easily squint at from the corner of his eye, or turn over its leaves as
he held it under the table.
* * * * *
This Malleus (or Mallet), like all books of the same class,
contains a singular avowal, namely, that the Devil is gaining ground;
in other words, that God is losing it; that mankind, after being saved
by Christ, is becoming the Devil's prey. Too clearly indeed does he
step forward from legend to legend. What a way he has made between the
time of the Gospels, when he was only too glad to get into the swine,
and the days of Dante, when, as lawyer and divine, he argues with the
saints, pleads his cause, and by way of closing a successful syllogism,
bears away the soul he was fighting for, saying, with a triumphant
laugh, You didn't know that I was a logician!
In the earlier days of the Middle Ages he waits till the last pangs
to seize the soul and bear it off. Saint Hildegarde, about 1100, thinks
that he cannot enter the body of a living man, for else his
limbs would fly off in all directions: it is but the shadow and the
smoke of the Devil which pass therein. That last gleam of good sense
vanishes in the twelfth century. In the thirteenth we find a suppliant
so afraid of being caught alive that he has himself watched day and
night by two hundred armed men.
Then begins a period of increasing terror, in which men trust
themselves less and ever less to God's protection. The Demon is no
longer a stealthy sprite, no longer a thief by night, gliding through
the gloom. He becomes the fearless adversary, the daring ape of Heaven,
who in broad daylight mimics God's creation under God's own sun. Is it
the legends tell us this? Nay, it is the greatest of the doctors. The
Devil, says Albert the Great, transforms all living things. St.
Thomas goes yet further. All changes that may occur naturally by means
of seeds, can be copied by the Devil. What an astounding concession,
which coming from the mouth of so grave a personage, means nothing
short of setting up one Creator face to face with another! But in
things done without the germinal process, he adds, such as the
changing of men into beasts or the resurrection of the dead, there the
Devil can do nothing. Thus to God is left the smaller part of His
work! He may only perform miracles, a kind of action alike singular and
infrequent. But the daily miracle of life is not for Him alone: His
copyist, the Devil, shares with Him the world of nature!
For man himself, whose weak eyes see no difference between nature as
sprung from God and nature as made by the Devil, here is a world split
in twain! A dreadful uncertainty hangs over everything. Nature's
innocence is gone. The clear spring, the pale flower, the little bird,
are these indeed of God, or only treacherous counterfeits, snares laid
out for man? Back! all things look doubtful! The better of the two
creations, being suspiciously like the other, becomes eclipsed and
conquered. The shadow of the Devil covers up the day, spreads over all
life. To judge by appearances and the fears of men, he has ceased to
share the world; he has taken it all to himself.
So matters stand in the days of Sprenger. His book teems with
saddest avowals of God's weakness. These things, he says, are done
with God's leave. To permit an illusion so entire, to let people
believe that God is nought and the Devil everything, is more than mere
permission; is tantamount to decreeing the damnation of countless
souls whom nothing can save from such an error. No prayers, no
penances, no pilgrimages, are of any avail; nor even, so it is said,
the sacrament of the altar. Strange and mortifying avowal! The very
nuns who have just confessed themselves, declare while the host is
yet in their mouths, that even then they feel the infernal lover
troubling them without fear or shame, troubling and refusing to leave
his hold. And being pressed with further questions, they add, through
their tears, that he has a body because he has a soul.
* * * * *
The Manichees of old, and the more modern Albigenses, were charged
with believing in the Power of Evil struggling side by side with Good,
with making the Devil equal to God. Here, however, he is more than
equal; for if God through His holy sacrament has still no power for
good, the Devil certainly seems superior.
I am not surprised at the wondrous sight then offered by the world.
Spain with a darksome fury, Germany with the frightened pedantic rage
certified in the Malleus, assail the insolent conqueror through
the wretches in whom he chooses to dwell. They burn, they destroy the
dwellings in which he has taken up his abode. Finding him too strong
for men's souls, they try to hunt him out of their bodies. But what is
the good of it all? You burn one old woman and he settles himself in
her neighbour. Nay, more; if Sprenger may be trusted, he fastens
sometimes on the exorcising priest, and triumphs over his very judge.
Among other expedients, the Dominicans advised recourse to the
intercession of the Virgin, by a continual repeating of the Ave
Maria. Sprenger, for his part, always averred that such a remedy
was but a momentary one. You might be caught between two prayers. Hence
came the invention of the rosary, the chaplet of beads, by means of
which any number of aves might be mumbled through, whilst the mind was
busied elsewhere. Whole populations adopted this first essay of an art
thereafter to be used by Loyola in his attempt to govern the world, an
art of which his Exercises furnish the ingenious groundwork.
* * * * *
All this seems opposed to what was said in the foregoing chapter as
to the decline of Witchcraft. The Devil is now popular and everywhere
present. He seems to have come off conqueror: but has he gained by his
victory? What substantial profit has he reaped therefrom?
Much, as beheld in his new phase of a scientific rebellion which is
about to bring forth the bright Renaissance. None, if beheld under his
old aspect, as the gloomy Spirit of Witchcraft. The stories told of him
in the sixteenth century, if more numerous, more widespread than ever,
readily swing towards the grotesque. People tremble, but they laugh
 See my Memoirs of Luther, concerning the Kilcrops,
CHAPTER III. CENTURY OF TOLERATION
IN FRANCE: REACTION.
The Church forfeited the wizard's property to the judge and the
prosecutor. Wherever the Canon Law was enforced the trials for
witchcraft waxed numerous, and brought much wealth to the clergy.
Wherever the lay tribunals claimed the management of these trials they
grew scarce and disappeared, at least for a hundred years in France,
from 1450 to 1550.
The first gleam of light shot forth from France in the middle of the
fifteenth century. The inquiry made by Parliament into the trial of
Joan of Arc, and her after reinstalment, set people thinking on the
intercourse of spirits, good and bad; on the errors, also, of the
spiritual courts. She whom the English, whom the greatest doctors of
the Council of Basil pronounced a Witch, appeared to Frenchmen a saint
and sibyl. Her reinstalment proclaimed to France the beginning of an
age of toleration. The Parliament of Paris likewise reinstalled the
alleged Waldenses of Arras. In 1498 it discharged as mad one who was
brought before it as a wizard. None such were condemned in the reigns
of Charles VIII., Louis XII., and Francis I.
* * * * *
On the contrary, Spain, under the pious Isabella (1506) and the
Cardinal Ximenes, began burning witches. In 1515, Geneva, being then
under a Bishop, burned five hundred in three months. The Emperor
Charles V., in his German Constitutions, vainly sought to rule, that
Witchcraft, as causing damage to goods and persons, is a question for
civil, not ecclesiastic law. In vain did he do away the right of
confiscation, except in cases of treason. The small prince-bishops,
whose revenues were largely swelled by trials for witchcraft, kept on
burning at a furious rate. In one moment, as it were, six hundred
persons were burnt in the infinitesimal bishopric of Bamberg, and nine
hundred in that of Wurtzburg. The way of going to work was very simple.
Begin by using torture against the witnesses; create witnesses for the
prosecution by means of pain and terror; then, by dint of excessive
kindliness, draw from the accused a certain avowal, and believe that
avowal in the teeth of proven facts. A witch, for instance, owns to
having taken from the graveyard the body of an infant lately dead, that
she might use it in her magical compounds. Her husband bids them go the
graveyard, for the child is there still. On being disinterred, the
child is found all right in his coffin. But against the witness of his
own eyes the judge pronounces it an appearance, a cheat of the
Devil. He prefers the wife's confession to the fact itself; and she is
 For this and other facts regarding Germany, see Soldan.
So far did matters go among these worthy prince-bishops, that after
a while, Ferdinand II., the most bigoted of all emperors, the emperor
of the Thirty Years' War, was fain to interfere, to set up at Bamberg
an imperial commissary, who should maintain the law of the empire, and
see that the episcopal judge did not begin the trial with tortures
which settled it beforehand, which led straight to the stake.
* * * * *
Witches were easily caught by their confessions, sometimes without
the torture. Many of them were half mad. They would own to turning
themselves into beasts. The Italian women often became cats, and
gliding under the doors, sucked, they said, the blood of children. In
the land of mighty forests, in Lorraine and on the Jura, the women, of
their own accord, became wolves, and, if you could believe them,
devoured the passers by, even when nobody had passed by. They were
burnt. Some girls, who swore they had given themselves to the Devil,
were found to be maidens still. They, too, were burnt. Several seemed
in a great hurry, as if they wanted to be burnt. Sometimes it happened
from raging madness, sometimes from despair. An Englishwoman being led
to the stake, said to the people, Do not blame my judges. I wanted to
put an end to my own self. My parents kept aloof from me in their
dread. My husband had disowned me. I could not have lived on without
disgrace. I longed for death, and so I told a lie.
The first words of open toleration against silly Sprenger, his
frightful Handbook, and his Inquisitors, were spoken by Molitor, a
lawyer of Constance. He made this sensible remark, that the confessions
of witches should not be taken seriously, because it was the very
Father of Lies who spoke by their mouths. He laughed at the miracles of
Satan, affirming them to be all illusory. In an indirect way, such
jesters as Hutten and Erasmus dealt violent blows at the Inquisition,
through their satires on the Dominican idiots. Cardan said,
straightforwardly, In order to obtain forfeit property, the same
persons acted as accusers and judges, and invented a thousand stories
 A famous Italian physician, who lived through the
greater part of the sixteenth century.TRANS.
That apostle of toleration, Chatillon, who maintained against
Catholics and Protestants both, that heretics should not be burnt,
though he said nothing about wizards, put men of sense in a better way.
Agrippa, Lavatier, above all, Wyer] the illustrious physician
of Clèves, rightly said that if those wretched witches were the Devil's
plaything, we must lay the blame on the Devil, not on them; must cure,
instead of burning them. Some physicians of Paris soon pushed
incredulity so far as to maintain that the possessed and the witches
were simply knaves. This was going too far. Most of them were sufferers
under the sway of an illusion.
 Cornelius Agrippa, of Cologne, born in 1486, sometime
Secretary of the Emperor Maximilian, and author of two works
famous in their day, Vanity of the Sciences, and
 A friend of Sir Philip Sydney, who sent for him when
The dark reign of Henry II. and Diana of Poitiers ends the season of
toleration. Under Diana, they burn heretics and wizards again. On the
other hand, Catherine of Medici, surrounded as she was by astrologers
and magicians, would have protected the latter. Their numbers increased
amain. The wizard Trois-Echelles, who was tried in the reign of Charles
IX., reckons them at a hundred thousand, declaring all France to be one
Agrippa and others affirm, that all science is contained in magic.
In white magic undoubtedly. But the fears of fools and their fanatic
rage, put little difference between them. In spite of Wyer, in spite of
those true philosophers, Light and Toleration, a strong reaction
towards darkness set in from a quarter whence it was least expected.
Our magistrates, who for nearly a century, had shown themselves
enlightened and fair-dealing, now threw themselves into the Spanish
Catholicon and the fury of the Leaguists, until they waxed more
priest-like than the priests themselves. While scouting the Inquisition
from France, they matched, and well-nigh eclipsed it by their own
deeds: the Parliament of Toulouse alone sending four hundred human
bodies at one time to the stake. Think of the horror, the black smoke
of all that flesh, of the frightful melting and bubbling of the fat
amidst those piercing shrieks and yells! So accursed, so sickening a
sight had not been seen, since the Albigenses were broiled and roasted.
 Catholicon, or purgative panacea: i. e. the
 The wars of the Catholic League against Henry of Navarre
began in 1576.TRANS.
But this is all too little for Bodin, lawyer of Angers, and a
violent adversary to Wyer. He begins by saying that the wizards in
Europe are numerous enough to match Xerxes' army of eighteen hundred
thousand men. Then, like Caligula, he utters a prayer, that these two
millions might be gathered together, so as he, Bodin, could sentence
and burn them all at one stroke.
* * * * *
The new rivalry makes matters worse. The gentry of the Law begin to
say that the priest, being too often connected with the wizard, is no
longer a safe judge. In fact, for a moment, the lawyers seem to be yet
more trustworthy. In Spain, the Jesuit pleader, Del Rio; in Lorraine,
Remy (1596); Boguet (1602) on the Jura; Leloyer (1605) in Anjou; are
all matchless persecutors, who would have made Torquemada himself
die of envy.
 The infamous Spanish Inquisitor, who died at the close
of the fifteenth century, after sixteen years of untold
atrocities against the heretics of Spain.TRANS.
In Lorraine there seemed to be quite a dreadful plague of wizards
and visionaries. Driven to despair by the constant passing of troops
and brigands, the multitude prayed to the Devil only. They were drawn
on by the wizards. A number of villagers, frightened by a twofold dread
of wizards on the one hand, and judges on the other, longed to leave
their homes and flee elsewhither, if Remy, Judge of Nancy, may be
believed. In the work he dedicated (1596) to the Cardinal of Lorraine,
he owns to having burnt eight hundred witches, in sixteen years. So
well do I deal out judgements, he says, that last year sixteen slew
themselves to avoid passing through my hands.
* * * * *
The priests felt humbled. Could they have done better than the
laity? Nay, even the monkish lords of Saint Claude asked for a layman,
honest Boguet, to sit in judgment on their own people, who were much
given to witchcraft. In that sorry Jura, a poor land of firs and scanty
pasturage, the serf in his despair yielded himself to the Devil. They
all worshipped the Black Cat.
Boguet's book had immense weight. This Golden Book, by the petty
judge of Saint Claude, was studied as a handbook by the worshipful
members of Parliament. In truth, Boguet is a thorough lawyer, is even
scrupulous in his own way. He finds fault with the treachery shown in
these prosecutions; will not hear of barristers betraying their
clients, of judges promising pardon only to ensure the death of the
accused. He finds fault with the very doubtful tests to which the
witches were still exposed. Torture, he says, is needless: it never
makes them yield. Moreover, he is humane enough to have them strangled
before throwing them to the flames, always except the werewolves, whom
you must take care to burn alive. He cannot believe that Satan would
make a compact with children: Satan is too sharp; knows too well that,
under fourteen years, any bargain made with a minor, is annulled by
default of years and due discretion. Then the children are saved? Not
at all; for he contradicts himself, and holds, moreover, that such a
leprosy cannot be purged away without burning everything, even to the
cradles. Had he lived, he would have come to that. He made the country
a desert: never was there a judge who destroyed people with so fine a
But it is to the Parliament of Bourdeaux that the grand hurrah for
lay jurisdiction is sent up in Lancre's book on The Fickleness of
Demons. The author, a man of some sense, a counsellor in this same
Parliament, tells with a triumphant air of his fight with the Devil in
the Basque country, where, in less than three months, he got rid of I
know not how many witches, and, better still, of three priests. He
looks compassionately on the Spanish Inquisition, which at Logroño, not
far off, on the borders of Navarre and Castille, dragged on a trial for
two years, ending in the poorest way by a small auto-da-fé, and
the release of a whole crowd of women.
CHAPTER IV. THE WITCHES OF THE
BASQUE COUNTRY: 1609.
 The Basques of the Lower Pyrenees, the Aquitani of
Cæsar, belonged to the old Iberian race which peopled Western
Europe before the Celtic era.TRANS.
That strong-handed execution of the priests shows M. Lancre to have
been a man of independent spirit. In politics he is the same. In his
book on The Prince (1617), he openly declares the law to be
above the King.
Never was the Basque character better drawn than in his book on
The Fickleness of Demons. In France, as in Spain, the Basque people
had privileges which almost made them a republic. On our side they owed
the King no service but that of arms: at the first beat of drum they
were bound to gather two thousand armed men commanded by Basque
captains. They were not oppressed by their clergy, who seldom
prosecuted wizards, being wizards themselves. The priests danced, wore
swords, and took their mistresses to the Witches' Sabbath. These
mistresses acted as their sextonesses or bénédictes, to keep the
churches in order. The parson quarrelled with nobody, offered the White
Mass to God by day, the Black by night to the Devil, and sometimes,
according to Lancre, in the same church.
The Basques of Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz, a race of men quaint,
venturesome, and fabulously bold, left many widows, from their habit of
sailing out into the roughest seas to harpoon whales. Leaving their
wives to God or the Devil, they threw themselves in crowds into the
Canadian settlements of Henry IV. As for the children, these honest
worthy sailors would have thought about them more, if they had been
clear as to their parentage. But on their return home they would reckon
up the months of their absence, and they never found the reckoning
The women, bold, beautiful, imaginative, spent their day seated on
tombs in the grave-yards, talking of the Sabbath, whither they expected
to go in the evening. This was their passion, their craze.
They are born witches, daughters of the sea and of enchantment. They
sport among the billows, swimming like fish. Their natural master is
the Prince of the Air, King of Winds and Dreams, the same who inspired
the Sibyl and breathed to her the future.
The judge who burns them is charmed with them, nevertheless. When
you see them pass, says he, their hair flowing in the breeze about
their shoulders, they walk so trim, so bravely armed in that fair
head-dress, that the sun playing through it as through a cloud, causes
a mighty blaze which shoots forth hot lightning-flashes. Hence the
fascination of their eyes, as dangerous in love as in witchcraft.
This amiable Bordeaux magistrate, the earliest sample of those
worldly judges who enlivened the gown in the seventeenth century, plays
the lute between whiles, and even makes the witches dance before
sending them to the stake. And he writes well, far more clearly than
anyone else. But for all that, one discovers in his work a new source
of obscurity, inherent to those times. The witches being too numerous
for the judge to burn them all, the most of them have a shrewd idea
that he will show some indulgence to those who enter deepest into his
thoughts and passions! What passions? you ask. First, his love of the
frightfully marvellous, a passion common enough; the delight of feeling
afraid; and also, if it must be said, the enjoyment of unseemly
pleasures. Add to these a touch of vanity: the more dreadful and
enraged those clever women show the Devil to be, the greater the pride
taken by the judge in subduing so mighty an adversary. He arrays
himself as it were in his victory, enthrones himself in his
foolishness, triumphs in his senseless twaddling.
The prettiest thing of this kind is the report of the procedure in
the Spanish auto-da-fé of Logroño, as furnished to us by
Llorente. Lancre, while quoting him jealously and longing to disparage
him, owns to the surpassing charm of the festival, the splendour of the
sight, the moving power of the music. On one platform were the few
condemned to the flames, on another a crowd of reprieved criminals. The
confession of a repentant heroine who had dared all things, is read
aloud. Nothing could be wilder. At the Sabbaths they ate children made
into hash, and by way of second course, the bodies of wizards
disentombed. Toads dance, and talk and complain lovingly of their
mistresses, getting them scolded by the Devil. The latter politely
escorts the witches home, lighting them with the arm of a child who
died unchristened, &c.
Among our Basques witchcraft put on a less fantastic guise. It seems
that at this time the Sabbath was only a grand feast to which all, the
nobles included, went for purposes of amusement. In the foremost line
would be seen persons in veils and masks, by some supposed to be
princes. Once on a time, says Lancre, none but idiots of the Landes
appeared there: now people of quality are seen to go. To entertain
these local grandees, Satan sometimes created a Bishop of the
Sabbath. Such was the title he gave the young lord Lancinena, with
whom the Devil in person was good enough to open the ball.
So well supported, the witches held their sway, wielding over the
land an amazing terrorism of the fancy. Numbers regarded themselves as
victims, and became in fact seriously ill. Many were stricken with
epilepsy, and barked like dogs. In one small town of Acqs were counted
as many as forty of these barkers. The Witch had so fearful a hold upon
them, that one lady being called as witness, began barking with
uncontrollable fury as the Witch, unawares to herself, drew near.
Those to whom was ascribed so terrible a power lorded it everywhere.
No one would dare shut his door against them. One magistrate, the
criminal assessor of Bayonne, allowed the Sabbath to be held in his own
house. Urtubi, Lord of Saint Pé, was forced to hold the festival in his
castle. But his head was shaken to that degree, that he imagined a
witch was sucking his blood. Emboldened, however, by his fear, he, with
another gentleman, repaired to Bordeaux, and persuaded the Parliament
to obtain from the King the commissioning of two of its members,
Espagnet and Lancre, to try the wizards in the Basque country. This
commission, absolute and without appeal, worked with unheard-of vigour;
in four months, from May to August, 1609, condemned sixty or eighty
witches, and examined five hundred more, who, though equally marked
with the sign of the Devil, figured in the proceedings as witnesses
* * * * *
It was no safe matter for two men and a few soldiers to carry on
these trials amongst a violent, hot-headed people, a multitude of wild
and daring sailors' wives. Another source of danger was in the priests,
many of whom were wizards, needing to be tried by the lay
commissioners, despite the lively opposition of the clergy.
When the judges appeared, many persons saved themselves in the
hills. Others boldly remained, saying, it was the judges who would be
burnt. So little fear had the witches themselves, that before the
audience they would sink into the Sabbatic slumber, and affirm on
awaking that, even in court, they had enjoyed the blessedness of Satan.
Many said, they only suffered from not being able to prove to him how
much they burned to suffer for his sake.
Those who were questioned said they could not speak. Satan rising
into their throats blocked up their gullets. Lancre, who wrote this
narrative, though the younger of the commissioners, was a man of the
world. The witches guessed that, with a man of his sort, there were
means of saving themselves. The league between them was broken. A
beggar-girl of seventeen, La Murgui, or Margaret, who had found
witchcraft gainful, and, while herself almost a child, had brought away
children as offerings to the Devil, now betook herself, with another
girl, Lisalda, of the same age, to denouncing all the rest. By word of
mouth or in writing she revealed all; with the liveliness, the noise,
the emphatic gestures of a Spaniard, entering truly or falsely into a
hundred impure details. She frightened, amused, wheedled her judges,
drawing them after her like fools. To this corrupt, wanton, crazy girl,
they entrusted the right of searching about the bodies of girls and
boys, for the spot whereon Satan had set his mark. This spot discovered
itself by a certain numbness, by the fact that you might stick needles
into it without causing pain. While a surgeon thus tormented the elder
ones, she took in hand the young, who, though called as witnesses,
might themselves be accused, if she pronounced them to bear the mark.
It was a hateful thing to see this brazen-faced girl made sole mistress
of the fate of those wretched beings, commissioned to prod them all
over with needles, and able at will to assign those bleeding bodies to
She had gotten so mighty a sway over Lancre, as to persuade him
that, while he was sleeping in Saint Pé, in his own house, guarded by
his servants and his escort, the Devil came by night into his room, to
say the Black Mass; while the witches getting inside his very curtains,
would have poisoned him, had he not been well protected by God Himself.
The Black Mass was offered by the Lady of Lancinena, to whom Satan made
love in the very bedroom of the judge. We can guess the likely aim of
this wretched tale: the beggar bore a grudge against the lady, who was
good-looking, and, but for this slander, might have come to bear sway
over the honest commissioner.
* * * * *
Lancre and his colleague taking fright, went forward; never dared to
draw back. They had their royal gallows set up on the very spots where
Satan had held a Sabbath. People were alarmed thereat, deeming them
strongly backed by the arm of royalty. Impeachments hailed about them.
The women all came in one long string to accuse each other. Children
were brought forward to impeach their mothers. Lancre gravely ruled
that a child of eight was a good, sufficient, reputable witness!
M. d'Espagnet could give but a few moments to this matter, having
speedily to show himself in the Estates of Béarn. Lancre being pushed
unwittingly forward by the violence of the younger informers, who would
have fallen into great danger, if they had failed to get the old ones
burnt, threw the reins on the neck of the business, and hurried it on
at full gallop. A due amount of witches were condemned to the stake.
These, too, on finding themselves lost, ended by impeaching others.
When the first batch were brought to the stake, a frightful scene took
place. Executioner, constables, and sergeants, all thought their last
hour was come. The crowd fell savagely upon the carts, seeking to force
the wretches to withdraw their accusations. The men put daggers to
their throats: their furious companions were like to finish them with
Justice, however, got out of the scrape with some credit; and then
the commissioners went on to the harder work of sentencing eight
priests whom they had taken up. The girls' confessions had brought
these men to light. Lancre speaks of their morals like one who knew all
about them of himself. He rebukes them, not only for their gay
proceedings on Sabbath nights, but, most of all, for their sextonesses
and female churchwardens. He even repeats certain tales about the
priests having sent off the husbands to Newfoundland, and brought back
Devils from Japan who gave up the wives into their hands.
The clergy were deeply stirred: the Bishop of Bayonne would have
made resistance. His courage failing him, he appointed his
vicar-general to act as judge-assistant in his own absence. Luckily the
Devil gave the accused more help than their Bishop. He opened all the
doors, so that one morning five of the eight were found missing. The
commissioners lost no time in burning the three still left to them.
* * * * *
This happened about August, 1609. The Spanish inquisitors at Logroño
did not crown their proceedings with an auto-da-fé before the
8th November, 1610. They had met with far more trouble than our own
countrymen, owing to the frightful number of persons accused. How burn
a whole people? They sought advice of the Pope, of the greatest doctors
in Spain. The word was given to draw back. Only the wilful who
persisted in denying their guilt, were to be burnt; while they who
pleaded guilty should be let go. The same method had already been used
to rescue priests in trials for loose living. According to Llorente, it
was deemed sufficient, if they owned their crime, and went through a
The Inquisition, so deadly to heretics, so cruel to Moors and Jews,
was much less so to wizards. These, being mostly shepherds, had no
quarrel with the Church. The rejoicings of goatherds were too low, if
not too brutish, to disturb the enemies of free thought.
* * * * *
Lancre wrote his book mainly to show how much the justice of French
Parliaments and laymen excelled the justice of the priests. It is
written lightly, merrily, with flowing pen. It seems to express the joy
felt by one who has come creditably out of a great risk. It is a
gasconading, an over-boastful joy. He tells with pride how, the Sabbath
following the first execution of the witches, their children went and
wailed to Satan, who replied that their mothers had not been burnt, but
were alive and happy. From the midst of the crowd the children thought
they heard their mothers' voices saying how thoroughly blest they were.
Satan was frightened nevertheless. He absented himself for four
Sabbaths, sending a small commonplace devil in his stead. He did not
show himself again till the 22nd July. When the wizards asked him the
reason of his absence, he said, I have been away, pleading your cause
against Little John, the name by which he called Jesus. I have
won the suit, and they who are still in prison will not be burnt.
The lie was given to the great liar. And the conquering magistrate
avers that, while the last witch was burning, they saw a swarm of toads
come out of her head. The people fell on them with stones, so that she
was rather stoned than burnt. But for all their attacks, they could not
put an end to one black toad which escaped from flames, sticks, and
stones, to hide, like the Devil's imp it was, in some spot where it
could never be found.
 For a more detailed account of these Basque Witches, the
English reader may turn to Wright's Narratives of Sorcery
and Magic. Bentley, 1851.TRANS.
CHAPTER V. SATAN TURNS PRIEST.
Whatever semblance of Satanic fanaticism was still preserved by the
witches, it transpires from the narratives of Lancre and other writers
of the seventeenth century, that the Sabbath then was mainly an affair
of money. They raised contributions almost by force, charged something
for right of entrance, and extracted fines from those who stayed away.
At Brussels and in Picardy, they had a fixed scale of payment for
rewarding those who brought new members into the brotherhood.
In the Basque country no mystery was kept up. The gatherings there
would amount to twelve thousand persons, of all classes, rich or poor,
priests and gentlemen. Satan, himself a gentleman, wore a hat upon his
three horns, like a man of quality. Finding his old seat, the druidic
stone, too hard for him, he treats himself to an easy well-gilt
arm-chair. Shall we say he is growing old? More nimble now than when he
was young, he frolics about, cuts capers, and leaps from the bottom of
a large pitcher. He goes through the service head downwards, his feet
in the air.
He likes everything to go off quite respectably, and spares no cost
in his scenic arrangements. Besides the customary flames, red, yellow,
and blue, which entertain the eye, as they show forth or hide the
flickering shadows, he charms the ear with strange music, mainly of
little bells that tickle the nerves with something like the searching
vibrations of musical-glasses. To crown this splendour Satan bids them
bring out his silver plate. Even his toads give themselves airs, become
fashionable, and, like so many lordlings, go about in green velvet.
The general effect is that of a large fair, of a great masked ball
with very transparent disguises. Satan, who understands his epoch,
opens the ball with the Bishop of the Sabbath; or the King and Queen:
offices devised in compliment to the great personages, wealthy or
well-born, who honour the meeting by their presence.
Here may be seen no longer the gloomy feast of rebels, the baleful
orgie of serfs and boors, sharing by night the sacrament of love, by
day the sacrament of death. The violent Sabbath-round is no more the
one only dance of the evening. Thereto are now added the Moorish
dances, lively or languishing, but always amorous and obscene, in which
girls dressed up for the purpose, like La Murgui or La
Lisalda, feigned and showed off the most provoking characters.
Among the Basques these dances formed, we are told, the invincible
charm which sent the whole world of women, wives, daughters,
widowsthe last in great numbersheadlong into the Sabbath.
Without such amusements and the accompanying banquet, one could
hardly understand this general rage for these Sabbaths. It is a kind of
love without love; a feast of barrenness undisguised. Boguet has
settled that point to a nicety. Differing in one passage, where he
dismisses the women as afraid of coming to harm, Lancre is generally at
one with Boguet, besides being more sincere. The cruel and foul
researches he pursues on the very bodies of witches, show clearly that
he deemed them barren, and that a barren passive love underlay the
The feast ought therefore to have been a dismal one, if the men had
owned the smallest heart.
The silly girls who went to dance and eat were victims in every way.
But they were resigned to everything save the prospect of bearing
children. They bore indeed a far heavier load of wretchedness than the
men. Sprenger tells of the strange cry, which even in his day burst
forth in the hour of love, May the Devil have the fruits! In his day,
moreover, people could live for two sous a day, while in the
reign of Henry IV., about 1600, they could barely live for twenty.
Through all that century the desire, the need for barrenness grew more
Under this growing dread of love's allurements the Sabbath would
have become quite dull and wearisome, had not the conductresses
cleverly made the most of its comic side, enlivening it with farcical
interludes. Thus, the opening scene in which Satan, like the Priapus of
olden times, bestowed his coarse endearments on the Witch, was followed
by another game, a kind of chilly purification, which the sorceress
underwent with much grimacing, and a great show of unpleasant
shuddering. Then came another swinish farce, described by Lancre and
Boguet, in which some young and pretty wife would take the Witch's
place as Queen of the Sabbath, and submit her body to the vilest
handling. A farce not less repulsive was the Black Sacrament,
performed with a black radish, which Satan would cut into little pieces
and gravely swallow.
The last act of all, according to Lancre, or at least according to
the two bold hussies who made him their fool, was an astounding event
to happen in such crowded meetings. Since witchcraft had become
hereditary in whole families, there was no further need of openly
divulging the old incestuous ways of producing witches, by the
intercourse of a mother with her son. Some sort of comedy perhaps was
made out of the old materials, in the shape of a grotesque Semiramis or
an imbecile Ninus. But the more serious game, which doubtless really
took place, attests the existence of great profligacy in the upper
walks of society: it took the form of a most hateful and barbarous
Some rash husband would be tempted to the spot, so fuddled with a
baleful draught of datura or belladonna, that, like one entranced, he
came to lose all power of speech and motion, retaining only his sight.
His wife, on the other hand, being so bewitched with erotic drinks as
to lose all sense of what she was doing, would appear in a woeful state
of nature, letting herself be caressed under the indignant eyes of one
who could no longer help himself in the least. His manifest despair,
his bootless efforts to unshackle his tongue, and set free his
powerless limbs, his dumb rage and wildly rolling eyes, inspired
beholders with a cruel joy, like that produced by some of Molière's
comedies. The poor woman, stung with a real delight, yielded herself up
to the most shameful usage, of which on the morrow neither herself nor
her husband would have the least remembrance. But those who had seen or
shared in the cruel farce, would they, too, fail to remember?
In such heinous outrages an aristocratic element seems traceable. In
no way do they remind us of the old brotherhood of serfs, of the
original Sabbath, which, though ungodly, and foul enough, was still a
free straightforward matter, in which all was done readily and without
Clearly, Satan, depraved as he was from all time, goes on spoiling
more and more. A polite, a crafty Satan is he now become, sweetly
insipid, but all the more faithless and unclean. It is a new, a strange
thing to see at the Sabbaths, his fellowship with priests. Who is yon
parson coming along with his Bénédicte, his sextoness, he who
jobs the things of the Church, saying the White Mass of mornings, the
Black at night? Satan, says Lancre, persuades him to make love to
his daughters in the spirit, to debauch his fair penitents. Innocent
magistrate! He pretends to be unaware that for a century back the Devil
had been working away at the Church livings, like one who knew his
business! He had made himself father-confessor; or, if you would rather
have it so, the father-confessor had turned Devil.
The worthy M. de Lancre should have remembered the trials that began
in 1491, and helped perchance to bring the Parliament of Paris into a
tolerant frame of mind. It gave up burning Satan, for it saw nothing of
him but a mask.
A good many nuns were conquered by his new device of borrowing the
form of some favourite confessor. Among them was Jane Pothierre, a holy
woman of Quesnoy, of the ripe age of forty-five, but still, alas! all
too impressible. She owns her passion to her ghostly counsellor, who
loth to listen to her, flies to Falempin, some leagues off. The Devil,
who never sleeps, saw his advantage, and perceiving her, says the
annalist, goaded by the thorns of Venus, he slily took the shape of
the aforesaid 'Father,' and returning every night to the convent, was
so successful in befooling her, that she owned to having received him
434 times. Great pity was felt for her on her repenting; and she
was speedily saved from all need of blushing, being put into a fine
walled-tomb built for her in the Castle of Selles, where a few days
after she died the death of a good Catholic. Is it not a deeply moving
tale? But this is nothing to that fine business of Gauffridi, which
happened at Marseilles while Lancre was drawing up deeds at Bayonne.
 Massée, Chronique du Monde, 1540; and the
of Hainault, &c.
The Parliament of Provence had no need to envy the success attained
by that of Bordeaux. The lay authorities caught at the first occasion
of a trial for witchcraft to institute a reform in the morals of the
clergy. They sent forth a stern glance towards the close-shut
convent-world. A rare opportunity was offered by the strange
concurrence of many causes, by the fierce jealousies, the revengeful
longings which severed priest from priest. But for those mad passions
which ere long began to burst forth at every moment, we should have
gained no insight into the real lot of that great world of women who
died in those gloomy dwellings; not one word should we have heard of
the things that passed behind those parlour gratings, within those
mighty walls which only the confessor could overleap.
The example of the Basque priest, whom Lancre presents to us as
worldly, trifling, going with his sword upon him, and his deaconess by
his side, to dance all night at the Sabbath, was not one to inspire
fear. It was not such as he whom the Inquisition took such pains to
screen, or towards whom a body so stern for others, proved itself, for
once, indulgent. It is easy to see through all Lancre's reticences the
existence of something else. And the States-General of 1614,
affirming that priests should not be tried by priests, are also
thinking of something else. This very mystery it is which gets
torn in twain by the Parliament of Provence. The director of nuns
gaining the mastery over them and disposing of them, body and soul, by
means of witchcraft,such is the fact which comes forth from the trial
of Gauffridi; at a later date from the dreadful occurrences at Loudun
and Louviers; and also in the scenes described by Llorente, Ricci, and
One common method was employed alike for reducing the scandal, for
misleading the public, for hiding away the inner fact while it was
busied with the outer aspects of it. On the trial of a priestly wizard,
all was done to juggle away the priest by bringing out the wizard; to
impute everything to the art of the magician, and put out of sight the
natural fascination wielded by the master of a troop of women all
abandoned to his charge.
But there was no way of hushing up the first affair. It had been
noised abroad in all Provence, in a land of light, where the sun
pierces without any disguise. The chief scene of it lay not only in Aix
and Marseilles, but also in Sainte-Baume, the famous centre of
pilgrimage for a crowd of curious people, who thronged from all parts
of France to be present at a deadly duel between two bewitched nuns and
their demons. The Dominicans, who attacked the affair as inquisitors,
committed themselves by the noise they made about it through their
partiality for one of these nuns. For all the care Parliament presently
took to hurry the conclusion, these monks were exceedingly anxious to
excuse her and justify themselves. Hence the important work of the monk
Michaëlis, a mixture of truth and fable; wherein he raises Gauffridi,
the priest he had sent to the flames, into the Prince of Magicians, not
only in France, but even in Spain, Germany, England, Turkey, nay, in
the whole inhabited earth.
Gauffridi seems to have been a talented, agreeable man. Born in the
mountains of Provence, he had travelled much in the Low Countries and
the East. He bore the highest character in Marseilles, where he served
as priest in the Church of Acoules. His bishop made much of him: the
most devout of the ladies preferred him for their confessor. He had a
wondrous gift, they say, of endearing himself to all. Nevertheless, he
might have preserved his fair reputation had not a noble lady of
Provence, whom he had already debauched, carried her blind, doting
fondness to the extent of entrusting him, perhaps for her religious
training, with the care of a charming child of twelve, Madeline de la
Palud, a girl of fair complexion and gentle nature. Thereon, Gauffridi
lost his wits, and respected neither the youth nor the holy ignorance,
the utter unreserve of his pupil.
As she grew older, however, the young highborn girl discovered her
misfortune, in loving thus beneath her, without hope of marriage. To
keep his hold on her, Gauffridi vowed he would wed her before the
Devil, if he might not wed her before God. He soothed her pride by
declaring that he was the Prince of Magicians, and would make her his
queen. He put on her finger a silver ring, engraved with magic
characters. Did he take her to the Sabbath, or only make her believe
she had been there, by confusing her with strange drinks and magnetic
witcheries? Certain it is, at least, that torn by two different
beliefs, full of uneasiness and fear, the girl thenceforth became mad
at certain times, and fell into fits of epilepsy. She was afraid of
being carried off alive by the Devil. She durst no longer stay in her
father's house, and took shelter in the Ursuline Convent at Marseilles.
CHAPTER VI. GAUFFRIDI: 1610.
The order of Ursuline nuns seemed to be the calmest, the least
irrational of them all. They were not wholly idle, but found some
little employment in the bringing up of young girls. The Catholic
reaction which, aiming at a higher flight of ecstasy than was possible
at that time even in Spain, had foolishly built a number of convents,
Carmelite, Bernardine, and Capuchin, soon found itself at the end of
its motive-powers. The girls of whom people got rid by shutting them up
so strictly therein, died off immediately, and their swift decease led
to frightful statements of the cruelty shown by their families. They
perished, indeed, not by their excessive penances, but rather of
heart-sickness and despair. After the first heats of zeal were over,
the dreadful disease of the cloister, described by Cassieu as dating
from the fifteenth century, that crushing, sickening sadness which came
on of an afternoonthat tender listlessness which plunged them into a
state of unutterable exhaustion, speedily wore them away. A few among
them would turn as if raging mad, choking, as it were, with the
exceeding strength of their blood.
A nun who hoped to die decently, without bequeathing too large a
share of remorse to her kindred, was bound to live on about ten years,
the mean term of life in the cloister. She needed to be let gently
down; and men of sense and experience felt that her days could only be
prolonged by giving her something to do, by leaving her not quite
alone. St. Francis of Sales founded the Visitandine order, whose
duty it was to visit the sick in pairs. Cæsar of Bus and Romillion, who
had established the Teaching Priests in connection with the
Oratorians, afterwards ordained what might be called the Teaching
Sisters, the Ursulines, who taught under the direction of the said
priests. The whole thing was under the supervision of the bishops, and
had very little of the monastic about it: the nuns were not shut up
again in cloisters. The Visitandines went out; the Ursulines received,
at any rate, their pupils' kinsfolk. Both of them had connection with
the world under guardians of good repute. The result was a certain
mediocrity. Though the Oratorians and the Doctrinaries numbered among
them persons of high merit, the general character of the order was
uniformly moderate, commonplace; it took care never to soar too high.
Romillion, founder of the Ursulines, was an oldish man, a convert from
Protestantism, who had roamed everywhere, and come back again to his
starting point. He deemed his young Provencials wise enough already,
and counted on keeping his little flock on the slender pasturage of an
Oratorian faith, at once monotonous and rational. And being such, it
came in time to be utterly wearisome. One fine morning all had
 St. Francis of Sales, famous for his successful missions
among the Protestants, and Bishop of Geneva in his later
years, died in 1622.TRANS.
 The Brethren of the Oratory, founded at Rome in
Gauffridi, the mountaineer of Provence, the travelled mystic, the
man of strong feelings and restless mind, had quite another effect upon
them, when he came thither as Madeline's ghostly guide. They felt a
certain power, and by those who had already passed out of their wild,
amorous youth, were doubtless assured that it was nothing less than a
power begotten of the Devil. All were seized with fear, and more than
one with love also. Their imaginations soared high; their heads began
to turn. Already six or seven may be seen weeping, shrieking, yelling,
fancying themselves caught by the Devil. Had the Ursulines lived in
cloisters, within high walls, Gauffridi, being their only director,
might one way or another have made them all agree. As in the cloisters
of Quesnoy, in 1491, so here also it might have happened that the
Devil, who gladly takes the form of one beloved, had under that of
Gauffridi made himself lover-general to the nuns. Or rather, as in
those Spanish cloisters named by Llorente, he would have persuaded them
that the priestly office hallowed those to whom the priest made love,
that to sin with him, was only to be sanctified. A notion, indeed, ripe
through France, and even in Paris, where the mistresses of priests were
called the hallowed ones.
 Lestoile, edit. Michaud, p. 561.
Did Gauffridi, thus master of all, keep to Madeline only? Did not
the lover change into the libertine? We know not. The sentence points
to a nun who never showed herself during the trial, but reappeared at
the end, as having given herself up to the Devil and to him.
The Ursuline convent was open to all visitors. The nuns were under
the charge of their Doctrinaries, men of fair character, and jealous
withal. The founder himself was there, indignant, desperate. How woeful
a mishap for the rising order, just as it was thriving amain and
spreading all over France! After all its pretensions to wisdom,
calmness, good sense, thus suddenly to go mad! Romillion would have
hushed up the matter if he could. He caused one of his priests to
exorcise the maidens. But the demons laughed the exorciser to scorn. He
who dwelt in the fair damsel, even the noble demon Beelzebub, Spirit of
Pride, never deigned to unclose his teeth.
Among the possessed was one sister from twenty to twenty-five years
old, who had been specially adopted by Romillion; a girl of good
culture, bred up in controversy; a Protestant by birth, but left an
orphan, to fall into the hands of the Father, a convert like herself
from Protestantism. Her name, Louisa Capeau, sounds plebeian. She
showed herself but too clearly a girl of exceeding wit, and of a raging
passion. Her strength, moreover, was fearful to see. For three months,
in addition to the hellish storm within, she carried on a desperate
struggle, which would have killed the strongest man in a week.
She said she had three devils: Verrine, a good Catholic devil, a
volatile spirit of the air; Leviathan, a wicked devil, an arguer and a
Protestant; lastly, another, acknowledged by her to be the spirit of
uncleanness. One other she forgot to name, the demon of jealousy.
She bore a savage hate to the little fair-faced damsel, the favoured
rival, the proud young woman of rank. This latter, in one of her fits,
had said that she went to the Sabbath, where she was made queen, and
received homage, and gave herself up, but only to the princeWhat
prince? To Louis Gauffridi, prince of magicians.
Pierced by this revelation as by a dagger, Louisa was too wild to
doubt its truth. Mad herself, she believed the mad woman's story in
order to ruin her. Her own devil was backed by all the jealous demons.
The women all exclaimed that Gauffridi was the very king of wizards.
The report spread everywhere, that a great prize had been taken, a
priest-king of magicians, even the prince of universal magic. Such was
the dreadful diadem of steel and flame which these feminine demons
drove into his brow.
Everyone lost his head, even to old Romillion himself. Whether from
hatred of Gauffridi, or fear of the Inquisition, he took the matter out
of the bishop's hands, and brought his two bewitched ones, Louisa and
Madeline, to the Convent of Sainte-Baume, whose prior was the Dominican
Michaëlis, papal inquisitor in the Pope's domain of Avignon, and, as he
himself pretended, over all Provence. The great point was to get them
exorcised. But as the two women were obliged to accuse Gauffridi, the
business ended in making him fall into the hands of the Inquisition.
Michaëlis had to preach on Advent Sunday at Aix, before the
Parliament. He felt how much so striking a drama would exalt him. He
grasped at it with all the eagerness of a barrister in a Criminal
Court, when a very dramatic murder, or a curious case of adultery comes
The right thing in matters of this sort was, to spin out the play
through Advent, Christmas, Lent, and burn no one before the Holy Week,
the vigil, as it were, of the great day of Easter. Michaëlis kept
himself for the last act, entrusting the bulk of the business to a
Flemish Dominican in his service, Doctor Dompt, from Louvain, who had
already exorcised, was well-skilled in fooleries of that nature.
The best thing the Fleming could do, was to do nothing. In Louisa,
he found a terrible helpmate, with thrice as much zeal in her as the
Inquisition itself, unquenchable in her rage, of a burning eloquence,
whimsical, and sometimes very odd, but always raising a shudder; a very
torch of Hell.
The matter was reduced to a public duel between the two devils,
Louisa and Madeline.
Some simple folk who came thither on a pilgrimage to Sainte-Baume, a
worthy goldsmith, for instance, and a draper, both from Troyes, in
Champagne, were charmed to see Louisa's devil deal such cruel blows at
the other demons, and give so sound a thrashing to the magicians. They
wept for joy, and went away thanking God.
It is a terrible sight, however, even in the dull wording of the
Fleming's official statement, to look upon this unequal strife; to
watch the elder woman, the strong and sturdy Provencial, come of a race
hard as the flints of its native Crau, as day after day she stones,
knocks down, and crushes her young and almost childish victim, who,
wasted with love and shame, has already been fearfully punished by her
own distemper, her attacks of epilepsy.
The Fleming's volume, which, with the additions made by Michaëlis,
reaches to four hundred pages in all, is one condensed epitome of the
invectives, threats, and insults spewed forth by this young woman in
five months; interspersed with sermons also, for she used to preach on
every subject, on the sacraments, on the next coming of Antichrist, on
the frailty of women, and so forth. Thence, on the mention of her
devils, she fell into the old rage, and renewed twice a-day, the
execution of the poor little girl; never taking breath, never for one
minute staying the frightful torrent, until at least the other in her
wild distraction, with one foot in hellto use her own wordsshould
have fallen into a convulsive fit, and begun beating the flags with her
knees, her body, her swooning head.
It must be acknowledged that Louisa herself is a trifle mad: no
amount of mere knavishness would have enabled her to maintain so long a
wager. But her jealousy points with frightful clearness to every
opening by which she may prick or rend the sufferer's heart.
Everything gets turned upside down. This Louisa, possessed of the
Devil, takes the sacrament whenever she pleases. She scolds people of
the highest authority. The venerable Catherine of France, the oldest of
the Ursulines, came to see the wonder, asked her questions, and at the
very outset caught her telling a flagrant and stupid falsehood. The
impudent woman got out of the mess by saying in the name of her evil
spirit, The Devil is the Father of Lies.
A sensible Minorite who was present, took up the word and said,
Now, thou liest. Turning to the exorcisers, he added, Cannot ye make
her hold her tongue? Then he quoted to them the story of one Martha, a
sham demoniac of Paris. By way of answer, she was made to take the
communion before him. The Devil communicate, the Devil receive the body
of God! The poor man was bewildered; humbled himself before the
Inquisition. They were too many for him, so he said not another word.
One of Louisa's tricks was to frighten the bystanders, by saying she
could see wizards among them; which made every one tremble for himself.
Triumphant over Sainte-Baume, she hits out even at Marseilles. Her
Flemish exorciser, being reduced to the strange part of secretary and
bosom-counsellor to the Devil, writes, under her dictation, five
letters: first, to the Capuchins of Marseilles, that they may call upon
Gauffridi to recant; second, to the same Capuchins, that they may
arrest Gauffridi, bind him fast with a stole, and keep him prisoner in
a house of her describing; thirdly, several letters to the moderate
party, to Catherine of France, to the Doctrinal Priests, who had
declared against her; and then this lewd, outrageous termagant ends
with insulting her own prioress: When I left, you bade me be humble
and obedient. Now take back your own advice.
Her devil Verrine, spirit of air and wind, whispered to her some
trivial nonsense, words of senseless pride which harmed friends and
foes, and the Inquisition itself. One day she took to laughing at
Michaëlis, who was shivering at Aix, preaching in a desert while all
the world was gone to hear strange things at Sainte-Baume. Michaëlis,
you preach away, indeed, but you get no further forward; while Louisa
has reached, has caught hold of the quintessence of all perfection.
This savage joy was mainly caused by her having quite conquered
Madeline at last. One word had done more for her than a hundred
sermons: Thou shalt be burnt. Thenceforth in her distraction the
young girl said whatever the other pleased, and upheld her statements
in the meanest way. Humbling herself before them all, she besought
forgiveness of her mother, of her superior Romillion, of the
bystanders, of Louisa. According to the latter, the frightened girl
took her aside, and begged her to be merciful, not to chasten her too
The other woman, tender as a rock and merciful as a hidden reef,
felt that Madeline was now hers, to do whatever she might choose. She
caught her, folded her round, and bedazed her out of what little spirit
she had left. It was a second enchantment; but all unlike that by
Gauffridi, a possession by means of terror. The poor downtrodden
wretch, moving under rod and scourge, was pushed onward in a path of
exquisite suffering which led her to accuse and murder the man she
Had Madeline stood out, Gauffridi would have escaped, for every one
was against Louisa. Michaëlis himself at Aix, eclipsed by her as a
preacher, treated by her with so much coolness, would have stopped the
whole business rather than leave the honour of it in her hands.
Marseilles supported Gauffridi, being fearful of seeing the
Inquisition of Avignon pushed into her neighbourhood, and one of her
own children carried off from her threshold. The Bishop and Chapter
were specially eager to defend their priest, maintaining that the whole
affair sprang from nothing but a rivalry between confessors, nothing
but the hatred commonly shown by monks towards secular priests.
The Doctrinaries would have quashed the matter. They were sore
troubled by the noise it made. Some of them in their annoyance were
ready to give up everything and forsake their house.
The ladies were very wroth, especially Madame Libertat, the lady of
the Royalist leader who had given Marseilles up to the King.
The Capuchins whom Louisa had so haughtily commanded to seize on
Gauffridi, were, like all other of the Franciscan orders, enemies of
the Dominicans. They were jealous of the prominence gained for these
latter by their demoniac friend. Their wandering life, moreover, by
throwing them into continual contact with the women, brought them a
good deal of moral business. They had no wish to see too close a
scrutiny made into the lives of clergymen; and so they also took the
side of Gauffridi. Demoniacs were not so scarce, but that one was
easily found and brought forward at the first summons. Her devil,
obedient to the rope-girdle of St. Francis, gainsaid everything said by
the Dominicans' devil: it averredand the words were straightway
written downthat Gauffridi was no magician at all, and could not
therefore be arrested.
They were not prepared for this at Sainte-Baume. Louisa seemed
confounded. She could only manage to say that apparently the Capuchins
had not made their devil swear to tell the truth: a sorry reply, backed
up, however, by the trembling Madeline, who, like a beaten hound that
fears yet another beating, was ready for anything, ready even to bite
and tear. Through her it was that Louisa at such a crisis inflicted an
She herself merely said that the Bishop was offending God unawares.
She clamoured against the wizards of Marseilles without naming any
one. But the cruel, the deadly word was spoken at her command by
Madeline. A woman who had lost her child two years before, was pointed
out by her as having throttled it. Afraid of being tortured, she fled
or hid herself. Her husband, her father, went weeping to Sainte-Baume,
hoping of course to soften the inquisitors. But Madeline durst not
unsay her words; so she renewed the charge.
No one now could feel safe. As soon as the Devil came to be
accounted God's avenger, from the moment that people under his
dictation began writing the names of those who should pass through the
fire, every one had before him, day and night, the hideous nightmare of
To withstand these bold attempts of the Papal Inquisition,
Marseilles ought to have been backed up by the Parliament of Aix.
Unluckily she knew herself to be little liked at Aix. That small
official town of magistrates and nobles was always jealous of the
wealth and splendour of Marseilles, the Queen of the South. On the
other hand, the great opponent of Marseilles, the Papal Inquisitor,
forestalled Gauffridi's appeal to the Parliament by carrying his own
suit thither first. This was a body of utter fanatics, headed by some
heavy nobles, whose wealth had been greatly increased in a former
century by the massacre of the Vaudois. As lay judges, too, they were
charmed to see a Papal Inquisitor set the precedent of acknowledging
that, in a matter touching a priest, in a case of witchcraft, the
Inquisition could not go beyond the preliminary inquiry. It was just as
though the inquisitors had formally laid aside their old pretensions.
The people of Aix, like those of Bordeaux before them, were also bitten
by the flattering thought, that these lay-folk had been set up by the
Church herself as censors and reformers of the priestly morals.
In a business where all would needs be strange and miraculous, not
least among those marvels was it to see so raging a demon grow all at
once so fair-spoken towards the Parliament, so politic and
fine-mannered. Louisa charmed the Royalists by her praises of the late
King. Henry IV.who would have thought it?was canonized by the
Devil. One morning, without any invitation, he broke forth into praises
of that pious and saintly King who had just gone up to heaven.
Such an agreement between two old enemies, the Parliament and the
Inquisition, which latter was thenceforth sure of the secular arm, its
soldiers, and executioner; this and the sending of a commission to
Sainte-Baume to examine the possessed, take down their statements, hear
their charges, and impannel a jury, made up a frightful business
indeed. Louisa openly pointed out the Capuchins, Gauffridi's champions,
and proclaimed their coming punishment temporally in their
bodies, and in their flesh.
The poor Fathers were sorely bruised. Their devil would not whisper
one word. They went to find the Bishop, and told him that indeed they
might not refuse to bring Gauffridi forward at Sainte-Baume, in
obedience to the secular power; but afterwards the Bishop and Chapter
could claim him back, and replace him under the shelter of episcopal
Doubtless they had also reckoned on the agitation that would be
shown by the two young women at the sight of one they loved; on the
extent to which even the terrible Louisa might be shaken by the
reproaches of her own heart.
That heart indeed woke up at the guilty one's approach: for one
moment the furious woman seemed to grow tender. I know nothing more
fiery than her prayer for God to save the man she has driven to death:
Great God, I offer thee all the sacrifices that have been offered
since the world began, that will be offered until it ends. All, all,
for Lewis. I offer thee all the tears of every saint, all the
transports of every angel. All, all, for Lewis. Oh, that there were yet
more souls to reckon up, that so the oblation might be all the greater!
It should be all for Lewis. O God, the Father of Heaven, have pity on
Lewis! O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have pity on Lewis! &c.
Bootless pity! baneful as well as bootless! Her real desire was that
the accused should not harden his heart, should plead guilty. In
that case by our laws he would most assuredly be burnt.
She herself, in short, was worn out, unable to do anything more. The
inquisitor Michaëlis was so humbled by a victory he could not have
gained without her, so wroth with the Flemish exorciser who had become
her obedient follower, and let her see into all the hidden springs of
the tragedy, that he came simply to crush Louisa, and save Madeline by
substituting the one for the other, if he could, in this popular drama.
This move of his implies some skill, and a knowing eye for scenery. The
winter and the Advent season had been wholly taken up with the acting
of that awful sibyl, that raging bacchante. In the milder days of a
Provencial spring, in the season of Lent, he would bring upon the scene
a more moving personage, a demon all womanly, dwelling in a sick child,
in a fair-haired frightened girl. The nobles and the Parliament of
Provence would feel an interest in a little lady who belonged to an
Far from listening to his Flemish agent, Louisa's follower,
Michaëlis shut the door upon him when he sought to enter the select
council of Parliament-men. A Capuchin who also came, on the first words
spoken by Louisa, cried out, Silence, accursed devil!
Meanwhile Gauffridi had arrived at Sainte-Baume, where he cut a
sorry figure. A man of sense, but weak and blameworthy, he foreboded
but too truly how that kind of popular tragedy would end; and in coming
to a strait so dreadful, he saw himself forsaken and betrayed by the
child he loved. He now entirely forsook himself. When he was confronted
with Louisa, she seemed to him like a judge, like one of those cruel
and subtle schoolmen who judged the causes of the Church. To all her
questions concerning doctrine, he only answered yes, assenting
even to points most open to dispute; as, for instance, to the
assumption that the Devil in a court of justice might be believed on
his word and his oath.
This lasted only a week, from the 1st to the 8th January. The clergy
of Marseilles demanded Gauffridi back. His friends, the Capuchins,
declared that they had found no signs of magic in his room. Four canons
of Marseilles came with authority to take him, and carried him away
If Gauffridi had fallen very low, his adversaries had not risen
much. Even the two inquisitors, Michaëlis and the Fleming, were in
shameful variance with each other. The partiality of the former for
Madeline, of the latter for Louisa, went beyond mere words, leading
them into opposite lines of action. That chaos of accusations, sermons,
revelations, which the Devil had dictated by the mouth of Louisa, the
Fleming who wrote it down maintained to be the very word of God, and
expressed his fear that somebody might tamper with the same. He owned
to a great mistrust of his chief, Michaëlis, who, he was sore afraid,
would so amend the papers in behalf of Madeline, as to ensure the ruin
of Louisa. To guard them to the best of his power, he shut himself up
in his room and underwent a regular siege. Michaëlis, with the
Parliament-men on his side, could only get at the manuscript by using
the King's name and breaking the door open.
Louisa, afraid of nothing, sought to array the Pope against the
King. The Fleming carried an appeal to the legate at Avignon, against
his chief, Michaëlis. But the Papal Court had a prudent fear of causing
scandal by letting one inquisitor accuse another. Lacking its support,
the Fleming had no resource but to submit. To keep him quiet Michaëlis
gave him back his papers.
Those of Michaëlis, forming a second report, dull and nowise
comparable with the former, are full of nought but Madeline. They
played music to try and soothe her: care was taken to note down when
she ate, and when she did not eat. Too much time indeed was taken up
about her, often in a way but little edifying. Strange questions are
put to her touching the Magician, and what parts of his body might bear
the mark of the Devil. She herself was examined. This would have to be
done at Aix by surgeons and doctors; but meanwhile, in the height of
his zeal, Michaëlis examined her at Sainte-Baume, and put down the
issue of his researches. No matron was called to see her. The judges,
lay and monkish, agreeing in this one matter, and having no fear of
each other's overlooking, seem to have quietly passed over this
contempt of outward forms.
In Louisa, however, they found a judge. The bold woman branded the
indecency as with hot iron. They who were swallowed up by the Flood
never behaved so ill!... Even of thee, O Sodom, the like was never
She also averred that Madeline was given over to uncleanness. This
was the saddest thing of all. In her blind joy at being alive, at
escaping the flames, or else from some cloudy notion that it was her
turn now to act upon her judges, the poor simpleton would sing and
dance at times with a shameful freedom, in a coarse, indecent way. The
old Doctrinal father, Romillion, blushed for his Ursuline. Shocked to
remark the admiration of the men for her long hair, he said that such a
vanity must be taken from her, be cut away.
In her better moments she was gentle and obedient.
They would have liked to make her a second Louisa; but her devils
were vain and amorous; not, like the other's, eloquent and raging. When
they wanted her to preach, she could only utter sorry things. Michaëlis
was fain to play out the piece by himself. As chief inquisitor, and
bound greatly to outdo his Flemish underling, he avowed that he had
already drawn out of this small body a host of six thousand, six
hundred, and sixty devils: only a hundred still remained. By way of
convincing the public, he made her throw up the charm or spell which by
his account she had swallowed, and he drew it from her mouth in some
slimy matter. Who could hold out any longer? Assurance itself stood
stupefied and convinced.
Madeline was in a fair way to escape: the only hindrance was
herself. Every moment she would be saying something rash, something to
arouse the misgivings of her judges, and urge them beyond all patience.
She declared that everything to her recalled Gauffridi, that everywhere
she saw him present. Nor would she hide from them her dreams of love.
To-night, she said, I was at the Sabbath. To my statue all covered
with gilding the magicians offered their homage. Each of them, in
honour thereof, made oblation of some blood drawn from his hands with a
lancet. He was also there, on his knees, a rope round his neck,
beseeching me to go back and betray him not. I held out. Then said he,
'Is there anyone here who would die for her?' 'I,' said a young man,
and he was sacrificed by the magician.
At another time she saw him, and he asked her only for one of her
fine fair locks. And when I refused, he said, 'Only the half of one
She swore, however, that she never yielded. But one day, the door
happening to be open, behold our convert running off at the top of her
speed to rejoin Gauffridi!
They took her again, at least her body. But her soul? Michaëlis knew
not how to catch that again. Luckily he caught sight of her magic ring,
which was taken off, cut up, destroyed, and thrown into the fire.
Fancying, moreover, that this perverseness on the part of one so gentle
was due to unseen wizards who found their way into her room, he set
there a very substantial man at arms, with a sword to slash about him
everywhere, and cut the invisible imps into pieces.
But the best physic for the conversion of Madeline was the death of
Gauffridi. On the 5th February, the inquisitor went to Aix for his Lent
preachings, saw the judges, and stirred them up. The Parliament,
swiftly yielding to such a pressure, sent off to Marseilles an order to
seize the rash man, who, finding himself so well backed by Bishop,
Chapter, Capuchins, and all the world, had fancied they would never
dare so far.
Madeline from one quarter, Gauffridi from another, arrived at Aix.
She was so disturbed that they were forced to bind her. Her disorder
was frightful, and all were in great perplexity what to do. They
bethought them at least of one bold way of dealing with this sick
child; one of those fearful tricks that throw a woman into fits, and
sometimes kill her outright. A vicar-general of the archbishopric said
that the palace contained a dark narrow charnel-house, such as you may
see in the Escurial, and called in Spain a rotting vat.
There, in olden days, old bones of unknown dead were left to waste
away. Into this tomb-like cave the trembling girl was led. They
exorcised her by putting those chilly bones to her face. She did not
die of fright, but thenceforth gave herself up to their will and
pleasure; and so they got what they wanted, the death of the
conscience, the destruction of all that remained to her of moral
insight and free will.
She became their pliant tool, ready to obey their least desire, to
flatter them, to try and guess beforehand what would give them most
pleasure. Huguenots were brought before her: she called them names.
Confronted with Gauffridi, she told forth by heart her grievances
against him, better than the King's own officers could have done. This
did not prevent her from squalling violently, when she was brought to
the church to excite the people against Gauffridi, by making her devil
blaspheme in the magician's name. Beelzebub speaking through her said,
In the name of Gauffridi I abjure God; and again, at the lifting up
of the Host, Let the blood of the just be upon me, in the name of
An awful fellowship indeed! This twofold devil condemns one out of
the other's mouth; whatever Madeline says, is ascribed to Gauffridi.
And the scared crowd were impatient to behold the burning of the dumb
blasphemer, whose ungodliness so loudly declared itself by the voice of
The exorcisers then put to her this cruel question, to which they
themselves could have given the best answer:Why, Beelzebub, do you
speak so ill of your great friend? Her answer was frightful: If there
be traitors among men, why not among demons also? When I am with
Gauffridi, I am his to do all his will. But when you constrain me, I
betray him and turn him to scorn.
However, she could not keep up this hateful mockery. Though the
demon of fear and fawning seemed to have gotten fast hold of her, there
was room still for despair. She could no longer take the slightest
food; and they who for five months had been killing her with exorcisms
and pretending to relieve her of six or seven thousand devils, were
fain to admit that she longed only to die, and greedily sought after
any means of self-destruction. Courage alone was wanting to her. Once
she pricked herself with a lancet, but lacked the spirit to persevere.
Once she caught up a knife, and when that was taken from her, tried to
strangle herself. She dug needles into her body, and then made one last
foolish effort to drive a long pin through her ear into her head.
What became of Gauffridi? The inquisitor, who dwells so long on the
two women, says almost nothing about him. He walks as it were over the
fire. The little he does say is very strange. He relates that having
bound Gauffridi's eyes, they pricked him with needles all over the
body, to find out the callous places where the Devil had made his mark.
On the removal of the bandage, he learned, to his horror and amazement,
that the needle had thrice been stuck into him without his feeling it;
so he was marked in three places with the sign of Hell. And the
inquisitor added, If we were in Avignon, this man should be burnt
He felt himself a lost man; and defended himself no more. His only
thought now was to see if he could save his life through any of the
Dominicans' foes. He wished, he said, to confess himself to the
Oratorians. But this new order, which might have been called the right
mean of Catholicism, was too cold and wary to take up a matter already
so hopeless and so far advanced.
Thereon he went back again to the Begging Friars, confessing himself
to the Capuchins, and acknowledging all and more than all the truth,
that he might purchase life with dishonour. In Spain he would assuredly
have been enlarged, barring a term of penance in some convent. But our
Parliaments were sterner: they felt bound to prove the greater purity
of the lay jurisdiction. The Capuchins, themselves a little shaky in
the matter of morals, were not the people to draw the lightning down on
their own body. They surrounded Gauffridi, sheltered him, gave him
comfort day and night; but only in order that he might own himself a
magician, and so, because magic formed the main head of his indictment,
the seduction wrought by a confessor to the great discredit of the
clergy might be left entirely in the background.
So his friends the Capuchins, by dint of tender caresses and urgent
counsel, drew from him the fatal confession which, by their showing,
was to save his soul, but which was very certain to hand his body over
to the stake.
The man thus lost and done for, they made an end with the girls whom
it was not their part to burn. A farcical scene took place. In a large
gathering of the clergy and the Parliament, Madeline was made to
appear, and, in words addressed to herself, her devil Beelzebub was
summoned to quit the place or else offer some opposition. Not caring to
do the latter, he went off in disgrace.
Then Louisa, with her demon Verrine, was made to appear. But before
they drove away a spirit so friendly to the Church, the monks regaled
the Parliamentaries, who were new to such things, with the clever
management of this devil, making him perform a curious pantomime. How
do the Seraphim, the Cherubim, the Thrones, behave before God? A hard
matter this: says Louisa, they have no bodies. But on their
repeating the command, she made an effort to obey, imitating the flight
of the one class, the fiery longing of the others; and ending with the
adoration, when she bowed herself before the judges, falling prostrate
with her head downwards. Then was the far-famed Louisa, so proud and so
untamable, seen to abase herself, kissing the pavement, and with
outstretched arms laying all her length thereon.
It was a strange, frivolous, unseemly exhibition, by which she was
made to atone for her terrible success among the people. Once more she
won the assembly by dealing a cruel dagger-stroke at Gauffridi, who
stood there strongly bound. Where, said they, is Beelzebub now, the
devil who went out of Madeline? I see him plainly at Gauffridi's
Have you had shame and horror enough? We should like further to know
what the poor wretch said, when put to the torture. Both the ordinary
and the extraordinary forms were used upon him. His revelations must
undoubtedly have thrown light on the curious history of the nunneries.
Those tales the Parliament stored up with greediness, as weapons that
might prove serviceable to itself; but it retained them under the seal
of the Court.
The inquisitor Michaëlis, who was fiercely assailed in public for an
excess of animosity so closely resembling jealousy, was summoned by his
order to a meeting at Paris, and never saw the execution of Gauffridi,
who was burnt alive four days afterwards, 30th April, 1611, at Aix.
The name of the Dominicans, damaged by this trial, was not much
exalted by another case of possession got up at Beauvais in such
a way as to ensure them all the honours of a war, the account of which
they got printed in Paris. Louisa's devil having been reproached for
not speaking Latin, the new demoniac, Denise Lacaille, mingled a few
words of it in her gibberish. They made a plenty of noise about her,
often displayed her in the midst of a procession, and even carried her
from Beauvais to Our Lady of Liesse. But the matter kept quite cool.
This Picard pilgrimage lacked the horror, the dramatic force of the
affair at Sainte-Baume. This Lacaille, for all her Latin, had neither
the burning eloquence, nor the mettle, nor the fierce rage, that marked
the woman of Provence. The only end of all her proceedings was to amuse
What became of the two rivals, Madeline and Louisa? The former, or
at least her shadow, was kept on Papal ground, for fear of her being
led to speak about so mournful a business. She was never shown in
public, save in the character of a penitent. She was taken out among
the poor women to cut wood, which was afterwards sold for alms; the
parents, whom she had brought to shame, having forsworn and forsaken
Louisa, for her part, had said during the trial: I shall make no
boast about it. The trial over, I shall soon be dead. But this was not
to be. Instead of dying, she went on killing others. The murdering
devil within her waxed stormier than ever. She set about revealing to
the inquisitors the names, both Christian and surnames, of all whom she
fancied to have any dealings with magic; among others a poor girl named
Honoria, blind of both eyes, who was burnt alive.
God grant, says Father Michaëlis, in conclusion, that all this
may redound to His own glory and to that of His Church!
CHAPTER VII. THE DEMONIACS OF
LOUDUNURBAN GRANDIER: 1632-1634.
In the State Memoirs, written by the famous Father Joseph,
and known to us by extracts onlythe work itself having, no doubt,
been wisely suppressed as too instructivethe good Father explained
how, in 1633, he had the luck to discover a heresy, a huge heresy, in
which ever so many confessors and directors were concerned. That
excellent army of Church-constables, those dogs of the Holy Troop, the
Capuchins, had, not only in the wildernesses, but even in the populous
parts of Franceat Chartres, in Picardy, everywheregot scent of some
dreadful game; the Alumbrados namely, or Illuminate, of Spain,
who being sorely persecuted there, had fled for shelter into France,
where, in the world of women, especially among the convents, they
dropped the gentle poison which was afterwards called by the name of
 Molinos, born at Saragossa in 1627, died a prisoner to
the Inquisition in 1696. His followers were called
The wonder was, that the matter had not been sooner known. Having
spread so far, it could not have been wholly hidden. The Capuchins
swore that in Picardy alone, where the girls are weak and
warmer-blooded than in the South, this amorously mystic folly owned
some sixty thousand professors. Did all the clergy share in itall the
confessors and directors? We must remember, that attached to the
official directors were a good many laymen, who glowed with the same
zeal for the souls of women. One of them, who afterwards made some
noise by his talent and boldness, is the author of Spiritual
Delights, Desmarets of Saint Sorlin.
* * * * *
Without remembering the new state of things, we should fail to
understand the all-powerful attitude of the director towards the nuns,
of whom he was now a hundred-fold more the master than he had been in
days of yore.
The reforming movement of the Council of Trent, for the better
enclosing of monasteries, was not much followed up in the reign of
Henry IV., when the nuns received company, gave balls, danced, and so
forth. In the reign, however, of Louis XIII., it began afresh with
greater earnestness. The Cardinal Rochefoucauld, or rather the Jesuits
who drew him on, insisted on a great deal of outward decency. Shall we
say, then, that all entrance into the convents was forbidden? One man
only went in every day, not only into the house, but also, if he chose,
into each of the cells; a fact made evident from several known cases,
especially that of David at Louviers. By this reform, this closing
system, the door was shut upon the world at large, on all inconvenient
rivals, while the director enjoyed the sole command of his nuns, the
special right of private interviews with them.
What would come of this? The speculative might treat it as a
problem; not so practical men or physicians. The physician Wyer tells
some plain stories to show what did come of it from the sixteenth
century onwards. In his Fourth Book he quotes a number of nuns who went
mad for love. And in Book III. he talks of an estimable Spanish priest
who, going by chance into a nunnery, came out mad, declaring that the
brides of Jesus were his also, brides of the priest, who was a vicar of
Jesus. He had masses said in return for the favour which God had
granted him in this speedy marriage with a whole convent.
If this was the result of one passing visit, we may understand the
plight of a director of nuns when he was left alone with them, and
could take advantage of the new restrictions to spend the day among
them, listening hour by hour to the perilous secret of their
languishings and their weaknesses.
In the plight of these girls the mere senses are not all in all.
Allowance must be made for their listlessness of mind; for the absolute
need of some change in their way of life; of some dream or diversion to
relieve their lifelong monotony. Strange things are happening
constantly at this period. Travels, events in the Indies, the discovery
of a world, the invention of printing: what romance there is
everywhere! While all this goes on without, putting men's minds into a
flutter, how, think you, can those within bear up against the
oppressive sameness of monastic lifethe irksomeness of its lengthy
services, seasoned by nothing better than a sermon preached through the
* * * * *
The laity themselves, living amidst so many distractions, desire,
nay insist, that their confessors shall absolve them for their acts of
inconstancy. The priests, on their side, are drawn or forced on, step
by step. There grows up a vast literature, at once various and learned,
of casuistry, of the art of allowing all things; a progressive
literature, in which the indulgence of to-night seems to become the
severity of the morrow.
This casuistry was meant for the world; that mysticism for the
convent. The annihilation of the person and the death of the will form
the great mystic principle. The true moral bearings of that principle
are well shown by Desmarets. The devout, he says, having offered up
and annihilated their own selves, exist no longer but in God.
Thenceforth they can do no wrong. The better part of them is so
divine that it no longer knows what the other is doing.
 An old doctrine which often turns up again in the Middle
Ages. In the seventeenth century it prevails among the
convents of France and Spain. A Norman angel, in the Louviers
business, teaches a nun to despise the body and disregard the
flesh, after the example of Jesus, who bared himself for a
scourging before all the people. He enforces an utter
surrendering of the soul and the will by the example of the
Virgin, who obeyed the angel Gabriel and conceived, without
risk of evil, for impurity could not come of a spirit. At
Louviers, David, an old director of some authority, taught
that sin could be killed by sin, as the better way of
becoming innocent again.
It might have been thought that the zealous Joseph who had raised so
loud a cry of alarm against these corrupt teachers, would have gone yet
further; that a grand searching inquiry would have taken place; that
the countless host whose number, in one province only, were reckoned at
sixty thousand, would be found out and closely examined. But not so:
they disappear, and nothing more is known about them. A few, it is
said, were imprisoned; but trial there was none: only a deep silence.
To all appearance Richelieu cared but little about fathoming the
business. In his tenderness for the Capuchins he was not so blind as to
follow their lead in a matter which would have thrown the supervision
of all confessors into their hands.
As a rule, the monks had a jealous dislike of the secular clergy.
Entire masters of the Spanish women, they were too dirty to be relished
by those of France; who preferred going to their own priests or to some
Jesuit confessor, an amphious creature, half monk, half worldling. If
Richelieu had once let loose the pack of Capuchins, Recollects,
Carmelites, Dominicans, &c., who among the clergy would have been safe?
What director, what priest, however upright, but had used, and used
amiss, the gentle language of the Quietists towards their penitents?
Richelieu took care not to trouble the clergy, while he was already
bringing about the General Assembly from which he was soon to ask a
contribution towards the war. One trial alone was granted the monks,
the trial of a vicar, but a vicar who dealt in magic; a trial wherein
matters were allowed, as in the case of Gauffridi, to get so entangled,
that no confessor, no director, saw his own likeness there, but
everyone in full security could say, This is not I.
* * * * *
Thanks to these strict precautions the Grandier affair is involved
in some obscurity. Its historian, the Capuchin Tranquille, proves
convincingly that Grandier was a wizard, and, still more, a devil; and
on the trial he is called, as Ashtaroth might have been called,
Grandier of the Dominations. On the other hand, Ménage is ready to
rank him with great men accused of magic, with the martyrs of free
 The History of the Loudun Devils, by the Protestant
Aubin, is an earnest, solid book, confirmed by the Reports
of Laubardemont himself. That of the Capuchin Tranquille is a
piece of grotesquerie. The Proceedings are in the Great
Library of Paris. M. Figuier has given a long and excellent
account of the whole affair, in his History of the
In order to see a little more clearly, we must not set Grandier by
himself; we must keep his place in the devilish trilogy of those times,
in which he figured only as a second act; we must explain him by the
first act, already shown to us in the dreadful business of
Sainte-Baume, and the death of Gauffridi; we must explain him by the
third act, by the affair at Louviers, which copied Loudun, as Loudun
had copied Sainte-Baume, and which in its turn owned a Gauffridi and an
The three cases are one and selfsame. In each case there is a
libertine priest, in each a jealous monk, and a frantic nun by whose
mouth the Devil is made to speak; and in all three the priest gets
burnt at last.
And here you may notice one source of light which makes these
matters clearer to our eyes than if we saw them through the miry shades
of a monastery in Spain or Italy. In those lands of Southern laziness,
the nuns were astoundingly passive, enduring the life of the seraglio
and even worse. Our French women, on the contrary, gifted with a
personality at once strong, lively, and hard to please, were equally
dreadful in their jealousy and in their hate; and being devils indeed
without metaphor, were accordingly rash, blusterous, and prompt to
accuse. Their revelations were very plain, so plain indeed at the last,
that everyone felt ashamed; and after thirty years and three special
cases, the whole thing, begun as it was through terror, got fairly
extinguished in its own dulness beneath hisses of general disgust.
 See Del Rio, Llorente Ricci, &c.
It was not in Loudun, amidst crowds of Poitevins, in the presence of
so many scoffing Huguenots, in the very town where they held their
great national synods, that one would have looked for an event so
discreditable to the Catholics. But these latter, living, as it were,
in a conquered country, in the old Protestant towns, with the
greatest freedom, and thinking, not without cause, of the people they
had often massacred and but lately overcome, were not the persons to
say a word about it. Catholic Loudun, composed of magistrates, priests,
monks, a few nobles, and some workmen, dwelled aloof from the rest,
like a true conquering settlement. This settlement, as one might easily
guess, was rent in twain by the rivalry of the priests and the monks.
 The capture of Rochelle, the last of the Huguenot
strongholds took place in 1628.TRANS.
* * * * *
The monks, being numerous and proud, as men specially sent forth to
make converts, kept the pick of the pavement against the Protestants,
and were confessing the Catholic ladies, when there arrived from
Bordeaux a young vicar, brought up by the Jesuits, a man of letters, of
pleasing manners, who wrote well and spoke better. He made a noise in
the pulpit, and ere long in the world. By birth a townsman of Mantes,
of a wrangling turn, he was Southern by education, with all the
readiness of a Bordelais, boastful and frivolous as a Gascon. He soon
managed to set the whole town by the ears, drawing the women to his
side, while the men were mostly against him. He became lofty, insolent,
unbearable, devoid of respect for everything. The Carmelites he
overwhelmed with jibes; he would rail away from his pulpit against
monks in general. They choked with rage at his sermons. Proud and
stately, he went along the streets of Loudun like a Father of the
Church; but by night he would steal, with less of bluster, down the
byeways and through back-doors.
They all surrendered themselves to his pleasure. The wife of the
Crown Counsel was aware of his charms; still more so the daughter of
the Public Prosecutor, who had a child by him. This did not satisfy
him. Master of the ladies, this conqueror pushed his advantage until he
had gained the nuns.
By that time the Ursulines abounded everywhere, sisters devoted to
education, feminine missionaries in a Protestant land, who courted and
pleased the mothers, while they won over the little girls. The nuns of
Loudun formed a small convent of young ladies, poor and well-born. The
convent in itself was poor, the nuns for whom it was founded, having
been granted nothing but their house, an old Huguenot college. The
prioress, a lady of good birth and high connections, burned to exalt
her nunnery, to enlarge it, make it wealthier and wider known. Perhaps
she would have chosen Grandier, as being then the fashion, had she not
already gotten for her director a priest with very different rootage in
the country, a near kinsman of the two chief magistrates. The Canon
Mignon, as he was called, held the prioress fast. These two were
enraged at learning through the confessionalthe Ladies Superior
might confess their nunsthat the young nuns dreamed of nothing but
this Grandier, of whom there was so much talk.
Thereupon three parties, the threatened director, the cheated
husband, the outraged father, joined together by a common jealousy,
swore together the destruction of Grandier. To ensure success, they
only needed to let him go on. He was ruining himself quite fast enough.
An incident that came to light made noise enough almost to bring down
* * * * *
The nuns placed in that old Huguenot mansion, were far from easy in
their minds. Their boarders, children of the town, and perhaps also
some of the younger nuns, had amused themselves with frightening the
rest by playing at ghosts and apparitions. Little enough of order was
there among this throng of rich spoilt girls. They would run about the
passages at night, until they frightened themselves. Some of them were
sick, or else sick at heart. But these fears and fancies mingled with
the gossip of the town, of which they heard but too much during the
day, until the ghost by night took the form of Grandier himself.
Several said they saw him, felt him near them in the night, and yielded
unawares to his bold advances. Was all this fancy, or the fun of
novices? Had Grandier bribed the porteress or ventured to climb the
walls? This part of the business was never cleared up.
From that time the three felt sure of catching him. And first, among
the small folk under their protection, they stirred up two good souls
to declare that they could no longer keep as vicar a profligate, a
wizard, a devil, a freethinker, who bent one knee in church instead of
two, who scoffed at rules and granted dispensations contrary to the
rights of the Bishop. A shrewd accusation, which turned against him his
natural defender, the Bishop of Poitiers, and delivered him over to the
fury of the monks.
To say truth, all this was planned with much skill. Besides raising
up two poor people as accusers, they thought it advisable to have him
cudgelled by a noble. In those days of duelling a man who let himself
be cudgelled with impunity lost ground with the public, and sank in the
esteem of the women. Grandier deeply felt the blow. Fond of making a
noise in all cases, he went to the King, threw himself on his knees,
and besought vengeance for the insult to his gown. From so devout a
king he might have gained it; but here there chanced to be some persons
who told the King that it was all an affair of love, the fury of a
betrayed husband wreaking itself on his foe.
At the spiritual court of Poitiers, Grandier was condemned to do
penance, to be banished from Loudun, and disgraced as a priest. But the
civil court took up the matter and found him innocent. He had still to
await the orders of him by whom Poitiers was spiritually overruled,
Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux. That warlike prelate, an admiral and
brave sailor more than a priest, shrugged his shoulders on hearing of
such peccadilloes. He acquitted the vicar, but at the same time wisely
recommended him to go and live anywhere out of Loudun.
This the proud man did not care to do. He wanted to enjoy his
triumph on the very field of battle, to show off before the ladies. He
came back to Loudun in broad day, with mighty noise; the women all
looking out of window, as he went by with a laurel-branch in his hand.
* * * * *
Not satisfied with that piece of folly, he began to threaten, to
demand reparation. Thus pushed and imperilled in their turn, his
enemies called to remembrance the affair of Gauffridi, where the Devil,
the Father of Lies, was restored to his honours and accepted in a court
of justice as a right truthful witness, worthy of belief on the side of
the Church, worthy of belief on the side of His Majesty's servants. In
despair they invoked a devil and found one at their command. He showed
himself among the Ursulines.
A dangerous thing; but then, how many were nearly concerned in its
success! The prioress saw her poor humble convent suddenly attracting
the gaze of the Court, of the provinces, of all the world. The monks
saw themselves victorious over their rivals the priests. They pictured
anew those popular battles waged with the Devil in a former century,
and often, as at Soissons, before the church doors; the terror of the
people, and their joy at the triumph of the Good Spirit; the confession
drawn from the Devil touching God's presence in the Sacrament; and the
humiliation of the Huguenots at being refuted by the Demon himself.
In these tragi-comedies the exorciser represented God, or at any
rate the Archangel, overthrowing the dragon. He came down from the
platform in utter exhaustion, streaming with sweat, but victorious, to
be borne away in the arms of the crowd, amidst the blessings of good
women who shed tears of joy the while.
Therefore it was that in these trials a dash of witchcraft was
always needful. The Devil alone roused the interest of the vulgar. They
could not always see him coming out of a body in the shape of a black
toad, as at Bordeaux in 1610. But it was easy to make it up to them by
a grand display of splendid stage scenery. The affair of Provence owed
much of its success to Madeline's desolate wildness and the terror of
Sainte-Baume. Loudun was regaled with the uproar and the bacchanal
frenzy of a host of exorcisers distributed among several churches.
Lastly, Louviers, as we shall presently see, put a little new life into
this fading fashion by inventing midnight scenes, in which the demons
who possessed the nuns began digging by the glimmer of torches, until
they drew forth certain charms from the holes wherein they had been
* * * * *
The Loudun business began with the prioress and a lay sister of
hers. They had convulsive fits, and talked infernal gibberish. Other of
the nuns began copying them, one bold girl especially taking up
Louisa's part at Marseilles, with the same devil Leviathan, the leading
demon of trickery and evil speaking.
The little town was all in a tremble. Monks of every hue provided
themselves with nuns, shared them all round, and exorcised them by
threes and fours. The churches were parcelled out among them; the
Capuchins alone taking two for themselves. The crowd go after them,
swollen by all the women in the place, and in this frightened audience,
throbbing with anxiety, more than one cries out that she, too, is
feeling the devils. Six girls of the town are possessed. And the
bare recital of these alarming events begets two new cases of
possession at Chinon.
 The same hysteric contagion marks the Revivals of a
later period, down to the last mad outbreak in Ireland. The
translator hopes some day to work out the physical question
Everywhere the thing was talked of, at Paris, at the Court. Our
Spanish queen, who is imaginative and devout, sends off her
almoner; nay more, sends her faithful follower, the old papist, Lord
Montague, who sees, who believes everything, and reports it all to the
Pope. It is a miracle proven. He had seen the wounds on a certain nun,
and the marks made by the Devil on the Lady Superior's hands.
 Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII.TRANS.
What said the King of France to this? All his devotion was turned on
the Devil, on hell, on thoughts of fear. It is said that Richelieu was
glad to keep him thus. I doubt it; the demons were essentially Spanish,
taking the Spanish side: if ever they talked politics, they must have
spoken against Richelieu. Perhaps he was afraid of them. At any rate,
he did them homage, and sent his niece to prove the interest he took in
* * * * *
The Court believed, but Loudun itself did not. Its devils, but sorry
imitators of the Marseilles demons, rehearsed in the morning what they
had learnt the night before from the well-known handbook of Father
Michaëlis. They would never have known what to say but for the secret
exorcisms, the careful rehearsal of the day's farce, by which night
after night they were trained to figure before the people.
One sturdy magistrate, bailiff of the town, made a stir: going
himself to detect the knaves, he threatened and denounced them. Such,
too, was the tacit opinion of the Archbishop of Bordeaux, to whom
Grandier appealed. He despatched a set of rules for the guidance at
least of the exorcisers, for putting a stop to their arbitrary doings;
and, better still, he sent his surgeon, who examined the girls, and
found them to be neither bewitched, nor mad, nor even sick. What were
they then? Knaves, to be sure.
 Not of necessity knaves, Mr. Michelet; at least not
wilfully so; but silly hysteric patients, of the
spirit-rapping, revivalist order, victims of nervous
derangement, or undue nervous sensibility.TRANS.
So through the century keeps on this noble duel between the
Physician and the Devil, this battle of light and knowledge with the
dark shades of falsehood. We saw its beginning in Agrippa and Wyer.
Doctor Duncan carried it bravely on at Loudun, and fearlessly impressed
on others the belief that this affair was nothing but a farce.
For all his alleged resistance, the Demon was frightened, held his
tongue, quite lost his voice. But people's passions had been too
fiercely roused for the matter to end there. The tide flowed again so
strongly in favour of Grandier, that the assailed became in their turn
assailants. An apothecary of kin to the accusers was sued by a rich
young lady of the town for speaking of her as the vicar's mistress. He
was condemned to apologise for his slander.
The prioress was a lost woman. It would have been easy to prove,
what one witness afterwards saw, that the marks upon her were made with
paint renewed daily. But she was kinswoman to one of the King's judges,
Laubardemont, and he saved her. He was simply charged to overthrow the
strong places of Loudun. He got himself commissioned to try Grandier.
The Cardinal was given to understand that the accused was vicar and
friend of the Loudun shoemaker, was one of the numerous
agents of Mary of Medici, had made himself his parishioner's secretary,
and written a disgraceful pamphlet in her name.
 A woman named Hammon, of low birth, who entered the
service, and rose high in the good graces of Mary of Medici.
See Dumas' Celebrated Crimes.TRANS.
Richelieu, for his part, would have liked to show a high-minded
scorn of the whole business, if he could have done so with safety to
himself. The Capuchins and Father Joseph had an eye to that also.
Richelieu would have given them a fine handle against him with the
King, had he displayed a want of zeal. One Quillet, after much grave
reflection, went to see the Minister and give him warning. But the
other, afraid to listen, regarded him with so stern a gaze that the
giver of advice deemed it prudent to seek shelter in Italy.
* * * * *
Laubardemont arrived at Loudun on the 6th December, 1633, bringing
along with him great fear, and unbounded powers; even those of the King
himself. The whole strength of the kingdom became, as it were, a
dreadful bludgeon to crush one little fly.
The magistrates were wroth; the civic lieutenant warned Grandier
that he would have to arrest him on the morrow. The latter paid no heed
to him, and was arrested accordingly. In a moment he was carried off,
without form of trial, to the dungeons of Angers. Presently he was
taken back and thrown, where think you? Into the house, the room of one
of his enemies, who had the windows walled up so as well-nigh to choke
him. The loathsome scrutiny of the wizard's body, in order to find out
the Devil's marks by sticking needles all over it, was carried on by
the hands of the accusers themselves, who took their revenge upon him
beforehand in the foretaste thus given him of his future punishment.
They led him to the churches, confronted him with the girls, who had
got their cue from Laubardemont. These Bacchanals, for such they became
under the fuddling effect of some drugs administered by the condemned
apothecary above-named, flung out in such frantic rages, that Grandier
was nearly perishing one day beneath their nails.
Unable to imitate the eloquence of the Marseilles demoniac, they
tried obscenity in its stead. It was a hideous thing to see these girls
give full vent in public to their sensual fury, on the plea of scolding
their pretended devils. Thus indeed it was that they managed to swell
their audiences. People flocked to hear from the lips of these women
what no woman would else have dared to utter.
As the matter grew more hateful, so it also grew more laughable.
They were sure to repeat all awry what little Latin was ever whispered
to them. The public found that the devils had never gone through
their lower classes. The Capuchins, however, coolly said that if
these demons were weak in Latin, they were marvellous speakers of
Iroquois and Tupinambi.
 Indians of the coast of Brazil.TRANS.
* * * * *
A farce so shameful, seen from a distance of sixty leagues, from St.
Germain or the Louvre, appeared miraculous, awful, terrifying. The
Court admired and trembled. Richelieu to please them did a cowardly
thing. He ordered money to be paid to the exorcisers, to the nuns.
The height of favour to which they had risen, drove the plotters
altogether mad. Senseless words were followed by shameful deeds.
Pleading that the nuns were tired, the exorcisers got them outside the
town, took them about by themselves. One of them, at least to all
appearance, returned pregnant. In the fifth or sixth month all outward
trace of it disappeared, and the devil within her acknowledged how
wickedly he had slandered the poor nun by making her look so large.
This tale concerning Loudun we learn from the historian of
 Esprit de Bosroger, p. 135.
It is stated that Father Joseph, after a secret journey to the spot,
saw to what end the matter was coming, and noiselessly backed out of
it. The Jesuits also went, tried their exorcisms, did next to nothing,
got scent of the general feeling, and stole off in like manner.
But the monks, the Capuchins, were gone so far, that they could only
save themselves by frightening others. They laid some treacherous
snares for the daring bailiff and his wife, seeking to destroy them,
and thereby quench the coming reaction of justice. Lastly, they urged
on the commissioners to despatch Grandier. Things could be carried no
further: the nuns themselves were slipping out of their hands. After
that dreadful orgie of sensual rage and immodest shouting in order to
obtain the shedding of human blood, two or three of them swooned away,
were seized with disgust and horror; vomited up their very selves.
Despite the hideous doom that awaited them if they spoke the truth,
despite the certainty of ending their days in a dungeon, they owned in
church that they were damned, that they had been playing with the
Devil, and Grandier was innocent.
* * * * *
They ruined themselves, but could not stay the issue. A general
protest by the town to the King failed to stay it also. On the 18th
August, 1634, Grandier was condemned to the stake. So violent were his
enemies that, for the second time before burning him, they insisted on
having him stuck with needles in order to find out the Devil's marks.
One of his judges would have had even his nails torn out of him, had
not the surgeon withheld his leave.
They were afraid of the last words their victim might say on the
scaffold. Among his papers there had been found a manuscript condemning
the celibacy of priests, and those who called him a wizard themselves
believed him to be a freethinker. They remembered the brave words which
the martyrs of free thought had thrown out against their judges; they
called to mind the last speech of Giordano Bruno, the bold defiance of
Vanini. So they agreed with Grandier, that if he were prudent, he
should be saved from burning, perhaps be strangled. The weak priest,
being a man of flesh, yielded to this demand of the flesh, and promised
to say nothing. He spoke not a word on the road, nor yet upon the
scaffold. When he was fairly fastened to the post, with everything
ready, and the fire so arranged as to enfold him swiftly in smoke and
flames, his own confessor, a monk, set the faggots ablaze without
waiting for the executioner. The victim, pledged to silence, had only
time to say, So, you have deceived me! when the flames whirled
fiercely upwards, and the furnace of pain began, and nothing was
audible save the wretch's screams.
 Both Neapolitans, burnt alive, the former at Venice in
1600, the latter at Toulouse in 1619.TRANS.
Richelieu in his Memoirs says little, and that with evident shame,
concerning this affair. He gives one to believe that he only followed
the reports that reached him, the voice of general opinion.
Nevertheless, by rewarding the exorcisers, by throwing the reins to the
Capuchins, and letting them triumph over France, he gave no slight
encouragement to that piece of knavery. Gauffridi, thus renewed in
Grandier, is about to reappear in yet fouler plight in the Louviers
In this very year, 1634, the demons hunted from Poitou pass over
into Normandy, copying again and again the fooleries of Sainte-Baume,
without any trace of invention, of talent, or of imagination. The
frantic Leviathan of Provence, when counterfeited at Loudun, loses his
Southern sting, and only gets out of a scrape by talking fluently to
virgins in the language of Sodom. Presently, alas! at Louviers he loses
even his old daring, imbibes the sluggish temper of the North, and
sinks into a sorry sprite.
 Wright and Dumas both differ from M. Michelet in their
view of Urban Grandier's character. The latter especially,
regards him as an innocent victim to his own fearlessness and
the hate of his foes, among whom not the least deadly was
Richelieu himself, who bore him a deep personal
CHAPTER VIII. THE DEMONIACS OF
LOUVIERSMADELINE BAVENT: 1633-1647.
Had Richelieu allowed the inquiry demanded by Father Joseph into the
doings of the Illuminate Confessors, some strange light would have been
thrown into the depth of the cloisters, on the daily life of the nuns.
Failing that, we may still learn from the Louviers story, which is far
more instructive than those of Aix and Loudun, that, notwithstanding
the new means of corruption furnished by Illuminism, the director still
resorted to the old trickeries of witchcraft, of apparitions, heavenly
or infernal, and so forth.
 It was very easy to cheat those who wished to be
cheated. By this time celibacy was harder to practise than in
the Middle Ages, the number of fasts and bloodlettings being
greatly reduced. Many died from the nervous plethora of a
life so cruelly sluggish. They made no secret of their
torments, owning them to their sisters, to their confessor,
to the Virgin herself. A pitiful thing, a thing to sorrow
for, not to ridicule. In Italy, a nun besought the Virgin for
pity's sake to grant her a lover.
Of the three directors successively appointed to the Convent of
Louviers in the space of thirty years, David, the first, was an
Illuminate, who forestalled Molinos; the second, Picart, was a wizard
dealing with the Devil; and Boullé, the third, was a wizard working in
the guise of an angel.
There is an excellent book about this business; it is called The
History of Magdalen Bavent, a nun of Louviers; with her
Examination, &c., 1652: Rouen. The date of this book accounts for
the thorough freedom with which it was written. During the wars of the
Fronde, a bold Oratorian priest, who discovered the nun in one of the
Rouen prisons, took courage from her dictation to write down the story
of her life.
 I know of no book more important, more dreadful, or
worthier of being reprinted. It is the most powerful
narrative of its class. Piety Afflicted, by the Capuchin
Esprit de Bosroger, is a work immortal in the annals of
tomfoolery. The two excellent pamphlets by the doughty
surgeon, Yvelin, the Inquiry and the Apology, are
Library of Ste. Genevieve.
Born at Rouen in 1607, Madeline was left an orphan at nine years
old. At twelve she was apprenticed to a milliner. The confessor, a
Franciscan, held absolute sway in the house of this milliner, who as
maker of clothes for the nuns, was dependent on the Church. The monk
caused the apprentices, whom he doubtless made drunk with belladonna
and other magical drinks, to believe that they had been taken to the
Sabbath and there married to the devil Dagon. Three were already
possessed by him, and Madeline at fourteen became the fourth.
She was a devout worshipper, especially of St. Francis. A Franciscan
monastery had just been founded at Louviers, by a lady of Rouen, widow
of lawyer Hennequin, who was hanged for cheating. She hoped by this
good deed of hers to help in saving her husband's soul. To that end she
sought counsel of a holy man, the old priest David, who became director
to the new foundation. Standing at the entrance of the town, with a
wood surrounding it, this convent, born of so tragical a source, seemed
quite gloomy and poor enough for a place of stern devotion. David was
known as author of a Scourge for Rakes, an odd and violent book
against the abuses that defiled the Cloister. All of a sudden this
austere person took up some very strange ideas concerning purity. He
became an Adamite, preached up the nakedness of Adam in his days of
innocence. The docile nuns of Louviers sought to subdue and abase the
novices, to break them into obedience, by insistingof course in
summer-timethat these young Eves should return to the plight of their
common mother. In this state they were sent out for exercise in some
secluded gardens, and were taken into the chapel itself. Madeline, who
at sixteen had come to be received as a novice, was too proud, perhaps
in those days too pure also, to submit to so strange a way of life. She
got an angry scolding for having tried at communion to hide her bosom
with the altar-cloth.
 See Floquet; Parliament of Normandy, vol. v. p.
Not less unwilling was she to uncover her soul, to confess to the
Lady Superior, after the usual monastic custom of which the abbesses
were particularly fond. She would rather trust herself with old David,
who kept her apart from the rest. He himself confided his own ailments
into her ear. Nor did he hide from her his inner teaching, the
Illuminism, which governed the convent: You must kill sin by being
made humble and lost to all sense of pride through sin. Madeline was
frightened at the depths of depravity reached by the nuns, who quietly
carried out the teaching with which they had been imbued. She avoided
their company, kept to herself, and succeeded in getting made one of
* * * * *
David died when she was eighteen. Old age prevented his going far
with the girl. But the vicar Picart, who succeeded him, was furious in
his pursuit of her; at the confessional spoke to her only of his love.
He made her his sextoness, that he might meet her alone in chapel. She
liked him not; but the nuns forbade her to have another confessor, lest
she might divulge their little secrets. And thus she was given over to
Picart. He beset her when she was sick almost to death; seeking to
frighten her by insisting that from David he had received some infernal
prescriptions. He sought to win her compassion by feigning illness and
begging her to come and see him. Thenceforth he became her master,
upset her mind with magic potions, and worked her into believing that
she had gone with him to the Sabbath, there to officiate as altar and
victim. At length, exceeding even the Sabbath usages and daring the
scandal that would follow, he made her to be with child.
The nuns were afraid of one who knew the state of their morals; and
their interest also bound them to him. The convent was enriched by his
energy, his good repute, the alms and gifts he attracted towards it
from every quarter. He was building them a large church. We saw in the
Loudun business by what rivalries and ambitions these houses were led
away, how jealously they strove each to outdo the others. Through the
trust reposed in him by the wealthy, Picart saw himself raised into the
lofty part of benefactor and second founder of the convent.
Sweetheart, he said to Madeline, that noble church is all my
building! After my death you will see wonders wrought there. Do you not
agree to that?
This fine gentleman did not put himself out at all regarding
Madeline. He paid a dowry for her, and made a nun of her who was
already a lay-sister. Thus, being no longer a doorkeeper, she could
live in one of the inner rooms, and there be brought to bed at her
convenience. By means of certain drugs, and practices of their own, the
convents could do without the help of doctors. Madeline said that she
was delivered several times. She never said what became of the
Picart being now an old man, feared lest Madeline might in her
fickleness fly off some day, and utter words of remorse to another
confessor. So he took a detestable way of binding her to himself beyond
recall, by forcing her to make a will in which she promised to die
when he died, and to be wherever he was. This was a dreadful thought
for the poor soul. Must she be drawn along with him into the bottomless
pit? Must she go down with him, even into hell? She deemed herself for
ever lost. Become his property, his mere tool, she was used and misused
by him for all kinds of purposes. He made her do the most shameful
things. He employed her as a magical charm to gain over the rest of the
nuns. A holy wafer steeped in Madeline's blood, and buried in the
garden, would be sure to disturb their senses and their minds.
This was the very year in which Urban Grandier was burnt. Throughout
France, men spoke of nothing but the devils of Loudun. The Penitentiary
of Evreux, who had been one of the actors on that stage, carried the
dreadful tale back with him to Normandy. Madeline fancied herself
bewitched and knocked about by devils; followed about by a lewd cat
with eyes of fire. By degrees, other nuns caught the disorder, which
showed itself in odd supernatural jerks and writhings. Madeline had
besought aid of a Capuchin, afterwards of the Bishop of Evreux. The
prioress was not sorry for a step of which she must have been aware,
for she saw what wealth and fame a like business had brought to the
Convent of Loudun. But for six years the bishop turned a deaf ear to
the prayer, doubtless through fear of Richelieu, who was then at work
on a reform of the cloisters.
Richelieu wanted to bring these scandals to an end. It was not till
his own death, and that of Louis XIII., during the break-up which
followed on the rule of the Queen and Mazarin, that the priests again
betook themselves to working wonders, and waging war with the Devil.
Picart being dead, they were less shy of a matter in which so dangerous
a man might have accused others in his turn. They met the visions of
Madeline, by looking out a visionary for themselves. They got admission
into the convent for a certain Sister Anne of the Nativity, a girl of
sanguine, hysteric temperament, frantic at need and half-mad, so far at
least as to believe in her own lies. A kind of dogfight was got up
between the two. They besmeared each other with false charges. Anne saw
the Devil quite naked, by Madeline's side. Madeline swore to seeing
Anne at the Sabbath, along with the Lady Superior, the
Mother-Assistant, and the Mother of the Novices. Besides this, there
was nothing new; merely a hashing up of the two great trials at Aix and
Loudun. They read and followed the printed narratives only. No wit, no
invention, was shown by either.
Anne, the accuser, and her devil Leviathan, were backed by the
Penitentiary of Evreux, one of the chief actors in the Loudun affair.
By his advice, the Bishop of Evreux gave orders to disinter the body of
Picart, so that the devils might leave the convent when Picart himself
was taken away from the neighbourhood. Madeline was condemned, without
a hearing, to be disgraced, to have her body examined for the marks of
the Devil. They tore off her veil and gown, and made her the wretched
sport of a vile curiosity, that would have pierced her till she bled
again, in order to win the right of sending her to the stake. Leaving
to no one else the care of a scrutiny which was in itself a torture,
these virgins acting as matrons, ascertained if she was with child or
no, shaved all her body, and dug their needles into her quivering
flesh, to find out the insensible spots that betrayed the mark of the
Devil. At every dig they discovered signs of pain: if they had not the
luck to prove her a Witch, at any rate, they could revel in her tears
* * * * *
But Sister Anne was not satisfied, until, on the mere word of her
own devil, Madeline, though acquitted by the results of this
examination, was condemned for the rest of her life to an In pace. It was said that the convent would be quieted by her departure; but
such was not the case. The Devil was more violent than ever; some
twenty nuns began to cry out, to prophesy, to beat themselves.
Such a sight drew thither a curious crowd from Rouen, and even from
Paris. Yvelin, a young Parisian surgeon, who had already seen the farce
at Loudun, came to see that of Louviers. He brought with him a very
clear-headed magistrate, the Commissioner of Taxes at Rouen. They
devoted unwearying attention to the matter, settled themselves at
Louviers, and carried on their researches for seventeen days.
From the first day they saw into the plot. A conversation they had
had with the Penitentiary of Evreux on their entrance into the town,
was repeated back to them by Sister Anne's demon, as if it had been a
revelation. The scenic arrangements were very bewitching. The shades of
night, the torches, the flickering and smoking lights, produced effects
which had not been seen at Loudun. The rest of the process was simple
enough. One of the bewitched said that in a certain part of the garden
they would find a charm. They dug for it, and it was found. Unluckily,
Yvelin's friend, the sceptical magistrate, never budged from the side
of the leading actress, Sister Anne. At the very edge of a hole they
had just opened he grasped her hand, and on opening it, found the
charm, a bit of black thread, which she was about to throw into the
The exorcisers, the penitentiary, priests, and Capuchins, about the
spot, were overwhelmed with confusion. The dauntless Yvelin, on his own
authority, began a scrutiny, and saw to the uttermost depth of the
Among the fifty-two nuns, said he, there were six possessed,
but deserving of chastisement. Seventeen more were victims under a
spell, a pack of girls upset by the disease of the cloisters. He
describes it with great precision: the girls are regular but
hysterical, blown out with certain inward storms, lunatics mainly, and
disordered in mind. A nervous contagion has ruined them; and the first
thing to do is to keep them apart.
He then, with the liveliness of Voltaire, examines the tokens by
which the priests were wont to recognize the supernatural character of
the bewitched. They foretel, he allows, but only what never happens.
They translate, indeed, but without understanding; as when, for
instance, they render ex parte virginis, by the departure of
the Virgin. They know Greek before the people of Louviers, but cannot
speak it before the doctors of Paris. They cut capers, take leaps of
the easiest kind, climb up the trunk of a tree which a child three
years old might climb. In short, the only thing they do that is really
dreadful and unnatural, is to use dirtier language than men would ever
* * * * *
In tearing off the mask from these people, the surgeon rendered a
great service to humanity. For the matter was being pushed further;
other victims were about to be made. Besides the charms were found some
papers, ascribed to David or Picart, in which this and that person were
called witches, and marked out for death. Each one shuddered lest his
name should be found there. Little by little the fear of the priesthood
made its way among the people.
The rotten age of Mazarin, the first days of the weak Anne of
Austria, were already come. Order and government were no more. But one
phrase was left in the language: The Queen is so good. Her
goodness gave the clergy a chance of getting the upper hand. The power
of the laity entombed with Richelieu, bishops, priests, and monks, were
about to reign. The bold impiety of the magistrate and his friend
Yvelin imperilled so sweet a hope. Groans and wailings went forth to
the Good Queen, not from the victims, but from the knaves thus caught
in the midst of their offences. Up to the Court they went, weeping for
the outrage to their religion.
Yvelin was not prepared for this stroke: he deemed himself firm at
Court, having for ten years borne the title of Surgeon to the Queen.
Before he returned from Louviers to Paris, the weakness of Anne of
Austria had been tempted into granting another commission named by his
opponents, consisting of an old fool in his dotage, one Diafoirus of
Rouen, and his nephew, both attached to the priesthood. These did not
fail to discover that the Louviers affair was supernatural,
transcending all art of man.
Any other than Yvelin would have been discouraged. The Rouen
physicians treated with utter scorn this surgeon, this barber fellow,
this mere sawbones. The Court gave him no encouragement. Still, he held
on his way in a treatise which will live yet. He accepts this battle of
science against priestcraft, declaring, as Wyer did in the sixteenth
century, that in all such matters the right judge is not the priest
but the man of science. With great difficulty he found some one bold
enough to print, but no one willing to sell his little work. So in
broad daylight the heroic young man set about distributing it with his
own hands. Placing himself on the Pont Neuf, the most frequented spot
in Paris, at the foot of Henry the Fourth's statue, he gave out copies
of his memoir to the passers by. At the end of it they found a formal
statement of the shameful fraud, how in the hand of the female demons
the magistrate had caught the unanswerable evidence of their dishonour.
* * * * *
Return we to the wretched Madeline. Her enemy, the Penitentiary of
Evreux, by whose influence she had been searched with needles, carried
her off as his prey to the heart of the episcopal dungeons in that
town. Below an underground passage dipped a cave, below the cave a
cell, where the poor human creature lay buried in damps and darkness.
Reckoning upon her speedy death, her dread companions had not even the
kindness to give her a piece of linen for the dressing of her ulcer.
There, as she lay in her own filth, she suffered alike from pain and
want of cleanliness. The whole night long she was disturbed by the
running to and fro of ravenous rats, those terrors of every prison, who
were wont to nibble men's ears and noses.
But all these horrors fell short of those which her tyrant, the
Penitentiary, dealt out to her himself. Day after day he would come
into the upper vault and speak to her through the mouth of her pit,
threatening her, commanding her, and making her, whether she would or
no, confess to this or that crime as having been wrought by others. At
length she ceased to eat. Fearing that she might die at once, he drew
her for a while out of her In Pace, and laid her in the upper
vault. Then, in his rage against Yvelin's memoir, he cast her back into
her sewer below.
That glimpse of light, that short renewal and sudden death of hope,
gave the crowning impulse to her despair. Her wound was closing, so
that her strength was greater. She was seized with a deep and violent
thirst for death. She swallowed spiders, but instead of dying, only
brought them up again. Pounded glass she swallowed, but in vain.
Finding an old bit of sharp iron, she tried to cut her throat, but
could not. Then, as an easier way, she dug the iron into her belly. For
four hours she worked and bled, but without success. Even this wound
shortly began to close. To crown all, the life she hated so returned to
her stronger than before. Her heart's death was of no avail.
She became once more a woman; still, alas! an object of desire, of
temptation for her jailers, those brutish varlets of the bishopric,
who, notwithstanding the horror of the place, and the unhappy
creature's own sad and filthy plight, would come to make sport of her,
believing that they might do all their pleasure against a Witch. But an
angel succoured her, so she said. From men and rats alike she defended
herself. But against herself, herself she could not protect. Her prison
corrupted her mind. She dreamed of the Devil, besought him to come and
see her, to restore to her the shameful pleasures in which she had
wallowed at Louviers. He never deigned to come back. Once more amidst
this corruption of her senses, she fell back on her old desire for
death. One of the jailers had given her a drug to kill the rats. She
was just going to swallow it herself, when an angelan angel, was it,
or a devil?stayed her hand, reserving her for other crimes.
Thenceforwardsunk into the lowest depths of vileness, become an
unspeakable cipher of cowardice and servilityshe signed endless lists
of crimes which she had never committed. Was she worth the trouble of
burning? Many had given up that idea, but the ruthless Penitentiary
clung to it still. He offered money to a Wizard of Evreux, then in
prison, if he would bear such witness as might bring about the death of
For the future, however, they could use her for other purposesto
bear false witness, to become a tool for any slander. Whenever they
sought the ruin of any man, they had only to drag down to Louviers or
to Evreux this accursed ghost of a dead woman, living only to make
others die. In this way she was brought out to kill with her words a
poor man named Duval. What the Penitentiary dictated to her, she
repeated readily: when he told her by what marks she should know Duval,
whom she had never seen, she pointed him out and said she had seen him
at the Sabbath. Through her it fell out that he was burnt!
She owned her dreadful crime, and shuddered to think what answer she
could make before God. She was fallen into such contempt that no one
now deigned to look after her. The doors stood wide open: sometimes she
had the keys herself. But where now should she go, object as she was of
so much dread? Thenceforth the world repelled hercast her out: the
only world she had left was her dungeon.
During the anarchy of Mazarin and his Good Lady the chief authority
remained with the Parliaments. That of Rouen, hitherto the friendliest
to the clergy, grew wroth at last at their arrogant way of examining,
ordering, and burning people. A mere decree of the Bishop had caused
Picart's body to be disinterred and thrown into the common sewer. And
now they were passing on to the trial of Boullé, the curate, and
supposed abettor of Picart. Listening to the plaint of Picart's family,
the Parliament sentenced the Bishop of Evreux to replace him at his own
expense in his tomb at Louviers. They called up Boullé, undertook his
trial themselves, and at the same time sent for the wretched Madeline
from Evreux to Rouen.
People were afraid that Yvelin and the magistrate who had caught the
nuns in the very act of cheating, would be made to appear. Hieing away
to Paris, they found the knave Mazarin ready to protect their knavish
selves. The whole matter was appealed to the King's Councilan
indulgent court, without eyes or earswhose care it was to bury, hush
up, bedarken everything connected with justice.
Meanwhile, some honey-tongued priests had comforted Madeline in her
Rouen dungeon; they heard her confessions, and enjoined her, by way of
penance, to ask forgiveness of her persecutors, the nuns of Louviers.
Thenceforth, happen what might, Madeline could never more be brought in
evidence against those who had thus bound her fast. It was a triumph
indeed for the clergy, and the victory was sung by a knave of an
exorciser, the Capuchin Esprit de Bosroger, in his Piety Afflicted, a farcical monument of stupidity, in which he accuses, unawares, the
very people he fancies himself defending.
The Fronde, as I said before, was a revolution for honest ends.
Fools saw only its outer formits laughable aspects; but at bottom it
was a serious business, a moral reaction. In August, 1647, with the
first breath of freedom, Parliament stepped forward and cut the knot.
It ordered, in the first place, the destruction of the Louviers Sodom;
the girls were to be dispersed and sent back to their kinsfolk. In the
next, it decreed that thenceforth the bishops of the province should,
four times a-year, send special confessors to the nunneries, to
ascertain that such foul abuses were not renewed.
One comfort, however, the clergy were to receive. They were allowed
to burn the bones of Picart and the living body of Boullé, who, after
making public confession in the cathedral, was drawn on a hurdle to the
Fish Market, and there, on the 21st August, 1647, devoured by the
flames. Madeline, or rather her corpse, remained in the prisons of
CHAPTER IX. THE DEVIL TRIUMPHS IN
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
The Fronde was a kind of Voltaire. The spirit of Voltaire, old as
France herself, but long restrained, burst forth in the political, and
anon in the religious, world. In vain did the Great King seek to
establish a solemn gravity. Beneath it laughter went on.
Was there nought else, then, but laughter and jesting? Nay, it was
the Advent of Reason. By means of Kepler, of Galileo, Descartes,
Newton, there was now triumphantly enthroned the reasonable dogma of
faith in the unchangeable laws of nature. Miracle dared no longer show
itself, or, when it did dare, was hissed down. In other and better
words, the fantastic miracles of mere whim had vanished, and in their
stead was seen the mighty miracle of the universemore regular, and
therefore more divine.
The great rebellion decidedly won the day. You may see it working in
the bold forms of those earlier outbursts; in the irony of Galileo; in
the absolute doubt wherewith Descartes leads off his system. The Middle
Ages would have said, 'Tis the spirit of the Evil One.
The victory, however, is not a negative one, but very affirmative
and surely based. The spirit of nature and the natural sciences, those
outlaws of an elder day, return in might irresistible. All idle shadows
are hunted out by the real, the substantial.
They had said in their folly, Great Pan is dead. Anon, observing
that he was yet alive, they had made him a god of evil: amid such a
chaos they might well be deceived. But, lo! he lives, and lives
harmonious, in the grand stability of laws that govern alike the star
and the deep-hidden mystery of life.
* * * * *
Of this period two things, by no means contradictory, may be
averred: the spirit of Satan conquers, while the reign of witchcraft is
at an end.
All marvel-mongering, hellish or holy, is fallen very sick at last.
Wizards and theologians are powerless alike. They are become, as it
were, empirics, who pray in vain for some supernatural change, some
whim of Providence, to work the wonders which science asks of nature
and reason only.
For all their zeal, the Jansenists of this century succeed only in
bringing forth a miracle very small and very ridiculous. Still less
lucky are the rich and powerful Jesuits, who cannot get a miracle done
at any price; who have to be satisfied with the visions of a hysteric
girl, Sister Mary Alacoque, of an exceedingly sanguine habit, with eyes
for nothing but blood. In view of so much impotence, magic and
witchcraft may find some solace for themselves.
While the old faith in the supernatural was thus declining, priests
and witches shared a common fate. In the fears, the fancies of the
Middle Ages, these two were bound up together. Together they were still
to face the general laughter and disdain. When Molière made fun of the
Devil and his seething cauldrons, the clergy were deeply stirred,
deeming that the belief in Paradise had fallen equally low.
A government of laymen only, that of the great Colbert, who was long
the virtual King of France, could not conceal its scorn for such old
questions. It emptied the prisons of the wizards whom the Rouen
Parliament still crowded into them, and, in 1672, forbade the law
courts from entertaining any prosecutions for witchcraft. The
Parliament protested, and gave people to understand that by this denial
of sorcery many other things were put in peril. Any doubting of these
lower mysteries would cause many minds to waver from their belief in
mysteries of a higher sort.
* * * * *
The Sabbath disappears, but why? Because it exists everywhere. It
enters into the people's habits, becomes the practice of their daily
life. The Devil, the Witches, had long been reproached with loving
death more than life, with hating and hindering the generative powers
of nature. And now in the pious seventeenth century, when the Witch is
fast dying out, a love of barrenness, and a fear of being fruitful, are
found to be, in very truth, the one prevalent disease.
If Satan ever read, he would have good cause for laughter as he read
the casuists who took him up where he left off. For there was one
difference at least between them. In times of terror Satan made
provision for the famished, took pity on the poor. But these fellows
have compassion only for the rich. With his vices, his luxury, his
court life, the rich man is still a needy miserable beggar. He comes to
confession with a humbly threatening air, in order to wrest from his
doctor permission to sin with a good conscience. Some day will be told,
by him who may have the courage to tell it, an astounding tale of the
cowardly things done, and the shameful tricks so basely ventured by the
casuist who wished to keep his penitent. From Navarro to Escobar the
strangest bargains were continually made at the wife's expense, and
some little wrangling went on after that. But all this would not do.
The casuist was conquered, was altogether a coward. From Zoccoli to
Liguori1670 to 1770he gave up banning Nature.
The Devil, so it was said, showed two countenances at the Sabbath:
the one in front seemed threatening, the other behind was farcical. Now
that he has nothing to do with it, he has generously given the latter
to the casuist.
It must have amused him to see his trusty friends settled among
honest folk, in the serious households swayed by the Church. The
worldling who bettered himself by that great resource of the day,
lucrative adultery, laughed at prudence, and boldly followed his
natural bent. Pious families, on the other hand, followed nothing but
their Jesuits. In order to preserve, to concentrate their property, to
leave each one wealthy heir, they entered on the crooked ways of the
new spiritualism. Buried in a mysterious gloom, losing at the faldstool
all heed and knowledge of themselves, the proudest of them followed the
lesson taught by Molinos: In this world we live to suffer. But in time
that suffering is soothed and lulled to sleep by a habit of pious
indifference. We thus attain to a negation. Death do you say? Not
altogether. Without mingling in the world, or heeding its voices, we
get thereof an echo dim and soft. It is like a windfall of Divine
Grace, so mild and searching; never more so than in moments of
self-abasement, when the will is wholly obscured.
Exquisite depths of feeling! Alas, poor Satan! how art thou left
behind! Bend low, acknowledge, and admire thy children!
* * * * *
The physicians who, having sprung from the popular empiricism which
men called witchcraft, were far more truly his lawful children, were
too forgetful of him who had left them his highest patrimony, as being
his favoured heirs. They were ungrateful to the Witch, who laid the way
for themselves. Nay, they went further than that. On this fallen king,
their father and creator, they dealt some hard strokes with the whip.
Thou, too, my son? They gave the jesters cruel weapons against him.
Even in the sixteenth century there were some to scoff at the spirit
who through all time, from the days of the Sibyl to those of the Witch,
had filled and troubled the woman. They maintained that he was neither
God nor Devil, but only the Prince of the Air, as the Middle Ages
called him. Satan was nothing but a disease!
Possession to them was only a result of the prison-like,
sedentary, dry, unyielding life of the cloister. As for the 6500 devils
in Gauffridi's little Madeline, and the hosts that fought in the bodies
of maddened nuns at Loudun and Louviers, these doctors called them
physical storms. If Æolus can shake the earth, said Yvelin, why not
also the body of a girl? La Cadière's surgeon, of whom more anon, had
the coolness to say, it was nothing more than a choking of the womb.
Wonderful descent! Routed by the simplest remedies, by exorcisms
after Molière, the terror of the Middle Ages would flee away and vanish
This is too sweeping a reduction of the question. Satan was more
than that. The doctors saw neither the height nor the depth of him;
neither his grand revolt in the form of science, nor that strange
mixture of impurity and pious intrigue, that union of Tartuffe and
Priapus, which he brought to pass about the year 1700.
People fancy they know something about the eighteenth century, and
yet have never seen one of its most essential features. The greater its
outward civilization, the clearer and fuller the light that bathed its
uppermost layers, so much the more hermetically sealed lay all those
widespread lower realms, of priests and monks, and women credulous,
sickly, prone to believe whatever they heard or saw. In the years
before Cagliostro, Mesmer, and the magnetisers, who appeared towards
the close of the century, a good many priests still worked away at the
old dead witchcraft. They talked of nothing but enchantments, spread
the fear of them abroad, and undertook to hunt out the devils with
their shameful exorcisms. Many set up for wizards, well knowing how
little risk they ran, now that people were no longer burnt. They knew
they were sheltered by the milder spirit of their age, by the tolerant
teachings of their foes the philosophers, by the levity of the great
jesters, who thought that anything could be extinguished with a laugh.
Now it was just because people laughed, that these gloomy plot-spinners
went their way without much fear. The new spirit, that of the Regent
namely, was sceptical and easy-natured. It shone forth in the
Persian Letters, it shone forth everywhere in the all-powerful
journalist who filled that century, Voltaire. At any shedding of human
blood his whole heart rises indignant. All other matters only make him
laugh. Little by little, the maxim of the worldly public seems to be,
Punish nothing, and laugh at all.
This tolerant spirit suffered Cardinal Tencin to appear in public as
his sister's husband. This, too, it was that ensured to the masters of
convents the peaceful possession of their nuns, who were even allowed
to make declarations of pregnancy, to register the births of their
children. This tolerant temper made excuses for Father
Apollinaire, when he was caught in a shameful piece of exorcism. That
worthy Jesuit, Cauvrigny, idol of the provincial convents, paid for his
adventures only by a recall to Paris, in other wordsby fresh
 The noble Chapter of Canons of Pignan were sixteen in
number. In one year the provost received from the nuns
sixteen declarations of pregnancy. (See MS. History of Besse,
by M. Renoux.) One good fruit of this publicity was the
decrease of infanticide among the religious orders. At the
price of a little shame, the nuns let their children live,
and doubtless became good mothers. Those of Pignan put their
babes out to nurse with the neighbouring peasants, who
brought them up as their own.
Such also was the punishment awarded the famous Jesuit, Girard, who
was loaded with honours when he should have got the rope. He died in
the sweetest savour of holiness. His was the most curious affair of
that century. It enables us to probe the peculiar methods of that day,
to realize the coarse jumble of jarring machinery which was then at
work. As a thing of course, it was preluded by the dangerous suavities
of the Song of Songs. It was carried on by Mary Alacoque, with a
marriage of Bleeding Hearts spiced with the morbid blandishments of
Molinos. To these Girard added the whisperings of Satan and the terrors
of enchantment. He was at once the Devil and the Devil's exorciser. At
last, horrible to say, instead of getting justice done to her, the
unhappy girl whom he sacrificed with so much cruelty, was persecuted to
death. She disappeared, shut up perhaps by a lettre de cachet,
and buried alive in her tomb.
CHAPTER X. FATHER GIRARD AND LA
The Jesuits were unlucky. Powerful at Versailles, where they ruled
the Court, they had not the slightest credit with Heaven. Not one tiny
miracle could they do. The Jansenists overflowed, at any rate, with
touching stories of miracles done. Untold numbers of sick, infirm,
halt, and paralytic obtained a momentary cure at the tomb of the Deacon
Pâris. Crushed by a terrible succession of plagues, from the time of
the Great King to the Regency, when so many were reduced to beggary,
these unfortunate people went to entreat a poor, good fellow, a
virtuous imbecile, a saint in spite of his absurdities, to make them
whole. And what need, after all, of laughter? His life is far more
touching than ridiculous. We are not to be surprised if these good
folk, in the emotion of seeing their benefactor's tomb, suddenly forgot
their own sufferings. The cure did not last, but what matter? A miracle
indeed had taken place, a miracle of devotion, of lovingkindness, of
gratitude. Latterly, with all this some knavery began to mingle, but at
that time, in 1728, these wonderful popular scenes were very pure.
The Jesuits would have given anything for the least of the miracles
they denied. For well-nigh fifty years they worked away, embellishing
with fables and anecdotes their Legend of the Sacred Heart, the story
of Mary Alacoque. For twenty-five or thirty years they had been trying
to convince the world that their helpmate, James II. of England, not
content with healing the king's evil (in his character of King of
France), amused himself after his death in making the dumb to speak,
the lame to walk straight, and the squint-eyed to see properly. They
who were cured squinted worse than ever. As for the dumb, it so chanced
that she who played this part was a manifest rogue, caught in the very
act of stealing. She roamed the provinces: at every chapel of any
renowned saint she was healed by a miracle and received alms, and then
began her work again elsewhere.
For getting wonders wrought the South was a better country. There
might be found a plenty of nervous women, easy to excite, the very ones
to make into somnambulists, subjects of miracle, bearers of mystic
marks, and so forth.
At Marseilles the Jesuits had on their side a bishop, Belzunce, a
bold, hearty sort of man, renowned in the memorable plague, but
credulous and narrow-minded withal; under whose countenance many a bold
venture might be made. Beside him they had placed a Jesuit of
Franche-Comté, not wanting in mind, whose austere outside did not
prevent his preaching pleasantly, in an ornate and rather worldly
style, such as the ladies loved. A true Jesuit, he made his way by two
different methods, now by feminine intrigue, anon by his holy
utterances. Girard had on his side neither years nor figure; he was a
man of forty-seven, tall, withered, weak-looking, of dirty aspect, and
given to spitting without end. He had long been a tutor, even till
he was thirty-seven; and he preserved some of his college tastes. For
the last ten years, namely, ever since the great plague, he had been
confessor to the nuns. With them he had fared well, winning over them a
high degree of power by enforcing a method seemingly quite at variance
with the Provencial temperament, by teaching the doctrine and the
discipline of a mystic death, of absolute passiveness, of entire
forgetfulness of self. The dreadful crisis through which they had just
passed had deadened their spirits, and weakened hearts already unmanned
by a kind of morbid languor. Under Girard's leading, the Carmelites of
Marseilles carried their mysticism to great lengths; and first among
them was Sister Remusat, who passed for a saint.
 The great plague of 1720, which carried off 60,000
people about Marseilles. Belzunce is the Marseilles' good
bishop of Pope's lineTRANS.
 See The Proceedings in the Affair of Father Girard and
La Cadière, Aix, 1733.
In spite, or perhaps by reason, of this success, the Jesuits took
Girard away from Marseilles: they wanted to employ him in raising anew
their house at Toulon. Colbert's splendid institution, the Seminary for
Naval Chaplains, had been entrusted to the Jesuits, with the view of
cleansing the young chaplains from the influence of the Lazarists, who
ruled them almost everywhere. But the two Jesuits placed in charge were
men of small capacity. One was a fool; the other, Sabatier, remarkable,
in spite of his age, for heat of temper. With all the insolence of our
old navy he never kept himself under the least control. In Toulon he
was reproached, not for having a mistress, nor yet a married woman, but
for intriguing in a way so insolent and outrageous as to drive the
husband wild. He sought to keep the husband specially alive to his own
shame, to make him wince with every kind of pang. Matters were pushed
so far that at last the husband died outright.
Still greater was the scandal caused by the Jesuits' rivals, the
Observantines, who, having spiritual charge of a sisterhood at
Ollioules, made mistresses openly of the nuns, and, not content with
this, dared even to seduce the little boarders. One Aubany, the Father
Guardian, violated a girl of thirteen; when her parents pursued him, he
found shelter at Marseilles.
As Director of the Seminary for Chaplains, Girard began, through his
seeming sternness and his real dexterity, to win for the Jesuits an
ascendant over monks thus compromised, and over parish-priests of very
vulgar manners and scanty learning.
In those Southern regions, where the men are abrupt, not seldom
uncouth of speech and appearance, the women have a lively relish for
the gentle gravity of the men of the North: they feel thankful to them
for speaking a language at once aristocratic, official, and French.
When Girard reached Toulon, he must already have gained full
knowledge of the ground before him. Already had he won over a certain
Guiol, who sometimes came to Marseilles, where she had a daughter, a
Carmelite nun. This Guiol, wife of a small carpenter, threw herself
entirely into his hands, even more so than he wanted. She was of ripe
age, extremely vehement for a woman of forty-seven, depraved and ready
for anything, ready to do him service of whatever kind, no matter what
he might do or be, whether he were a sinner or a saint.
This Guiol, besides her Carmelite daughter at Marseilles, had
another, a lay-sister to the Ursulines of Toulon. The Ursulines, an
order of teaching nuns, formed everywhere a kind of centre; their
parlour, the resort of mothers, being a half-way stage between the
cloister and the world. At their house, and doubtless through their
means, Girard saw the ladies of the town, among them one of forty
years, a spinster, Mdlle. Gravier, daughter of an old contractor for
the royal works at the Arsenal. This lady had a shadow who never left
her, her cousin La Reboul, daughter of a skipper and sole heiress to
herself; a woman, too, who really meant to succeed her, though very
nearly her own age, being five-and-thirty. Around these gradually grew
a small roomful of Girard's admirers, who became his regular penitents.
Among them were sometimes introduced a few young girls, such as La
Cadière, a tradesman's daughter and herself a sempstress, La Laugier,
and La Batarelle, the daughter of a waterman. They had godly readings
together, and now and then small suppers. But they were specially
interested in certain letters which recounted the miracles and
ecstacies of Sister Remusat, who was still alive; her death occurring
in February, 1730. What a glorious thing for Father Girard, who had led
her to a pitch so lofty! They read, they wept, they shouted with
admiration. If they were not ecstatic yet, they were not far from being
so. Already, to please her kinswoman, would La Reboul throw herself at
times into a strange plight by holding her breath and pinching her
* * * * *
Among these girls and women the least frivolous certainly was
Catherine Cadière, a delicate, sickly girl of seventeen, taken up
wholly with devotion and charity, of a mournful countenance, which
seemed to say that, young as she was, she had felt more keenly than
anyone else the great misfortunes of the time, those, namely, of
Provence and Toulon. This is easily explained. She was born during the
frightful famine of 1709; and just as the child was growing into a
maiden, she witnessed the fearful scenes of the great plague. Those two
events seemed to have left their mark upon her, to have taken her out
of the present into a life beyond.
This sad flower belonged wholly to Toulon, to the Toulon of that
day. To understand her better we must remember what that town is and
what it was.
Toulon is a thoroughfare, a landing-place, the entrance of an
immense harbour and a huge arsenal. The sense of this carries the
traveller away, and prevents his seeing Toulon itself. There is a town
however there, indeed an ancient city. It contains two different sets
of people, the stranger functionaries, and the genuine Toulonnese, who
are far from friendly to the former, regarding them with envy, and
often roused to rebellion by the swaggering of the naval officers. All
these differences were concentred in the gloomy streets of a town in
those days choked up within its narrow girdle of fortifications. The
most peculiar feature about this small dark town is, that it lies
exactly between two broad seas of light, between the marvellous mirror
of its roadstead and its glorious amphitheatre of mountains,
baldheaded, of a dazzling grey, that blinds you in the noonday sun. All
the gloomier look the streets themselves. Such as do not lead straight
to the harbour and draw some light therefrom, are plunged at all hours
in deep gloom. Filthy byeways, and small tradesmen with shops
ill-furnished, invisible to anyone coming for the day, such is the
general aspect of the place. The interior forms a maze of passages in
which you may find plenty of churches, and old convents now turned into
barracks. Copious kennels, laden and foul with sewage water, run down
in torrents. The air is almost stagnant, and in so dry a climate you
are surprised at seeing so much moisture.
In front of the new theatre a passage called La Rue de l'Hôpital
leads from the narrow Rue Royale into the narrow Rue des Cannoniers. It
might almost be called a blind alley. The sun, however, just looks down
upon it at noon, but, finding the place so dismal, passes on forthwith,
and leaves the passage to its wonted darkness.
Among these gloomy dwellings the smallest was that of the Sister
Cadière, a retail dealer, or huckster. There was no entrance but by the
shop, and only one room on each floor. The Cadières were honest pious
folk, and Madame Cadière the mirror of excellence itself. These good
people were not altogether poor. Besides their small dwelling in the
town, they too, like most of their fellow-townsmen, had a country-house
of their own. This latter is, commonly, a mere hut, a little stony plot
of ground yielding a little wine. In the days of its naval greatness,
under Colbert and his son, the wondrous bustle in the harbour brought
some profit to the town. French money flowed in. The many great lords
who passed that way brought their households along with them, an army
of wasteful domestics, who left a good many things behind them. All
this came to a sudden end. The artificial movement stopped short: even
the workmen at the arsenal could no longer get their wages; shattered
vessels were left unrepaired; and at last the timbers themselves were
Toulon was keenly sensible of the rebound. At the siege of 1707 it
seemed as if dead. What, then, was it in the dreadful year 1709, the
71st of Louis XIV., when every plague at once, a hard winter, a famine,
and an epidemic, seemed bent on utterly destroying France? The very
trees of Provence were not spared. All traffic came to an end. The
roads were covered with starving beggars. Begirt with bandits who
stopped up every outlet, Toulon quaked for fear.
To crown all, Madame Cadière, in this year of sorrow, was with
child. Three boys she had borne already. The eldest stayed in the shop
to help his father. The second was with the Friar Preachers, and
destined to become a Dominican, or a Jacobin as they were then called.
The third was studying in the Jesuit seminary as a priest to be. The
wedded couple wanted a daughter; Madame prayed to Heaven for a saint.
She spent her nine months in prayer, fasting, or eating nought but rye
bread. She had a daughter, namely Catherine. The babe was very delicate
and, like her brothers, unhealthy. The dampness of an ill-aired
dwelling, and the poor nourishment gained from a mother so thrifty and
more than temperate, had something to do with this. The brothers had
scrofulous glands, and in her earlier years the little thing suffered
from the same cause. Without being altogether ill, she had all the
suffering sweetness of a sickly child. She grew up without growing
stronger. At an age when other children have all the strength and
gladness of upswelling life in them, she was already saying, I have
not long to live.
She took the small-pox, which left her rather marked. I know not if
she was handsome, but it is clear that she was very winning, with all
the charming contrasts, the twofold nature of the maidens of Provence.
Lively and pensive, gay and sad, by turns, she was a good little
worshipper, but given to harmless pranks withal. Between the long
church services, if she went into the country with girls of her own
age, she made no fuss about doing as they did, but would sing and dance
away and flourish her tambourine. But such days were few. Most times
her chief delight was to climb up to the top of the house, to bring
herself nearer heaven, to obtain a glimpse of daylight, to look out,
perhaps, on some small strip of sea, or some pointed peak in the vast
wilderness of hills. Thenceforth to her eyes they were serious still,
but less unkindly than before, less bald and leafless, in a garment
thinly strewn with arbutus and larch.
This dead town of Toulon numbered 26,000 inhabitants when the plague
began. It was a huge throng cooped up in one spot. But from this centre
let us take away a girdle of great convents with their backs upon the
ramparts, convents of Minorites, Ursulines, Visitandines, Bernardines,
Oratorians, Jesuits, Capuchins, Recollects; those of the Refuge, the
Good Shepherd, and, midmost of all, the enormous convent of Dominicans.
Add to these the parish churches, parsonages, bishop's palace, and it
seems that the clergy filled up the place, while the people had no room
at all, to speak of.
 See the work by M. d'Antrechaus, and the excellent
treatise by M. Gustave Lambert.
On a centre so closely thronged, we may guess how savagely the
plague would fasten. Toulon's kind heart was also to prove her bane.
She received with generous warmth some fugitives from Marseilles. These
are just as likely to have brought the plague with them, as certain
bales of wool to which was traced the first appearance of that scourge.
The chief men of the place were about to fly, to scatter themselves
over the country. But the First Consul, M. d'Antrechaus, a man of
heroic soul, withheld them, saying, with a stern air, And what will
the people do, sirs, in this impoverished town, if the rich folk carry
their purses away? So he held them back, and compelled all persons to
stay where they were. Now the horrors of Marseilles had been ascribed
to the mutual intercourse of its inhabitants. D'Antrechaus, however,
tried a system entirely the reverse, tried to isolate the people of
Toulon, by shutting them up in their houses. Two huge hospitals were
established, in the roadstead and in the hills. All who did not come to
these, had to keep at home on pain of death. For seven long months
D'Antrechaus carried out a wager, which would have been held
impossible, the keeping, namely, and feeding in their own houses, of a
people numbering 26,000 souls. All that time Toulon was one vast tomb.
No one stirred save in the morning, to deal out bread from door to
door, and then to carry off the dead. Most of the doctors perished, and
the magistrates all but D'Antrechaus. The gravediggers also perished,
and their places were filled by condemned deserters, who went to work
with brutal and headlong violence. Bodies were thrown into the tumbril,
head downwards, from the fourth storey. One mother, having just lost
her little girl, shrunk from seeing her poor wee body thus hurled
below, and by dint of bribing, managed to get it lowered the proper
way. As they were bearing it off, the child came to; it lived still.
They took her up again, and she survived, to become the grandmother of
the learned M. Brun, who wrote an excellent history of the port.
Poor little Cadière was exactly the same age as this girl who died
and lived again, being twelve years old, an age for her sex so full of
danger. In the general closing of the churches, in the putting down of
all holidays, and chiefly of Christmas, wont to be so merry a season at
Toulon, the child's fancy saw the end of all things. It seems as though
she never quite shook off that fancy. Toulon never raised her head
again. She retained her desert-like air. Everything was in ruins,
everyone in mourning; widowers, orphans, desperate beings were
everywhere seen. In the midst, a mighty shadow, moved D'Antrechaus
himself; he had seen all about him perish, his sons, his brothers, and
his colleagues; and was now so gloriously ruined, that he was fain to
look to his neighbours for his daily meals. The poor quarrelled among
themselves for the honour of feeding him.
The young girl told her mother that she would never more wear any of
her smarter clothes, and she must, therefore, sell them. She would do
nothing but wait upon the sick, and she was always dragging her to the
hospital at the end of the street. A little neighbour-girl of fourteen,
Laugier by name, who had lost her father, was living with her mother in
great wretchedness. Catherine was continually going to them with food
and clothes, and anything she could get for them. She begged her
parents to defray the cost of apprenticing Laugier to a dressmaker; and
such was her sway over them that they could not refuse to incur so
heavy an outlay. Her piety, her many little charms of soul, rendered
her all-powerful. She was impassioned in her charity, giving not alms
only, but love as well. She longed to make Laugier perfect, rejoiced to
have her by her side, and often gave her half her bed. The pair had
been admitted among the Daughters of Saint Theresa, the third
order established by the Carmelites. Mdlle. Cadière was their model
nun, and seemed at thirteen a Carmelite complete. Already she devoured
some books of mysticism borrowed from a Visitandine. In marked contrast
with herself seemed Laugier, now a girl of fifteen, who would do
nothing but eat and look handsome. So indeed she was, and on that
account had been made sextoness to the chapel of Saint Theresa. This
led her into great familiarities with the priests, and so, when her
conduct called for her expulsion from the congregation, another
authority, the vicar-general, flew into such a rage as to declare that,
if she were expelled, the chapel itself would be interdicted.
Both these girls had the temperament of their country, suffering
from great excitement of the nerves, and from what was called
flatulence of the womb. But in each the result was entirely different;
being very carnal in the case of Laugier, who was gluttonous, lazy,
passionate; but wholly cerebral with regard to the pure and gentle
Catherine, who owing to her ailments or to a lively imagination that
took everything up into itself, had no ideas concerning sex. At twenty
she was like a child of seven. For nothing cared she but praying and
giving of alms; she had no wish at all to marry. At the very word
marriage, she would fall a-weeping, as if she had been asked to
They had lent her the life of her patroness, Catherine of Genoa, and
she had bought for herself The Castle of the Soul, by St.
Theresa. Few confessors could follow her in these mystic flights. They
who spoke clumsily of such things gave her pain. She could not keep
either her mother's confessor, the cathedral-priest, or another, a
Carmelite, or even the old Jesuit Sabatier. At sixteen she found a
priest of Saint Louis, a highly spiritual person. She spent days in
church, to such a degree that her mother, by this time a widow and
often in want of her, had to punish her, for all her own piety, on her
return home. It was not the girl's fault, however: during her ecstasies
she quite forgot herself. So great a saint was she accounted by the
girls of her own age, that sometimes at mass they seemed to see the
Host drawn on by the moving power of her love, until it flew up and
placed itself of its own accord in her mouth.
Her two young brothers differed from each other in their feelings
towards Girard. The elder, who lived with the Friar Preachers, shared
the natural dislike of all Dominicans for the Jesuit. The other, who
was studying with the Jesuits in order to become a priest, regarded
Girard as a great man, a very saint, a man to honour as a hero. Of this
younger brother, sickly like herself, Catherine was very fond. His
ceaseless talking about Girard was sure to do its work upon her. One
day she met the father in the street. He looked so grave, but so good
and mild withal, that a voice within her said, Behold the man to whose
guidance thou art given! The next Saturday, when she came to confess
to him, he said that he had been expecting her. In her amazed emotion
she never dreamed that her brother might have given him warning, but
fancied that the mysterious voice had spoken to him also, and that they
two were sharing the heavenly communion of warnings from the world
Six months of summer passed away, and yet Girard, who confessed her
every Saturday, had taken no step towards her. The scandal about old
Sabatier had set him on his guard. His own prudence would have held him
to an attachment of a darker kind for such a one as the Guiol, who was
certainly very mature, but also ardent and a devil incarnate.
It was Cadière who made the first advances towards him, innocent as
they were. Her brother, the giddy Jacobin, had taken it into his head
to lend a lady and circulate through the town a satire called The
Morality of the Jesuits. The latter were soon apprised of this.
Sabatier swore that he would write to the Court for a sealed order
(lettre-de-cachet) to shut up the Jacobin. In her trouble and alarm,
his sister, with tears in her eyes, went to beseech Father Girard for
pity's sake to interfere. On her coming again to him a little later, he
said, Make yourself easy; your brother has nothing to fear; I have
settled the matter for him. She was quite overcome. Girard saw his
advantage. A man of his influence, a friend of the King, a friend of
Heaven as well, after such proof of goodness as he had just been
giving, would surely have the very strongest sway over so young a
heart! He made the venture, and in her own uncertain language said to
her, Put yourself in my hands; yield yourself up to me altogether.
Without a blush she answered, in the fulness of her angelic purity,
Yes; meaning nought else than to have him for her sole director.
What were his plans concerning her? Would he make her a mistress or
the tool of his charlatanry? Girard doubtless swayed to and fro, but he
leant, I think, most towards the latter idea. He had to make his
choice, might manage to seek out pleasures free from risk. But Mdlle.
Cadière was under a pious mother. She lived with her family, a married
brother and the two churchmen, in a very confined house, whose only
entrance lay through the shop of the elder brother. She went no whither
except to church. With all her simplicity she knew instinctively what
things were impure, what houses dangerous. The Jesuit penitents were
fond of meeting together at the top of a house, to eat, and play the
fool, and cry out, in their Provencial tongue, Vivent les Jesuitons! A neighbour, disturbed by their noise, went and found them lying on
their faces, singing and eating fritters, all paid for, it was said,
out of the alms-money. Cadière was also invited, but taking a disgust
to the thing she never went a second time.
She was assailable only through her soul. And it was only her soul
that Girard seemed to desire. That she should accept those lessons of
passive faith which he had taught at Marseilles, this apparently was
all his aim. Hoping that example would do more for him than precept, he
charged his tool Guiol to escort the young saint to Marseilles, where
lived the friend of Cadière's childhood, a Carmelite nun, a daughter of
Guiol's. The artful woman sought to win her trust by pretending that
she, too, was sometimes ecstatic. She crammed her with absurd stories.
She told her, for instance, that on finding a cask of wine spoilt in
her cellar, she began to pray, and immediately the wine became good.
Another time she felt herself pierced by a crown of thorns, but the
angels had comforted her by serving up a good dinner, of which she
partook with Father Girard.
Cadière gained her mother's leave to go with this worthy Guiol to
Marseilles, and Madame Cadière paid her expenses. It was now the most
scorching monththat of August, 1729in a scorching climate, when the
country was all dried up, and the eye could see nothing but a rugged
mirror of rocks and flintstone. The weak, parched brain of a sick girl
suffering from the fatigues of travel, was all the more easily
impressed by the dismal air of a nunnery of the dead. The true type of
this class was the Sister Remusat, already a corpse to outward seeming,
and soon to be really dead. Cadière was moved to admire so lofty a
piece of perfection. Her treacherous companion allured her with the
proud conceit of being such another and filling her place anon.
During this short trip of hers, Girard, who remained amid the
stifling heats of Toulon, had met with a dismal fall. He would often go
to the girl Laugier, who believed herself to be ecstatic, and comfort
her to such good purpose that he got her presently with child. When
Mdlle. Cadière came back in the highest ecstasy, as if like to soar
away, he for his part was become so carnal, so given up to pleasure,
that he let fall on her ears a whisper of love. Thereat she took
fire, but all, as anyone may see, in her own pure, saintly, generous
way; as eager to keep him from falling, as devoting herself even to die
for his sake.
One of her saintly gifts was her power of seeing into the depths of
men's hearts. She had sometimes chanced to learn the secret life and
morals of her confessors, to tell them of their faults; and this, in
their fear and amazement, many of them had borne with great humility.
One day this summer, on seeing Guiol come into her room, she suddenly
said, Wicked woman! what have you been doing?
And she was right, said Guiol herself, at a later period; for I
had just been doing an evil deed. Perhaps she had just been rendering
Laugier the same midwife's service which next year she wished to render
Very likely, indeed, Laugier had entrusted to Catherine, at whose
house she often slept, the secret of her good fortune, the love, the
fatherly caresses of her saint. It was a hard and stormy trial for
Catherine's spirits. On the one side, she had learnt by heart Girard's
maxim, that whatever a saint may do is holy. But on the other hand, her
native honesty and the whole course of her education compelled her to
believe that over-fondness for the creature was ever a mortal sin. This
woeful tossing between two different doctrines quite finished the poor
girl, brought on within her dreadful storms, until at last she fancied
herself possessed with a devil.
And here her goodness of heart was made manifest. Without humbling
Girard, she told him she had a vision of a soul tormented with impure
thoughts and deadly sin; that she felt the need of rescuing that soul,
by offering the Devil victim for victim, by agreeing to yield herself
into his keeping in Girard's stead. He never forbade her, but gave her
leave to be possessed for one year only.
Like the rest of the town, she had heard of the scandalous loves of
Father Sabatieran insolent passionate man, with none of Girard's
prudence. The scorn which the Jesuitsto her mind, such pillars of the
Churchwere sure to incur, had not escaped her notice. She said one
day to Girard, I had a vision of a gloomy sea, with a vessel full of
souls tossed by a storm of unclean thoughts. On this vessel were two
Jesuits. Said I to the Redeemer, whom I saw in heaven, 'Lord, save
them, and let me drown! The whole of their shipwreck do I take upon
myself,' And God, in His mercy, granted my prayer.
All through the trial, and when Girard, become her foe, was aiming
at her death, she never once recurred to this subject. These two
parables, so clear in meaning, she never explained. She was too
high-minded to say a word about them. She had doomed herself to very
damnation. Some will say that in her pride she deemed herself so
deadened and impassive as to defy the impurity with which the Demon
troubled a man of God. But it is quite clear that she had no accurate
knowledge of sensual things, foreseeing nought in such a mystery save
pains and torments of the Devil. Girard was very cold, and quite
unworthy of all this sacrifice. Instead of being moved to compassion,
he sported with her credulity through a vile deceit. Into her casket he
slipped a paper, in which God declared that, for her sake, He would
indeed save the vessel. But he took care not to leave so absurd a
document there: she would have read it again and again until she came
to perceive how spurious it was. The angel who brought the paper
carried it off the next day.
With the same coarseness of feeling Girard lightly allowed her, all
unsettled and incapable of praying as she plainly was, to communicate
as much as she pleased in different churches every day. This only made
her worse. Filled already with the Demon, she harboured the two foes in
one place. With equal power they fought within her against each other.
She thought she would burst asunder. She would fall into a dead faint,
and so remain for several hours. By December she could not move even
from her bed.
Girard had now but too good a plea for seeing her. He was prudent
enough to let himself be led by the younger brother at least as far as
her door. The sick girl's room was at the top of the house. Her mother
stayed discreetly in the shop. He was left alone as long as he pleased,
and if he chose could turn the key. At this time she was very ill. He
handled her as a child, drawing her forward a little to the front of
the bed, holding her head, and kissing her in a fatherly way.
She was very pure, but very sensitive. A slight touch, that no one
else would have remarked, deprived her of her senses: this Girard found
out for himself, and the knowledge of it possessed him with evil
thoughts. He threw her at will into this trance, and she, in her
thorough trust in him, never thought of trying to prevent it, feeling
only somewhat troubled and ashamed at causing such a man to waste upon
her so much of his precious time. His visits were very long. It was
easy to foresee what would happen at last. Ill as she was, the poor
girl inspired Girard with a passion none the less wild and
uncontrollable. One freedom led to another, and her plaintive
remonstrances were met with scornful replies. I am your masteryour
god. You must bear all for obedience sake. At length, about
Christmas-time, the last barrier of reserve was broken down; and the
poor girl awoke from her trance to utter a wail which moved even him to
 A case of mesmerism applied to a very susceptible
An issue which she but dimly realized, Girard, as better
enlightened, viewed with growing alarm. Signs of what was coming began
to show themselves in her bodily health. To crown the entanglement,
Laugier also found herself with child. Those religious meetings, those
suppers watered with the light wine of the country, led to a natural
raising of the spirits of a race so excitable, and the trance that
followed spread from one to another. With the more artful all this was
mere sham; but with the sanguine, vehement Laugier the trance was
genuine enough. In her own little room she had real fits of raving and
swooning, especially when Girard came in. A little later than Cadière
she, too became fruitful.
The danger was great. The girls were neither in a desert nor in the
heart of a convent, but rather, as one might say, in the open street:
Laugier in the midst of prying neighbours, Cadière in her own family.
The latter's brother, the Jacobin, began to take Girard's long visits
amiss. One day when Girard came, he ventured to stay beside her as
though to watch over her safety. Girard boldly turned him out of the
room, and the mother angrily drove her son from the house.
This was very like to bring on an explosion. Of course, the young
man, swelling with rage at this hard usage, at this expulsion from his
home, would cry aloud to the Preaching Friars, who in their turn would
seize so fair an opening, to go about repeating the story and stirring
up the whole town against the Jesuit. The latter, however, resolved to
meet them with a strangely daring move, to save himself by a crime. The
libertine became a scoundrel.
He knew his victim, had seen the scrofulous traces of her childhood,
traces healed up but still looking different from common scars. Some of
these were on her feet, others a little below her bosom. He formed a
devilish plan of renewing the wounds and passing them off as
stigmata, like those procured from heaven by St. Francis and other
saints, who sought after the closest conformity with their pattern, the
crucified Redeemer, even to bearing on themselves the marks of the
nails and the spear-wound in the side. The Jesuits were distressed at
having nought to show against the miracles of the Jansenists. Girard
felt sure of pleasing them by an unlooked-for miracle. He could not but
receive the support of his own order, of their house at Toulon. One of
them, old Sabatier, was ready to believe anything: he had of yore been
Cadière's confessor, and this affair would bring him into credit.
Another of these was Father Grignet, a pious old dotard, who would see
whatever they pleased. If the Carmelites or any others were minded to
have their doubts, they might be taught, by warnings from a high
quarter, to consult their safety by keeping silence. Even the Jacobin
Cadière, hitherto a stern and jealous foe, might find his account in
turning round and believing in a tale which made his family illustrious
and himself the brother of a saint.
But, some will say, did not the thing come naturally? We have
instances numberless, and well-attested, of persons really marked with
the sacred wounds.
The reverse is more likely. When she was aware of the new wounds,
she felt ashamed and distressed with the fear of displeasing Girard by
this return of her childish ailments; for such she deemed the sores
which he had opened afresh while she lay unconscious in the trance. So
she sped away to a neighbour, one Madame Truc, who dabbled in physic,
and of her she bought, as if for her youngest brother, an ointment to
burn away the sores.
She would have thought herself guilty of a great sin, if she had not
told everything to Girard. So, however fearful she might be of
displeasing and disgusting him, she spoke of this matter also. Looking
at the wounds, he began playing his comedy, rebuked her attempt to heal
them, and thus set herself against God. They were the marks, he said,
of Heaven. Falling on his knees, he kissed the wounds on her feet. She
crossed herself in self-abasement, struggled long-time against such a
belief. Girard presses and scolds, makes her show him her side, and
looks admiringly at the wound. I, too, he said, have a wound; but
mine is within.
And now she is fain to believe in herself as a living miracle. Her
acceptance of a thing so startling was greatly quickened by the fact,
that Sister Remusat was just then dead. She had seen her in glory, her
heart borne upward by the angels. Who was to take her place on earth?
Who should inherit her high gifts, the heavenly favours wherewith she
had been crowned? Girard offered her the succession, corrupting her
through her pride.
From that time she was changed. In her vanity she set down every
natural movement within her as holy. The loathings, the sudden starts
of a woman great with child, of all which she knew nothing, were
accounted for as inward struggles of the Spirit. As she sat at table
with her family on the first day of Lent, she suddenly beheld the
Saviour, who said, I will lead thee into the desert, where thou shalt
share with Me all the love and all the suffering of the holy Forty
Days. She shuddered for dread of the suffering she must undergo. But
still she would offer up her single self for a whole world of sinners.
Her visions were all of blood; she had nothing but blood before her
eyes. She beheld Jesus like a sieve running blood. She herself began to
spit blood, and lose it in other ways. At the same time her nature
seemed quite changed. The more she suffered, the more amorous she grew.
On the twentieth day of Lent she saw her name coupled with that of
Girard. Her pride, raised and quickened by these new sensations,
enabled her to comprehend the special sway enjoyed by Mary, the
Woman, with respect to God. She felt how much lower angels are
than the least of saints, male or female. She saw the Palace of Glory,
and mistook herself for the Lamb. To crown these illusions she felt
herself lifted off the ground, several feet into the air. She could
hardly believe it, until Mdlle. Gravier, a respectable person, assured
her of the fact. Everyone came, admired, worshipped. Girard brought his
colleague Grignet, who knelt before her and wept with joy.
Not daring to go to her every day, Girard often made her come to the
Jesuits' Church. There, before the altar, before the cross, he
surrendered himself to a passion all the fiercer for such a sacrilege.
Had she no scruples? did she still deceive herself? It seems as if, in
the midst of an elation still unfeigned and earnest, her conscience was
already dazed and darkened. Under cover of her bleeding wounds, those
cruel favours of her heavenly Spouse, she began to feel some curious
In her reveries there are two points especially touching. One is the
pure ideal she had formed of a faithful union, when she fancied that
she saw her name and that of Girard joined together for ever in the
Book of Life. The other is her kindliness of heart, the charmingly
childlike nature which shines out through all her extravagances. On
Palm Sunday, looking at the joyous party around their family table, she
wept three hours together, for thinking that on that very day no one
had asked Jesus to dinner.
Through all that Lent, she could hardly eat anything: the little she
took was thrown up again. The last fifteen days she fasted altogether,
until she reached the last stage of weakness. Who would have believed
that against this dying girl, to whom nothing remained but the mere
breath, Girard could practise new barbarities? He had kept her sores
from closing. A new one was now formed on her right side. And at last,
on Good Friday, he gave the finishing touch to his cruel comedy, by
making her wear a crown of iron-wire, which pierced her forehead, until
drops of blood rolled down her face. All this was done without much
secresy. He began by cutting off her long hair and carrying it away. He
ordered the crown of one Bitard, a cagemaker in the town. She did not
show herself to her visitors with the crown on: they saw the result
only, the drops of blood and the bleeding visage. Impressions of the
latter, like so many Veronicas, were taken off on napkins,
and doubtless given away by Girard to people of great piety.
 After the saint of that name, whose handkerchief
received the impress of Christ's countenance.TRANS.
The mother, in her own despite, became an abettor in all this
juggling. In truth, she was afraid of Girard; she began to find him
capable of anything, and somebody, perhaps the Guiol, had told her, in
the deepest confidence, that, if she said a word against him, her
daughter would not be alive twenty-four hours.
Cadière, for her part, never lied about the matter. In the narrative
taken down from her own lips of what happened this Lent, she expressly
tells of a crown, with sharp points, which stuck in her head, and made
it bleed. Nor did she then make any secret of the source whence came
the little crosses she gave her visitors. From a model supplied by
Girard, they were made to her order by one of her kinsfolk, a carpenter
in the Arsenal.
On Good Friday, she remained twenty-four hours in a swoon, which
they called a trance; remained in special charge of Girard, whose
attentions weakened her, and did her deadly harm. She was now three
months gone with child. The saintly martyr, the transfigured marvel,
was already beginning to fill out. Desiring, yet dreading the more
violent issues of a miscarriage, he plied her daily with reddish
powders and dangerous drinks.
Much rather would he have had her die, and so have rid himself of
the whole business. At any rate, he would have liked to get her away
from her mother, to bury her safe in a convent. Well acquainted with
houses of that sort, he knew, as Picard had done in the Louviers
affair, how cleverly and discreetly such cases as Cadière's could be
hidden away. He talked of it this very Good Friday. But she seemed too
weak to be taken safely from her bed. At last, however, four days after
Easter, a miscarriage took place.
The girl Laugier had also been having strange convulsive fits, and
absurd beginnings of stigmata: one of them being an old wound,
caused by her scissors when she was working as a seamstress, the other
an eruptive sore in her side. Her transports suddenly turned to impious
despair. She spat upon the crucifix: she cried out against Girard,
that devil of a priest, who had brought a poor girl of two-and-twenty
into such a plight, only to forsake her afterwards! Girard dared not
go and face her passionate outbreaks. But the women about her, being
all in his interest, found some way of bringing this matter to a quiet
Was Girard a wizard, as people afterwards maintained? They might
well think so, who saw how easily, being neither young nor handsome, he
had charmed so many women. Stranger still it was, that after getting
thus compromised, he swayed opinion to such a degree. For a while, he
seemed to have enchanted the whole town.
The truth was, that everyone knew the strength of the Jesuits.
Nobody cared to quarrel with them. It was hardly reckoned safe to speak
ill of them, even in a whisper. The bulk of the priesthood consisted of
monklings of the Mendicant orders, who had no powerful friends or high
connections. The Carmelites themselves, jealous and hurt as they were
at losing Cadière, kept silence. Her brother, the young Jacobin, was
lectured by his trembling mother into resuming his old circumspect
ways. Becoming reconciled to Girard, he came at length to serve him as
devotedly as did his younger brother, even lending himself to a curious
trick by which people were led to believe that Girard had the gift of
* * * * *
Such weak opposition as he might have to fear, would come only from
the very person whom he seemed to have most thoroughly mastered.
Submissive hitherto, Cadière now gave some slight tokens of a coming
independence which could not help showing itself. On the 30th of April,
at a country party got up by the polite Girard, and to which he sent
his troop of young devotees in company with Guiol, Cadière fell into
deep thought. The fair spring-time, in that climate so very charming,
lifted her heart up to God. She exclaimed with a feeling of true piety,
Thee, Thee only, do I seek, O Lord! Thine angels are not enough for
me. Then one of the party, a blithesome girl, having, in the
Provencial fashion, hung a tambourine round her neck, Cadière skipped
and danced about like the rest; with a rug thrown across her shoulders,
she danced the Bohemian measure, and made herself giddy with a hundred
She was very unsettled. In May she got leave from her mother to make
a trip to Sainte-Baume, to the Church of St. Mary Magdalen, the chief
saint of girls on penance. Girard would only let her go under charge of
two faithful overlookers, Guiol and Reboul. But though she had still
some trances on the way, she showed herself weary of being a passive
tool to the violent spirit, whether divine or devilish, that annoyed
her. The end of her year's possession was not far off. Had she
not won her freedom? Once issued forth from the gloom and witcheries of
Toulon, into the open air, in the midst of nature, beneath the full
sunshine, the prisoner regained her soul, withstood the stranger
spirit, dared to be herself, to use her own will. Girard's two spies
were far from edified thereat. On their return from this short journey,
from the 17th to the 22nd May, they warned him of the change. He was
convinced of it from his own experience. She fought against the trance,
seeming no longer wishful to obey aught save reason.
He had thought to hold her both by his power of charming and through
the holiness of his high office, and, lastly, by right of possession
and carnal usage. But he had no hold upon her at all. The youthful
soul, which, after all, had not been so much conquered as treacherously
surprised, resumed its own nature. This hurt him. Besides his business
of pedant, his tyranny over the children he chastised at will, over
nuns not less at his disposal, there remained within a hard bottom of
domineering jealousy. He determined to snatch Cadière back by punishing
this first little revolt, if such a name could be given to the timid
fluttering of a soul rising again from its long compression. On the
22nd May she confessed to him after her wont; but he refused to absolve
her, declaring her to be so guilty that on the morrow he would have to
lay upon her a very great penance indeed.
What would that be? A fast? But she was weakened and wasted already.
Long prayers, again, were not in fashion with Quietist directors,were
in fact forbidden. There remained the discipline, or bodily
chastisement. This punishment, then everywhere habitual, was enforced
as prodigally in convents as in colleges. It was a simple and summary
means of swift execution, sometimes, in a rude and simple age, carried
out in the churches themselves. The Fabliaux show us an artless
picture of manners, where, after confessing husband and wife, the
priest gave them the discipline without any ceremony, just as they
were, behind the confessional. Scholars, monks, nuns, were all punished
in the same way.
 The Dauphin was cruelly flogged. A boy of fifteen,
according to St. Simon, died from the pain of a like
infliction. The prioress of the Abbey-in-the-Wood, pleaded
before the King against the afflictive chastisement
threatened by her superior. For the credit of the convent,
she was spared the public shame; but the superior, to whom
she was consigned, doubtless punished her in a quiet way. The
immoral tendency of such a practice became more and more
manifest. Fear and shame led to woeful entreaties and
Girard knew that a girl like Cadière, all unused to shame, and very
modestfor what she had hitherto suffered took place unknown to
herself in her sleepwould feel so cruelly tortured, so fatally
crushed by this unseemly chastisement, as utterly to lose what little
buoyancy she had. She was pretty sure too, if we must speak out, to be
yet more cruelly mortified than other women, in respect of the pang
endured by her woman's vanity. With so much suffering, and so many
fasts, followed by her late miscarriage, her body, always delicate,
seemed worn away to a shadow. All the more surely would she shrink from
any exposure of a form so lean, so wasted, so full of aches. Her
swollen legs and such-like small infirmities would serve to enhance her
We lack the courage to relate what followed. It may all be read in
those three depositions, so artless, so manifestly unfeigned, in which,
without being sworn, she made it her duty to avow what self-interest
bade her conceal, owning even to things which were afterwards turned to
the cruellest account against her.
Her first deposition was made on the spur of the moment, before the
spiritual judge who was sent to take her by surprise. In this we seem
to be ever hearing the utterances of a young heart that speaks as
though in God's own presence. The second was taken before the KingI
should rather say before the magistrate who represented him, the
Lieutenant Civil and Criminal of Toulon. The last was heard before the
great assembly of the Parliament of Aix.
Observe that all three, agreeing as they do wonderfully together,
were printed at Aix under the eye of her enemies, in a volume where, as
I shall presently prove, an attempt was made to extenuate the guilt of
Girard, and fasten the reader's gaze on every point likely to tell
against Cadière. And yet the editor could not help inserting
depositions like these, which bear with crushing weight on the man he
sought to uphold.
It was a monstrous piece of inconsistency on Girard's part. He first
frightened the poor girl, and then suddenly took a base, a cruel
advantage of her fears.
In this case no plea of love can be offered in extenuation. The
truth is far otherwise: he loved her no more. And this forms the most
dreadful part of the story. We have seen how cruelly he drugged her; we
have now to see her utterly forsaken. He owed her a grudge for being of
greater worth than those other degraded women. He owed her a grudge for
having unwittingly tempted him and brought him into danger. Above all,
he could not forgive her for keeping her soul in safety. He sought only
to tame her down, but caught hopefully at her oft-renewed assurance, I
feel that I shall not live. Villanous profligate that he was,
bestowing his shameful kisses on that poor shattered body whose death
he longed to see!
How did he account to her for this shocking antagonism of cruelty
and caresses? Was it meant to try her patience and obedience, or did he
boldly pass on to the true depths of Molinos' teaching, that only by
dint of sinning can sin be quelled? Did she take it all in full
earnest, never perceiving that all this show of justice, penitence,
expiation, was downright profligacy and nothing else?
She did not care to understand him in the strange moral crash that
befell her after that 23rd May, under the influence of a mild warm
June. She submitted to her master, of whom she was rather afraid, and
with a singularly servile passion carried on the farce of undergoing
small penances day by day. So little regard did Girard show for her
feelings that he never hid from her his relations with other women. All
he wanted was to get her into a convent. Meanwhile she was his
plaything: she saw him, let him have his way. Weak, and yet further
weakened by the shame that unnerved her, growing sadder and more sad at
heart, she had now but little hold on life, and would keep on saying,
in words that brought no sorrow to Girard's soul, I feel that I shall
soon be dead.
CHAPTER XI. CADIERE IN THE CONVENT:
The Abbess of the Ollioules Convent was young for an abbess, being
only thirty-eight years old. She was not wanting in mind. She was
lively, swift alike in love and in hatred, hurried away by her heart
and her senses also, endowed with very little of the tact and the
moderation needed for the governing of such a body.
This nunnery drew its livelihood from two sources. On the one side,
there came to it from Toulon two or three nuns of consular families,
who brought good dowers with them, and therefore did what they pleased.
They lived with the Observantine monks who had the ghostly direction of
the convent. On the other hand, these monks, whose order had spread to
Marseilles and many other places, picked up some little boarders and
novices who paid for their keep: a contact full of danger and
unpleasantness for the children, as one may see by the Aubany affair.
There was no real confinement, nor much internal order. In the
scorching summer nights of that African climate, peculiarly oppressive
and wearying in the airless passes of Ollioules, nuns and novices went
to and fro with the greatest freedom. The very same things were going
on at Ollioules in 1730 which we saw in 1630 at Loudun. The bulk of
nuns, well-nigh a dozen out of the fifteen who made up the house, being
rather forsaken by the monks, who preferred ladies of loftier position,
were poor creatures, sick at heart, and disinherited, with nothing to
console them but tattling, child's play, and other school-girls'
The abbess was afraid that Cadière would soon see through all this.
She made some demur about taking her in. Anon, with some abruptness,
she entirely changed her cue. In a charming letter, all the more
flattering as sent so unexpectedly from such a lady to so young a girl,
she expressed a hope of her leaving the ghostly guidance of Father
Girard. The girl was not, of course, to be transferred to her
Observantines, who were far from capable of the charge. The abbess had
formed the bold, enlivening idea of taking her into her own hands and
becoming her sole director.
She was very vain. Deeming herself more agreeable than an old Jesuit
confessor, she reckoned on making this prodigy her own, on conquering
her without trouble. She would have worked the young saint for the
benefit of her house.
She paid her the marked compliment of receiving her on the
threshold, at the street-door. She kissed her, caught her up, led her
into the abbess's own fine room, and bade her share it with herself.
She was charmed with her modesty, with her invalid grace, with a
certain strangeness at once mysterious and melting. In that short
journey the girl had suffered a great deal. The abbess wanted to lay
her down in her own bed, saying she loved her so that she would have
them sleep together like sisters in one bed.
For her purpose this was probably more than was needful. It would
have been quite enough to have the saint under her own roof. She would
now have too much the look of a little favourite. The lady, however,
was surprised at the young girl's hesitation, which doubtless sprang
from her modesty or her humility; in part, perhaps, from a comparison
of her own ill-health with the young health and blooming beauty of the
other. But the abbess tenderly urged her request.
Under the influence of a fondling so close and so continual, she
deemed that Girard would be forgotten. With all abbesses it had become
the ruling fancy, the pet ambition, to confess their own nuns,
according to the practice allowed by St. Theresa. By this pleasant
scheme of hers the same result would come out of itself, the young
woman telling her confessors only of small things, but keeping the
depths of her heart for one particular person. Caressed continually by
one curious woman, at eventide, in the night, when her head was on the
pillow, she would have let out many a secret, whether her own or
From this living entanglement she could not free herself at the
first. She slept with the abbess. The latter thought she held her fast
by a twofold tie, by the opposite means employed on the saint and on
the woman; that is, on the nervous, sensitive, and, through her
weakness, perhaps sensual girl. Her story, her sayings, whatever fell
from her lips, were all written down. From other sources she picked up
the meanest details of her physical life, and forwarded the report
thereof to Toulon. She would have made her an idol, a pretty little pet
doll. On a slope so slippery the work of allurement doubtless moved
apace. But the girl had scruples and a kind of fear. She made one great
effort, of which her weak health would have made her seem incapable.
She humbly asked leave to quit that dove's-nest, that couch too soft
and delicate, to go and live in common with the novices or the
Great was the abbess's surprise; great her mortification. She
fancied herself scorned. She took a spite against the thankless girl,
and never forgave her.
* * * * *
From the others Cadière met with a very pleasant welcome. The
mistress of the novices, Madame de Lescot, a nun from Paris, refined
and good, was a worthier woman than the abbess. She seemed to
understand the otherto see in her a poor prey of fate, a young heart
full of God, but cruelly branded by some eccentric spell which seemed
like to hurry her onward to disgrace, to some unhappy end. She busied
herself entirely with looking after the girl, saving her from her own
rashness, interpreting her to others, excusing those things which might
in her be least excusable.
Saving the two or three noble ladies who lived with the monks and
had small relish for the higher mysticism, they were all fond of her,
and took her for an angel from heaven. Their tender feelings having
little else to engage them, became concentred in her and her alone.
They found her not only pious and wonderfully devout, but a good child
withal, kind-hearted, winning, and entertaining. They were no longer
listless and sick at heart. She engaged and edified them with her
dreams, with stories true, or rather, perhaps, unfeigned, mingled ever
with touches of purest tenderness. She would say, At night I go
everywhere, even to America. Everywhere I leave letters bidding people
repent. To-night I shall go and seek you out, even when you have locked
yourselves in. We will all go together into the Sacred Heart.
The miracle was wrought. Each of them at midnight, so she said,
received the delightful visit. They all fancied they felt Cadière
embracing them, and making them enter the heart of Jesus. They were
very frightened and very happy. Tenderest, most credulous of all, was
Sister Raimbaud, a woman of Marseilles, who tasted this happiness
fifteen times in three months, or nearly once in every six days.
It was purely the effect of imagination. The proof is, that Cadière
visited all of them at one same moment. The abbess meanwhile was hurt,
being roused at the first to jealousy by the thought that she only had
been left out, and afterwards feeling assured that, lost as the girl
might be in her own dreams, she would get through so many intimate
friends but too clear an inkling into the scandals of the house.
These were scarcely hidden from her at all. But as nothing came to
Cadière save by the way of spiritual insight, she fancied they had been
told her in a revelation. Here her kindliness shone out. She felt a
large compassion for the God who was thus outraged. And once again she
imagined herself bound to atone for the rest, to save the sinners from
the punishment they deserved, by draining herself the worst cruelties
which the rage of devils would have power to wreak.
All this burst upon her on the 25th June, the Feast of St. John. She
was spending the evening with the sisters in the novices' rooms. With a
loud cry she fell backward in contortions, and lost all consciousness.
When she came to, the novices surrounded her, waiting eager to hear
what she was going to say. But the governess, Madame Lescot, guessed
what she would say, felt that she was about to ruin herself. So she
lifted her up, and led her straight to her room, where she found
herself quite flayed, and her linen covered with blood.
Why did Girard fail her amidst these struggles inward and from
without? She could not make him out. She had much need of support, and
yet he never came, except for one moment at rare intervals, to the
She wrote to him on the 28th June, by her brothers; for though she
could read, she was scarcely able to write. She called to him in the
most stirring, the most urgent tones, and he answers by putting her
off. He has to preach at Hyères, he has a sore throat, and so on.
Wonderful to tell, it is the abbess herself who brings him thither.
No doubt she was uneasy at Cadière's discovering so much of the inner
life of the convent. Making sure that the girl would talk of it to
Girard, she wished to forestal her. In a very flattering and tender
note of the 3rd July, she besought the Jesuit to come and see herself
first, for she longed, between themselves, to be his pupil, his
disciple, as humble Nicodemus had been of Christ. Under your guidance,
by the blessing of that holy freedom which my post ensures me, I should
move forward swiftly and noiselessly in the path of virtue. The state
of our young candidate here will serve me as a fair and useful
A startling, ill-considered step, betraying some unsoundness in the
lady's mind. Having failed to supplant Girard with Cadière, she now
essayed to supplant Cadière with Girard. Abruptly, without the least
preface, she stepped forward. She made her decision, like a great lady,
who was still agreeable and quite sure of being taken at her word, who
would go so far as even to talk of the freedom she enjoyed!
In taking so false a step she started from a true belief that Girard
had ceased to care much for Cadière. But she might have guessed that he
had other things to perplex him in Toulon. He was disturbed by an
affair no longer turning upon a young girl, but on a lady of ripe age,
easy circumstances, and good standing; on his wisest penitent, Mdlle.
Gravier. Her forty years failed to protect her. He would have no
self-governed sheep in his fold. One day, to her surprise and
mortification, she found herself pregnant, and loud was her wail
Taken up with this new adventure, Girard looked but coldly on the
abbess's unforeseen advances. He mistrusted them as a trap laid for him
by the Observantines. He resolved to be cautious, saw the abbess, who
was already embarrassed by her rash step, and then saw Cadière, but
only in the chapel where he confessed her.
The latter was hurt by his want of warmth. In truth his conduct
showed strange inconsistencies. He unsettled her with his light,
agreeable letters, full of little sportive threats which might have
been called lover-like. And yet he never deigned to see her save in
In a note written the same evening she revenged herself in a very
delicate way. She said that when he granted her absolution, she felt
wonderfully dissevered both from herself and from every other
It was just what Girard would have wanted. His plots had fallen into
a sad tangle, and Cadière was in the way. Her letter enchanted him: far
from being annoyed with her, he enjoined her to keep dissevered. At the
same time, he hinted at the need he had for caution. He had received a
letter, he said, warning him sharply of her faults. However, as he
would set off on the 6th July for Marseilles, he would see her on the
She awaited him, but no Girard came. Her agitation was very great.
It brought on a sharp fit of her old bodily distemper. She spoke of it
to her dear Sister Raimbaud, who would not leave her, who slept with
her, against the rules. This was on the night of the 6th July, when the
heat in that close oven of Ollioules was most oppressive and condensed.
At four or five o'clock, seeing her writhe in sharp suffering, the
other thought she had the colic, and went to fetch some fire from the
kitchen. While she was gone, Cadière tried by one last effort to bring
Girard to her side forthwith. Whether with her nails she had re-opened
the wounds in her head, or whether she had stuck upon it the sharp iron
crown, she somehow made herself all bloody. The pain transfigured her,
until her eyes sparkled again.
This lasted not less than two hours. The nuns flocked to see her in
this state, and gazed admiringly. They would even have brought their
Observantines thither, had Cadière not prevented them.
The abbess would have taken good care to tell Girard nothing, lest
he should see her in a plight so touching, so very pitiful. But good
Madame Lescot comforted the girl by sending the news to the father. He
came, but like a true juggler, instead of going up to her room at once,
had himself an ecstatic fit in the chapel, staying there a whole hour
on his knees, prostrate before the Holy Sacrament. Going at length
upstairs, he found Cadière surrounded by all the nuns. They tell him
how for a moment she looked as if she was at mass, how she seemed to
open her lips to receive the Host. Who should know that better than
myself? said the knave. An angel had told me. I repeated the mass,
and gave her the sacrament from Toulon. They were so upset by the
miracle, that one of them was two days ill. Girard then addressed
Cadière with unseemly gaiety: So, so, little glutton! would you rob me
of half my share?
They withdraw respectfully, leaving these two alone. Behold him face
to face with his bleeding victim, so pale, so weak, but agitated all
the more! Anyone would have been greatly moved. The avowal expressed by
her blood, her wounds, rather than spoken words, was likely to reach
his heart. It was a humbling sight; but who would not have pitied her?
This innocent girl could for one moment yield to nature! In her short
unhappy life, a stranger as she was to the charms of sense, the poor
young saint could still show one hour of weakness! All he had hitherto
enjoyed of her without her knowledge, became mere nought. With her
soul, her will, he would now be master of everything.
In her deposition Cadière briefly and bashfully said that she lost
all knowledge of what happened next. In a confession made to one of her
friends she uttered no complaints, but let her understand the truth.
And what did Girard do in return for so charmingly bold a flight of
that impatient heart? He scolded her. He was only chilled by a warmth
which would have set any other heart on fire. His tyrannous soul wanted
nothing but the dead, the merest plaything of his will. And this girl,
by the boldness of her first move, had forced him to come. The scholar
had drawn the master along. The peevish pedant treated the matter as he
would have treated a rebellion at school. His lewd severities, his
coolly selfish pursuit of a cruel pleasure, blighted the unhappy girl,
who now had nothing left her but remorse.
It was no less shocking a fact, that the blood poured out for his
sake had no other effect than to tempt him to make the most of it for
his own purposes. In this, perhaps his last, interview he sought to
make so far sure of the poor thing's discretion, that, however forsaken
by him, she herself might still believe in him. He asked if he was to
be less favoured than the nuns who had seen the miracle. She let
herself bleed before him. The water with which he washed away the blood
he drank himself, and made her drink also, and by this hateful
communion, he thought to bind fast her soul.
 This communion of blood prevailed among the Northern
Reiters. See my Origines.
This lasted two or three hours, and it was now near noon. The abbess
was scandalized. She resolved to go with the dinner herself, and make
them open the door. Girard took some tea: it being Friday, he pretended
to be fasting; though he had doubtless armed himself well at Toulon.
Cadière asked for coffee. The lay sister who managed the kitchen was
surprised at this on such a day. But without that strengthening draught
she would have fainted away. It set her up a little, and she kept hold
of Girard still. He stayed with her, no longer indeed locked in, till
four o'clock, seeking to efface the gloomy impression caused by his
conduct in the morning. By dint of lying about friendship and
fatherhood, he somewhat reassured the susceptible creature, and calmed
her troubled spirits. She showed him the way out, and, walking after
him, took, childlike, two or three skips for joy. He said, drily,
* * * * *
She paid heavily for her weakness. At nine of that same night she
had a dreadful vision, and was heard crying out, O God! keep off from
me! get back! On the morning of the 8th, at mass she did not stay for
the communion, deeming herself, no doubt, unworthy, but made her escape
to her own room. Thereon arose much scandal. Yet so greatly was she
beloved, that one of the nuns ran after her, and, telling a
compassionate falsehood, swore she had beheld Jesus giving her the
sacrament with His own hand.
Madame Lescot delicately and cleverly wrote a legend out of the
mystic ejaculations, the holy sighs, the devout tears, and whatever
else burst forth from this shattered heart. Strange to say, these women
tenderly conspired to shield a woman. Nothing tells more than this in
behalf of poor Cadière and her delightful gifts. Already in one month's
time she had become the child of all. They defended her in everything
she did. Innocent though she might be, they saw in her only the victim
of the Devil's attacks. One kind sturdy woman of the people, Matherone,
daughter of the Ollioules locksmith, and porteress herself to the
convent, on seeing some of Girard's indecent liberties, said, in spite
of them, No matter: she is a saint. And when he once talked of taking
her from the convent, she cried out, Take away our Mademoiselle
Cadière! I will have an iron door made to keep her from going.
Alarmed at the state of things, and at the use to which it might be
turned by the abbess and her monks, Cadière's brethren who came to her
every day, took courage to be beforehand; and in a formal letter
written in her name to Girard, reminded him of the revelation given to
her on the 25th June regarding the morals of the Observantines. It was
time, they said, to carry out God's purposes in this matter, namely,
of course, to demand an inquiry, to accuse the accusers.
Their excess of boldness was very rash. Cadière, now all but dying,
had no such thoughts in her head. Her women-friends imagined that he
who had caused the disturbance would, perhaps, bring back the calm.
They besought Girard to come and confess her. A dreadful scene took
place. At the confessional she uttered cries and wailings audible
thirty paces off. The curious among them found some amusement listening
to her, and were not disappointed. Girard was inflicting chastisement.
Again and again he said, Be calm, mademoiselle! In vain did he try to
absolve her. She would not be absolved. On the 12th, she had so sharp a
pang below her heart, that she felt as though her sides were bursting.
On the 14th, she seemed fast dying, and her mother was sent for. She
received the viaticum; and on the morrow made a public confession, the
most touching, the most expressive that had ever been heard. We were
drowned in tears. On the 20th, she was in a state of heart-rending
agony. After that she had a sudden and saving change for the better,
marked by a very soothing vision. She beheld the sinful Magdalen
pardoned, caught up into glory, filling in heaven the place which
Lucifer had lost.
Girard, however, could only ensure her discretion by corrupting her
yet further, by choking her remorse. Sometimes he would come to the
parlour and greet her with bold embraces. But oftener he sent his
faithful followers, Guiol and others, who sought to initiate her into
their own disgraceful secrets, while seeming to sympathise tenderly
with the sufferings of their outspoken friend. Girard not only winked
at this, but himself spoke freely to Cadière of such matters as the
pregnancy of Mdlle. Gravier. He wanted her to ask him to Ollioules, to
calm his irritation, to persuade him that such a circumstance might be
a delusion of the Devil's causing, which could perchance be dispelled.
These impure teachings made no way with Cadière. They were sure to
anger her brethren, to whom they were not unknown. The letters they
wrote in her name are very curious. Enraged at heart and sorely
wounded, accounting Girard a villain, but obliged to make their sister
speak of him with respectful tenderness, they still, by snatches, let
their wrath become visible.
As for Girard's letters, they are pieces of laboured writing,
manifestly meant for the trial which might take place. Let us talk of
the only one which he did not get into his hands to tamper with. It is
dated the 22nd July. It is at once sour and sweet, agreeable, trifling,
the letter of a careless man. The meaning of it is thus:
The bishop reached Toulon this morning, and will go to see
Cadière.... They will settle together what to do and say. If the Grand
Vicar and Father Sabatier wish to see her, and ask to see her wounds,
she will tell them that she has been forbidden to do or say aught.
I am hungering to see you again, to see the whole of you. You know
that I only demand my right. It is so long since I have seen
more than half of you (he means to say, at the parlour grating). Shall
I tire you? Well, do you not also tire me? And so on.
A strange letter in every way. He distrusts alike the bishop and the
Jesuit, his own colleague, old Sabatier. It is at bottom the letter of
a restless culprit. He knows that in her hands she holds his letters,
his papers, the means, in short, of ruining him. The two young men
write back in their sister's name a spirited answerthe only one that
has a truthful sound. They answer him line for line, without insult,
but with a roughness often ironical, and betraying the wrath pent-up
within them. The sister promises to obey him, to say nothing either to
the bishop or the Jesuit. She congratulates him on having boldness
enough to exhort others to suffer. She takes up and returns him his
shocking gallantry, but in a shocking way; and here we trace a man's
hand, the hand of those two giddy heads.
Two days after, they went and told her to decide on leaving the
convent forthwith. Girard was dismayed. He thought his papers would
disappear with her. The greatness of his terror took away his senses.
He had the weakness to go and weep at the Ollioules parlour, to fall on
his knees before her, and ask her if she had the heart to leave him.
Touched by his words, the poor girl said No, went forward, and let
him embrace her. And yet this Judas wanted only to deceive her, to gain
a few days' time for securing help from a higher quarter.
On the 29th there is an utter change. Cadière stays at Ollioules,
begs him to excuse her, vows submission. It is but too clear that he
has set some mighty influences at work; that from the 29th threats come
in, perhaps from Aix, and presently from Paris. The Jesuit bigwigs have
been writing, and their courtly patrons from Versailles.
In such a struggle, what were the brethren to do? No doubt they took
counsel with their chiefs, who would certainly warn them against
setting too hard on Girard as a libertine confessor; for thereby
offence would be given to all the clergy, who deemed confession their
dearest prize. It was needful, on the contrary; to sever him from the
priests by proving the strangeness of his teaching, by bringing him
forward as a Quietist. With that one word they might lead him a
long way. In 1698, a vicar in the neighbourhood of Dijon had been burnt
for Quietism. They conceived the idea of drawing up a memoir, dictated
apparently by their sister, to whom the plan was really unknown, in
which the high and splendid Quietism of Girard should be affirmed, and
therefore in effect denounced. This memoir recounted the visions she
had seen in Lent. In it the name of Girard was already in heaven. She
saw it joined with her own in the Book of Life.
They durst not take this memoir to the bishop. But they got their
friend, little Camerle, his youthful chaplain, to steal it from them.
The bishop read it, and circulated some copies about the town. On the
21st August, Girard being at the palace, the bishop laughingly said to
him, Well, father, so your name is in the Book of Life!
He was overcome, fancied himself lost, wrote to Cadière in terms of
bitter reproach. Once more with tears he asked for his papers. Cadière
in great surprise vowed that her memoir had never gone out of her
brother's hands. But when she found out her mistake, her despair was
unbounded. The sharpest pangs of body and soul beset her. Once she
thought herself on the point of death. She became like one mad. I long
so much to suffer. Twice I caught up the rod of penance, and wielded it
so savagely as to draw a great deal of blood. In the midst of this
dreadful outbreak, which proved at once the weakness of her head and
the boundless tenderness of her conscience, Guiol finished her by
describing Girard as nearly dead. This raised her compassion to the
She was going to give up the papers. And yet it was but too clear
that these were her only safeguard and support, the only proofs of her
innocence, and the tricks of which she had been made the victim. To
give them up was to risk a change of characters, to risk the imputation
of having herself seduced a saint, the chance, in short, of seeing all
the blame transferred to her own side.
But, if she must either be ruined herself or else ruin Girard, she
would far sooner accept the former result. A demon, Guiol of course,
tempted her in this very way, with the wondrous sublimity of such a
sacrifice. God, she wrote, asked of her a bloody offering. She could
tell her of saints who, being accused, did not justify, but rather
accused themselves, and died like lambs. This example Cadière followed.
When Girard was accused before her, she defended him, saying, He is
right, and I told a falsehood.
She might have yielded up the letters of Girard only; but in so
great an outflowing of heart she would have no haggling, and so gave
him even copies of her own.
Thus at the same time he held these drafts written by the Jacobin,
and the copies made and sent him by the other brother. Thenceforth he
had nothing to fear: no further check could be given him. He might make
away with them or put them back again; might destroy, blot out, and
falsify at pleasure. He was perfectly free to carry on his forger's
work, and he worked away to some purpose. Out of twenty-four letters,
sixteen remain; and these still read like elaborately forged
With everything in his own hands, Girard could laugh at his foes. It
was now their turn to be afraid. The bishop, a man of the upper world,
was too well acquainted with Versailles and the name won by the Jesuits
not to treat them with proper tenderness. He even thought it safest to
make Girard some small amends for his unkind reproach about The Book of
Life; and so he graciously informed him that he would like to stand
godfather to the child of one of his kinsmen.
The Bishops of Toulon had always been high lords. The list of them
shows all the first names of Provence, and some famous names from
Italy. From 1712 to 1737, under the Regency and Fleury, the bishop was
one of the La Tours of Pin. He was very rich, having also the Abbeys of
Aniane and St. William of the Desert, in Languedoc. He behaved well, it
was said, during the plague of 1721. However, he stayed but seldom at
Toulon, lived quite as a man of the world, never said mass, and passed
for something more than a lady's man.
In July he went to Toulon, and though Girard would have turned him
aside from Ollioules and Cadière, he was curious to see her
nevertheless. He saw her in one of her best moments. She took his
fancy, seemed to him a pretty little saint; and so far did he believe
in her enlightenment from above, as to speak to her thoughtlessly of
all his affairs, his interests, his future doings, consulting her as he
would have consulted a teller of fortunes.
In spite, however, of the brethren's prayers he hesitated to take
her away from Ollioules and from Girard. A means was found of resolving
him. A report was spread about Toulon, that the girl had shown a desire
to flee into the wilderness, as her model saint, Theresa, had essayed
to do at twelve years old. Girard, they said, had put this fancy into
her head, that he might one day carry her off beyond the diocese whose
pride she was, and box-up his treasure in some far convent, where the
Jesuits, enjoying the whole monopoly, might turn to the most account
her visions, her miracles, her winsome ways as a young saint of the
people. The bishop felt much hurt. He instructed the abbess to give
Mdlle. Cadière up to no one save her mother, who was certain to come
very shortly and take her away from the convent to a country-house
belonging to the family.
In order not to offend Girard, they got Cadière to write and say
that, if such a change incommoded him, he could find a colleague and
give her a second confessor. He saw their meaning, and preferred
disarming jealousy by abandoning Cadière. He gave her up on the 15th
September, in a note most carefully worded and piteously humble, by
which he strove to leave her friendly and tender towards himself. If I
have sometimes done wrong as concerning you, you will never at least
forget how wishful I have been to help you.... I am, and ever will be,
all yours in the Secret Heart of Jesus.
The bishop, however, was not reassured. He fancied that the three
Jesuits, Girard, Sabatier, and Grignet, wanted to beguile him, and some
day, with some order from Paris, rob him of his little woman. On the
17th September, he decided once for all to send his carriage, a light
fashionable phaeton, as it was called, and have her taken off at
once to her mother's country-house.
By way of soothing and shielding her, of putting her in good trim,
he looked out for a confessor, and applied first to a Carmelite who had
confessed her before Girard came. But he, being an old man, declined.
Some others also probably hung back. The bishop had to take a stranger,
but three months come from the County (Avignon), one Father Nicholas,
prior of the Barefooted Carmelites. He was a man of forty, endowed with
brains and boldness, very firm and even stubborn. He showed himself
worthy of such a trust by rejecting it. It was not the Jesuits he
feared, but the girl herself. He foreboded no good therefrom, thought
that the angel might be an angel of darkness, and feared that the Evil
One under the shape of a gentle girl would deal his blows with all the
more baleful effect.
But he could not see her without feeling somewhat reassured. She
seemed so very simple, so pleased at length to have a safe, steady
person, on whom she might lean. The continual wavering in which she had
been kept by Girard, had caused her the greatest suffering. On the
first day she spoke more than she had done for a month past, told him
of her life, her sufferings, her devotions, and her visions. Night
itself, a hot night in mid-September, did not stop her. In her room
everything was open, the windows, and the three doors. She went on even
to daybreak, while her brethren lay near her asleep. On the morrow she
resumed her tale under the vine-bower. The Carmelite was amazed, and
asked himself if the Devil could ever be so earnest in praise of God.
Her innocence was clear. She seemed a nice obedient girl, gentle as
a lamb, frolicsome as a puppy. She wanted to play at bowls, a common
game in those country-places, nor did he for his part refuse to join
If there was a spirit in her, it could not at any rate be called the
spirit of lying. On looking at her closely for a long time, you could
not doubt that her wounds now and then did really bleed. He took care
to make no such immodest scrutiny of them as Girard had done,
contenting himself with a look at the wound upon her foot. Of her
trances he saw quite enough. On a sudden, a burning heat would diffuse
itself everywhere from her heart. Losing her consciousness, she went
into convulsions and talked wildly.
The Carmelite clearly perceived that in her were two persons, the
young woman and the Demon. The former was honest, nay, very fresh of
heart; ignorant, for all that had been done to her; little able to
understand the very things that had brought her into such sore trouble.
When, before confession, she spoke of Girard's kisses, the Carmelite
roughly said, But those are very great sins.
O God! she answered, weeping, I am lost indeed, for he has done
much more than that to me!
The bishop came to see. For him the country-house was only the
length of a walk. She answered his questions artlessly, told him at
least how things began. The bishop was angry, mortified, very wroth. No
doubt he guessed the remainder. There was nought to keep him from
raising a great outcry against Girard. Not caring for the danger of a
struggle with the Jesuits, he entered thoroughly into the Carmelite's
views, allowed that she was bewitched, and added that Girard himself
was the wizard. He wanted to lay him that very moment under a
solemn ban, to bring him to disgrace and ruin. Cadière prayed for him
who had done her so much wrong; vengeance she would not have. Falling
on her knees before the bishop, she implored him to spare Girard, to
speak no more of things so sorrowful. With touching humility, she said,
It is enough for me to be enlightened at last, to know that I was
living in sin. Her Jacobin brother took her part, foreseeing the
perils of such a war, and doubtful whether the bishop would stand fast.
Her attacks of disorder were now fewer. The season had changed. The
burning summer was over. Nature at length showed mercy. It was the
pleasant month of October. The bishop had the keen delight of feeling
that she had been saved by him. No longer under Girard's influence in
the stifling air of Ollioules, but well cared-for by her family, by the
brave and honest monk, protected, too, by the bishop, who never grudged
his visits, and who shielded her with his steady countenance, the young
girl became altogether calm.
For seven weeks or so she seemed quite well-behaved. The bishop's
happiness was so great that he wanted the Carmelite, with Cadière's
help, to look after Girard's other penitents, and bring them also back
to their senses. They should go to the country-house; how unwillingly,
and with how ill a grace we can easily guess. In truth, it was
strangely ill-judged to bring those women before the bishop's ward, a
girl so young still, and but just delivered from her own ecstatic
The state of things became ridiculous and sorely embittered. Two
parties faced each other, Girard's women and those of the bishop. On
the side of the latter were a German lady and her daughter, dear
friends of Cadière's. On the other side were the rebels, headed by the
Guiol. With her the bishop treated, in hopes of getting her to enter
into relations with the Carmelite, and bring her friends over to him.
He sent her his own clerk, and then a solicitor, an old lover of
Guiol's. All this failing of any effect, the bishop came to his last
resource, determined to summon them all to his palace. Here they mostly
denied those trances and mystic marks of which they had made such
boast. One of them, Guiol, of course, astonished him yet more by her
shamelessly treacherous offer to prove to him, on the spot, that they
had no marks whatever about their bodies. They had deemed him wanton
enough to fall into such a snare. But he kept clear of it very well,
declining the offer with thanks to those who, at the cost of their own
modesty, would have had him copy Girard, and provoke the laughter of
all the town.
The bishop was not lucky. On the one hand, these bold wenches made
fun of him. On the other, his success with Cadière was now being
undone. She had hardly entered her own narrow lane in gloomy Toulon,
when she began to fall off. She was just in those dangerous and baleful
centres where her illness began, on the very field of the battle waged
by the two hostile parties. The Jesuits, whose rearguard everyone saw
in the Court, had on their side the crafty, the prudent, the knowing.
The Carmelite had none but the bishop with him, was not even backed by
his own brethren, nor yet by the clergy. He had one weapon, however, in
reserve. On the 8th November, he got out of Cadière a written power to
reveal her confession in case of need.
It was a daring, dauntless step, which made Girard shudder. He was
not very brave, and would have been undone had his cause not been that
of the Jesuits also. He cowered down in the depths of their college.
But his colleague Sabatier, an old, sanguine, passionate fellow, went
straight to the bishop's palace. He entered into the prelate's
presence, like another Popilius, bearing peace or war in his gown. He
pushed him to the wall, made him understand that a suit with the
Jesuits would lead to his own undoing; that he would remain for ever
Bishop of Toulon; would never rise to an archbishopric. Yet further,
with the freedom of an apostle strong at Versailles, he assured him
that if this affair exposed the morals of a Jesuit, it would shed no
less light on the morals of a bishop. In a letter, clearly planned by
Girard, it was pretended that the Jesuits held themselves ready in the
background, to hurl dreadful recriminations against the prelate,
declaring his way of life not only unepiscopal, but abominable
withal. The sly, faithless Girard and the hot-headed Sabatier, swollen
with rage and spitefulness, would have pressed the calumnious charge.
They would not have failed to say that all this matter was about a
girl; that if Girard had taken care of her when ill, the bishop had
gotten her when she was well. What a commotion would be caused by such
a scandal in the well-regulated life of the great worldly lord! It were
too laughable a piece of chivalry to make war in revenge for the
maidenhood of a weak little fool, to embroil oneself for her sake with
all honest people! The Cardinal of Bonzi died indeed of grief at
Toulouse, but that was on account of a fair lady, the Marchioness of
Ganges. The bishop, on his part, risked his ruin, risked the chance of
being overwhelmed with shame and ridicule, for the child of a
retail-dealer in the Rue de l'Hôpital!
Sabatier's threatenings made all the greater impression, because the
bishop himself clung less firmly to Cadière. He did not thank her for
falling ill again; for giving the lie to his former success; for doing
him a wrong by her relapse. He bore her a grudge for having failed to
cure her. He said to himself that Sabatier was in the right; that he
had better come to a compromise. The change was suddena kind of
warning from above. All at once, like Paul on the way to Damascus, he
beheld the light, and became a convert to the Jesuits.
Sabatier would not let him go. He put paper before him, and made him
write and sign a decree forbidding the Carmelite, his agent with
Cadière, and another forbidding her brother, the Jacobin.
CHAPTER XII. THE TRIAL OF CADIERE:
We can guess how this alarming blow was taken by the Cadière family.
The sick girl's attacks became frequent and fearful. By a cruel chance
they brought on a kind of epidemic among her intimate friends. Her
neighbour, the German lady, who had trances also, which she had
hitherto deemed divine, now fell into utter fright, and fancied they
came from hell. This worthy dame of fifty years remembered that she,
too, had often had unclean thoughts: she believed herself given over to
the Devil; saw nothing but devils about her; and escaping from her own
house in spite of her daughter's watchfulness, entreated shelter from
the Cadières. From that time the house became unbearable; business
could not be carried on. The elder Cadière inveighed furiously against
Girard, crying, He shall be served like Gauffridi: he, too, shall be
burnt! And the Jacobin added, Rather would we waste the whole of our
On the night of the 17th November, Cadière screamed, and was like
one choking. They thought she was going to die. The eldest Cadière, the
tradesman, lost his wits, and called out to his neighbours from the
window, Help! the Devil is throttling my sister! They came running up
almost in their shirts. The doctors and surgeons wanted to apply the
cupping-glasses to a case of what they called suffocation of the
womb. While some were gone to fetch these, they succeeded in unlocking
her teeth and making her swallow a drop of brandy, which brought her to
herself. Meanwhile there also came to the girl some doctors of the
soul; first an old priest confessor to Cadière's mother, and then some
parsons of Toulon. All this noise and shouting, the arrival of the
priests in full dress, the preparations for exorcising, had brought
everyone out into the street. The newcomers kept asking what was the
matter. Cadière has been bewitched by Girard, was the continual
reply. We may imagine the pity and the wrath of the people.
Greatly alarmed, but anxious to cast the fear back on others, the
Jesuits did a very barbarous thing. They returned to the bishop,
ordered and insisted that Cadière should be brought to trial; that the
attack should be made that very day; that justice should make an
unforeseen descent on this poor girl, as she lay rattling in the throat
after the last dreadful seizure.
Sabatier never left the bishop until the latter had called his
judge, his officer, the Vicar-general Larmedieu, and his prosecutor or
episcopal advocate, Esprit Reybaud, and commanded them to go to work
By the Canon Law this was impossible, illegal. A preliminary
inquiry was needed into the facts, before the judicial business
could begin. There was another difficulty: the spiritual judge had no
right to make such an arrest save for a rejection of the Sacrament. The two church-lawyers must have made these objections. But Sabatier
would hear of no excuses. If matters were allowed to drag in this cold
legal way, he would miss his stroke of terror.
Larmedieu was a compliant judge, a friend of the clergy. He was not
one of your rude magistrates who go straight before them, like blind
boars, on the high-road of the law, without seeing or respecting
anyone. He had shown great regard for Aubany, the patron of Ollioules,
during his trial; helping him to escape by the slowness of his own
procedure. Afterwards, when he knew him to be at Marseilles, as if that
was far from France, in the ultima thule or terra incognita
of ancient geographers, he would not budge any further. This, however,
was a very different case: the judge who was so paralytic against
Aubany, had wings, and wings of lightning, for Cadière. It was nine in
the morning when the dwellers in the lane saw with much curiosity a
grand procession arrive at the Cadières' door, with Master Larmedieu
and the episcopal advocate at the head, honoured by an escort of two
clergymen, doctors of theology. The house was invaded: the sick girl
was summoned before them. They made her swear to tell the truth against
herself; swear to defame herself by speaking out in the ears of justice
matters that touched her conscience and the confessional only.
She might have dispensed with an answer, for none of the usual forms
had been observed: but she would not raise the question. She took the
oath that was meant to disarm and betray her. For, being once bound
thereby, she told everything, even to those shameful and ridiculous
details which it must be very painful for any girl to acknowledge.
Larmedieu's official statement and his first examination point to a
clearly settled agreement between him and the Jesuits. Girard was to be
brought forward as the dupe and prey of Cadière's knavery. Fancy a man
of sixty, a doctor, professor, director of nuns, being therewithal so
innocent and credulous, that a young girl, a mere child, was enough to
draw him into the snare! The cunning, shameless wanton had beguiled him
with her visions, but failed to draw him into her own excesses. Enraged
thereat, she endowed him with every baseness that the fancy of a
Messalina could suggest to her!
So far from giving grounds for any such idea, the examination brings
out the victim's gentleness in a very touching way. Evidently she
accuses others only through constraint, under the pressure of her oath
just taken. She is gentle towards her enemies, even to the faithless
Guiol who, in her brother's words, had betrayed her; had done her worst
to corrupt her; had ruined her, last of all, by making her give up the
papers which would have insured her safety.
The Cadière brothers were frightened at their sister's artlessness.
In her regard for her oath she gave herself up without reserve to be
vilified, alas! for ever; to have ballads sung about her; to be mocked
by the very foes of Jesuits and silly scoffing libertines.
The mischief done, they wanted at least to have it defined, to have
the official report of the priests checked by some more serious
measure. Seeming though she did to be the party accused, they made her
the accuser, and prevailed on Marteli Chantard, the King's Lieutenant
Civil and Criminal, to come and take her deposition. In this document,
short and clear, the fact of her seduction is clearly established;
likewise the reproaches she uttered against Girard for his lewd
endearments, reproaches at which he only laughed; likewise the advice
he gave her, to let herself be possessed by the Demon; likewise the
means he used for keeping her wounds open, and so on.
The King's officer, the Lieutenant, was bound to carry the matter
before his own court. For the spiritual judge in his hurry had failed
to go through the forms of ecclesiastic law, and so made his
proceedings null. But the lay magistrate lacked the courage for this.
He let himself be harnessed to the clerical inquiry, accepted Larmedieu
for his colleague, went himself to sit and hear the evidence in the
bishop's court. The clerk of the bishopric wrote it down, and not the
clerk of the King's Lieutenant. Did he write it down faithfully? We
have reason to doubt that, when we find him threatening the witnesses,
and going every night to show their statements to the Jesuits.
The two curates of Cadière's parish, who were heard first, deposed
drily, not in her favour, yet by no means against her, certainly not in
favour of the Jesuits. These latter saw that everything was going amiss
for them. Lost to all shame, at the risk of angering the people, they
determined to break all down. They got from the bishop an order to
imprison Cadière and the chief witnesses she wanted to be heard. These
were the German lady and Batarelle. The girl herself was placed in the
Refuge, a convent-prison; the ladies in a bridewell, the
Good-Shepherd, where mad women and foul streetwalkers needing
punishment were thrown. On the 26th November, Cadière was dragged from
her bed and given over to the Ursulines, penitents of Girard's, who
laid her duly on some rotten straw.
A fear of them thus established, the witnesses might now be heard.
They began with two, choice and respectable. One was the Guiol,
notorious for being Girard's pander, a woman of keen and clever tongue,
who was commissioned to hurl the first dart and open the wound of
slander. The other was Laugier, the little seamstress, whom Cadière had
supported and for whose apprenticeship she had paid. While she lay with
child by Girard, this Laugier had cried out against him; now she washed
away her fault by sneering at Cadière and defiling her benefactress,
but in a very clumsy way, like the shameless wanton she was; ascribing
to her impudent speeches quite contrary to her known habits. Then came
Mdlle. Gravier and her cousin Reboulall the Girardites, in
short, as they were called in Toulon.
But, do as they would, the light would burst forth now and then. The
wife of a purveyor in the house where these Girardites met together,
said, with cruel plainness, that she could not abide them, that they
disturbed the whole house; she spoke of their noisy bursts of laughter,
of their suppers paid for out of the money collected for the poor, and
They were sore afraid lest the nuns should speak out for Cadière.
The bishop's clerk told them, as if from the bishop himself, that those
who spoke evil should be chastised. As a yet stronger measure, they
ordered back from Marseilles the gay Father Aubany, who had some
ascendant over the nuns. His affair with the girl he had violated was
got settled for him. Her parents were made to understand that justice
could do nothing in their case. The child's good name was valued at
eight hundred livres, which were paid on Aubany's account. So, full of
zeal, he returned, a thorough Jesuit, to his troop at Ollioules. The
poor troop trembled indeed, when this worthy father told them of his
commission to warn them that, if they did not behave themselves, they
should be put to the torture.
For all that, they could not get as much as they wanted from these
fifteen nuns. Two or three at most were on Girard's side, but all
stated facts, especially about the 7th July, which bore directly
In despair the Jesuits came to an heroic decision, in order to make
sure of their witnesses. They stationed themselves in an outer hall
which led into the court. There they stopped those going in, tampered
with them, threatened them, and, if they were against Girard, coolly
debarred their entrance by thrusting them out of doors.
Thus the clerical judge and the King's officer were only as puppets
in the Jesuits' hands. The whole town saw this and trembled. During
December, January, and February, the Cadière family drew up and
diffused a complaint touching the way in which justice was denied them
and witnesses suborned. The Jesuits themselves felt that the place
would no longer hold them. They evoked help from a higher quarter. This
seemed best available in the shape of a decree of the Great Council,
which would have brought the matter before itself and hushed up
everything, as Mazarin had done in the Louviers affair. But the
Chancellor was D'Aguesseau; and the Jesuits had no wish to let the
matter go up to Paris. They kept it still in Provence. On the 16th
January, 1731, they got the King to determine that the Parliament of
Provence, where they had plenty of friends, should pass sentence on the
inquiry which two of its councillors were conducting at Toulon.
M. Faucon, a layman, and M. de Charleval, a councillor of the
Church, came in fact and straightway marched down among the Jesuits.
These eager commissioners made so little secret of their loud and
bitter partiality, as to toss out an order for Cadière's remand, just
as they might have done to an accused prisoner; whilst Girard was most
politely called up and allowed to go free, to keep on saying mass and
hearing confessions. And so the plaintiff was kept under lock and key,
in her enemies' hands, exposed to all manner of cruelty from Girard's
From these honest Ursulines she met with just such a reception as if
they had been charged to bring about her death. The room they gave her
was the cell of a mad nun who made everything filthy. In the nun's old
straw, in the midst of a frightful stench, she lay. Her kinsmen on the
morrow had much ado to get in a coverlet and mattress for her use. For
her nurse and keeper she was allowed a poor tool of Girard's, a
lay-sister, daughter to that very Guiol who had betrayed her; a girl
right worthy of her mother, capable of any wickedness, a source of
danger to her modesty, perhaps even to her life. They submitted her to
a course of penance in her case specially painful, refusing her the
right of confessing herself or taking the sacrament. She relapsed into
her illness from the time she was debarred the latter privilege. Her
fierce foe, the Jesuit Sabatier, came into her cell, and formed a new
and startling scheme to win her by a bribe of the holy wafer. The
bargaining began. They offered her terms: she should communicate if she
would only acknowledge herself a slanderer, unworthy of communicating.
In her excessive humbleness she might have done so. But, while ruining
herself, she would also have ruined the Carmelite and her own brethren.
Reduced to Pharisaical tricks, they took to expounding her speeches.
Whatever she uttered in a mystic sense they feigned to accept in its
material hardness. To free herself from such snares she displayed, what
they had least expected, very great presence of mind.
A yet more treacherous plan for robbing her of the public sympathy
and setting the laughers against her, was to find her a lover. They
pretended that she had proposed to a young blackguard that they should
set off together and roam the world.
The great lords of that day, being fond of having children and
little pages to wait on them, readily took in the better-mannered of
their peasant's sons. In this way had the bishop dealt with the boy of
one of his tenants. He washed his face, as it were; made him tidy.
Presently, when the favourite grew up, he gave him the tonsure, dressed
him up like an abbé, and dubbed him his chaplain at the age of twenty.
This person was the Abbé Camerle. Brought up with the footmen and made
to do everything, he was, like many a half-scrubbed country youth, a
sly, but simple lout. He saw that the prelate since his arrival at
Toulon had been curious about Cadière and far from friendly to Girard.
He thought to please and amuse his master by turning himself, at
Ollioules, into a spy on their suspected intercourse. But after the
bishop changed through fear of the Jesuits, Camerle became equally
zealous in helping Girard with active service against Cadière.
He came one day, like another Joseph, to say that Mdlle. Cadière
had, like Potiphar's wife, been tempting him, and trying to shake his
virtue. Had this been true, it was all the more cowardly of him thus to
punish her for a moment's weakness, to take so mean an advantage of
some light word. But his education as page and seminarist was not such
as to bring him either honour or the love of women.
She extricated herself with spirit and success, covering him with
shame. The two angry commissioners saw her making so triumphant an
answer, that they cut the investigation short, and cut down the number
of her witnesses. Out of the sixty-eight she summoned, they allowed but
thirty-eight to appear. Regardless alike of the delays and the forms of
justice, they hurried forward the confronting of witnesses. Yet nothing
was gained, thereby. On the 25th and again on the 26th February, she
renewed her crushing declarations.
Such was their rage thereat, that they declared their regret at the
want of torments and executioners in Toulon, who might have made her
sing out a little. These things formed their ultima ratio. They
were employed, by the Parliaments through all that century. I have
before me a warm defence of torture, written in 1780, by a learned
member of Parliament, who also became a member of the Great Council; it
was dedicated to the King, Louis XVI., and crowned with the flattering
approval of His Holiness Pius VI.
 Muyart de Vouglans, in the sequel to his Loix
But, in default of the torture that would have made her sing, she
was made to speak by a still better process. On the 27th February,
Guiol's daughter, the lay-sister who acted as her jailer, came to her
at an early hour with a glass of wine. She was astonished: she was not
at all thirsty: she never drank wine, especially pure wine, of a
morning. The lay-sister, a rough, strong menial, such as they keep in
convents to manage crazy or refractory women, and to punish children,
overwhelmed the feeble sufferer with remonstrances that looked like
threats. Unwilling as she was, she drank. And she was forced to drink
it all, to the very dregs, which she found unpleasantly salt.
What was this repulsive draught? We have already seen how clever
these old confessors of nuns were at remedies of various kinds. In this
case the wine alone would have done for so weakly a patient. It had
been quite enough to make her drunk, to draw from her at once some
stammering speeches, which the clerk might have moulded into a
downright falsehood. But a drug of some kind, perhaps some wizard's
simple, which would act for several days, was added to the wine, in
order to prolong its effects and leave her no way of disproving
anything laid to her charge.
In her declaration of the 27th February, how sudden and entire a
change! It is nothing but a defence of Girard! Strange to say, the
commissioners make no remark on so abrupt a change. The strange,
shameful sight of a young girl drunk causes no astonishment, fails to
put them on their guard. She is made to own that all which had passed
between herself and Girard was merely the offspring of her own diseased
fancy; that all she had spoken of as real, at the bidding of her
brethren and the Carmelite, was nothing more than a dream. Not content
with whitening Girard, she must blacken her own friends, must crush
them, and put the halter round their necks.
Especially wonderful is the clearness of her deposition, the neat
way in which it is worded. The hand of the skilful clerk peeps out
therefrom. It is very strange, however, that now they are in so fair a
way, they do not follow it up. From the 27th to the 6th of March there
is no further questioning.
On the 28th, the poison having doubtless done its work, and plunged
her into a perfect stupor, or else a kind of Sabbatic frenzy, it was
impossible to bring her forth. After that, while her head was still
disordered, they could easily give her other potions of which she would
know and remember nothing. What happened during those six days seems to
have been so shocking, so sad for poor Cadière, that neither she nor
her brother had the heart to speak of it twice. Nor would they have
spoken at all, had not the brethren themselves incurred a prosecution
aiming at their own lives.
Having won his cause through Cadière's falsehood, Girard dared to
come and see her in her prison, where she lay stupefied or in despair,
forsaken alike of earth and heaven, and if any clear thoughts were left
her, possessed with the dreadful consciousness of having by her last
deposition murdered her own near kin. Her own ruin was complete
already. But another trial, that of her brothers and the bold
Carmelite, would now begin. She may in her remorse have been tempted to
soften Girard, to keep him from proceeding against them, above all to
save herself from being put to the torture. Girard, at any rate, took
advantage of her utter weakness, and behaved like the determined
scoundrel he really was.
Alas! her wandering spirit came but slowly back to her. It was on
the 6th March that she had to face her accusers, to renew her former
admissions, to ruin her brethren beyond repair. She could not speak;
she was choking. The commissioners had the kindness to tell her that
the torture was there, at her side; to describe to her the wooden
horse, the points of iron, the wedges for jamming fast her bones. Her
courage failed her, so weak she was now of body. She submitted to be
set before her cruel master, who might laugh triumphant now that he had
debased not only her body, but yet more her conscience, by making her
the murderess of her own friends.
No time was lost in profiting by her weakness. They prevailed
forthwith on the Parliament of Aix to let the Carmelite and the two
brothers be imprisoned, that they might undergo a separate trial for
their lives, as soon as Cadière should have been condemned.
On the 10th March, she was dragged from the Ursulines of Toulon to
Sainte-Claire of Ollioules. Girard, however, was not sure of her yet.
He got leave to have her conducted, like some dreaded highway robber,
between some soldiers of the mounted police. He demanded that she
should be carefully locked up at Sainte-Claire. The ladies were moved
to tears at the sight of a poor sufferer who could not drag herself
forward, approaching between those drawn swords. Everyone pitied her.
Two brave men, M. Aubin, a solicitor, and M. Claret, a notary, drew up
for her the deeds in which she withdrew her late confession, fearful
documents that record the threats of the commissioners and of the
Ursuline prioress, and above all, the fact of the drugged wine she had
been forced to drink.
At the same time these daring men drew up for the Chancellor's court
at Paris a plea of error, as it is called, exposing the irregular and
blameable proceedings, the wilful breaches of the law, effected in the
coolest way, first by the bishop's officer and the King's Lieutenant,
secondly by the two commissioners. The Chancellor D'Aguesseau showed
himself very slack and feeble. He let these foul proceedings stand;
left the business in charge of the Parliament of Aix, sullied as it
already seemed to be by the disgrace with which two of its members had
just been covering themselves.
So once more they laid hands on their victim, and had her dragged,
in charge as before of the mounted police, from Ollioules to Aix. In
those days people slept at a public house midway. Here the corporal
explained that, by virtue of his orders, he would sleep in the young
girl's room. They pretended to believe that an invalid unable to walk,
might flee away by jumping out of window. Truly, it was a most
villanous device, to commit such a one to the chaste keeping of the
heroes of the dragonnades. Happily, her mother had come to
see her start, had followed her in spite of everything, and they did
not dare to beat her away with their butt-ends. She stayed in the room,
kept watchneither of them, indeed, lying downand shielded her child
from all harm.
 Alluding to the cruelties dealt on the Huguenots by the
French dragoons, at the close of Louis the Fourteenth's
Cadière was forwarded to the Ursulines of Aix, who had the King's
command to take her in charge. But the prioress pretended that the
order had not yet come. We may see here how savage a woman who was once
impassioned will grow, until she has lost all her woman's nature. She
kept the other four hours at her street-door, as if she were a public
show. There was time to fetch a mob of Jesuits' followers, of honest
Church artizans, to hoot and hiss, while children might help by
throwing stones. For these four hours she was in the pillory. Some,
however, of the more dispassionate passers-by asked if the Ursulines
had gotten orders to let them kill the girl. We may guess what tender
jailers their sick prisoner would find in these good sisters!
The ground was prepared with admirable effect. By a spirited concert
between Jesuit magistrates and plotting ladies, a system of deterring
had been set on foot. No pleader would ruin himself by defending a girl
thus heavily aspersed. No one would digest the poisonous things stored
up by her jailers, for him who should daily show his face in their
parlour to await an interview with Cadière. The defence in that case
would devolve on M. Chaudon, syndic of the Aix bar. He did not decline
so hard a duty. And yet he was so uneasy as to desire a settlement,
which the Jesuits refused. Thereupon he showed what he really was, a
man of unswerving honesty, of amazing courage. He exposed, with the
learning of a lawyer, the monstrous character of the whole proceeding.
So doing, he would for ever embroil himself with the Parliament no less
than the Jesuits. He brought into sharp outline the spiritual incest of
the confessor, though he modestly refrained from specifying how far he
had carried his profligacy. He also withheld himself from speaking of
Girard's girls, the loose-lived devotees, as a matter well-known, but
to which no one would have liked to bear witness. In short, he gave
Girard the best case he could by assailing him as a wizard.
People laughed, made fun of the advocate. He undertook to prove the
existence of demons by a series of sacred texts, beginning with the
Gospels. This made them laugh the louder.
The case had been cleverly disfigured by the turning of an honest
Carmelite into Cadière's lover, and the weaver of a whole chain of
libels against Girard and the Jesuits. Thenceforth the crowd of idlers,
of giddy worldlings, scoffers and philosophers alike, made merry with
either side, being thoroughly impartial as between Carmelite and
Jesuit, and exceedingly rejoiced to see this battle of monk with monk.
Those who were presently to be called Voltairites, were even
better inclined towards the polished Jesuits, those men of the world,
than towards any of the old mendicant orders.
So the matter became more and more tangled. Jokes kept raining down,
but raining mostly on the victim. They called it a love-intrigue. They
saw in it nothing but food for fun. There was not a scholar nor a clerk
who did not turn a ditty on Girard and his pupil, who did not hash up
anew the old provincial jokes about Madeline in the Gauffridi affair,
her six thousand imps, their dread of a flogging, and the wonderful
chastening-process whereby Cadière's devils were put to flight.
On this latter point the friends of Girard had no difficulty in
proving him clean. He had acted by his right as director, in accordance
with the common wont. The rod is the symbol of fatherhood. He had
treated his penitent with a view to the healing of her soul. They used
to thrash demoniacs, to thrash the insane and sufferers in other ways.
This was the favourite mode of hunting out the enemy, whether in the
shape of devil or disease. With the people it was a very common idea.
One brave workman of Toulon, who had witnessed Cadière's sad plight,
declared that a bull's sinew was the poor sufferer's only cure.
Thus strongly supported, Girard had only to act reasonably. He would
not take the trouble. His defence is charmingly flippant. He never
deigns even to agree with his own depositions. He gives the lie to his
own witnesses. He seems to be jesting, and says, with the coolness of a
great lord of the Regency, that if, as they charge him, he was ever
shut up with her, it could only have happened nine times.
And why did the good father do so, would his friends say, save to
watch, to consider, to search out the truth concerning her? 'Tis the
confessor's duty in all such cases. Read the life of the most holy
Catherine of Genoa. One evening her confessor hid himself in her room,
waiting to see the wonders she would work, and to catch her in the act
miraculous. But here, unhappily, the Devil, who never sleeps, had laid
a snare for this lamb of God, had belched forth this devouring monster
of a she-dragon, this mixture of maniac and demoniac, to swallow him
up, to overwhelm him in a cataract of slander.
It was an old and excellent custom to smother monsters in the
cradle. Then why not later also? Girard's ladies charitably advised the
instant using against her of fire and sword. Let her perish! cried
the devotees. Many of the great ladies also wished to have her
punished, deeming it rather too bad that such a creature should have
dared to enter such a plea, to bring into court the man who had done
her but too great an honour.
Some determined Jansenists there were in the Parliament, but these
were more inimical to the Jesuits than friendly to the girl. And they
might well be downcast and discouraged, seeing they had against them at
once the terrible Society of Jesus, the Court of Versailles, the
Cardinal Minister (Fleury), and, lastly, the drawing-rooms of Aix.
Should they be bolder than the head of the law, the Chancellor
D'Aguesseau, who had proved so very slack? The Attorney-General did not
waver at all: being charged with the indictment of Girard, he avowed
himself his friend, advised him how to meet the charges against him.
There was, indeed, but one question at issue, to ascertain by what
kind of reparation, of solemn atonement, of exemplary chastening, the
plaintiff thus changed into the accused might satisfy Girard and the
Company of Jesus. The Jesuits, with all their good-nature, affirmed the
need of an example, in the interests of religion, by way of some slight
warning both to the Jansenist Convulsionaries and the scribbling
philosophers who were beginning to swarm.
There were two points by which Cadière might be hooked, might
receive the stroke of the harpoon.
Firstly, she had borne false witness. But, then, by no law could
slander be punished with death. To gain that end you must go a little
further, and say, The old Roman text, De famosis libellis,
pronounces death on those who have uttered libels hurtful to the
Emperor or to the religion of the Empire. The Jesuits represent
that religion. Therefore, a memorial against a Jesuit deserves the last
A still better handle, however, was their second. At the opening of
the trial the episcopal judge, the prudent Larmedieu, had asked her if
she had never divined the secrets of many people, and she had
answered yes. Therefore they might charge her with the practice named
in the list of forms employed in trials for witchcraft, as
Divination and imposture. This alone in ecclesiastic law deserved
the stake. They might, indeed, without much effort, call her a Witch, after the confession made by the Ollioules ladies, that at one same
hour of the night she used to be in several cells together. Their
infatuation, the surprising tenderness that suddenly came over them,
had all the air of an enchantment.
What was there to prevent her being burnt? They were still burning
everywhere in the eighteenth century. In one reign only, that of Philip
V., sixteen hundred people were burnt in Spain: one Witch was burnt as
late as 1782. In Germany one was burnt in 1751; in Switzerland one also
in 1781. Rome was always burning her victims, on the sly indeed, in the
dark holes and cells of the Inquisition.
 This fact comes to us from an adviser to the Holy
Office, still living.
But France, at least, is surely more humane? She is very
inconsistent. In 1718, a Wizard is burnt at Bordeaux. In 1724 and
1726, the faggots were lighted in Grève for offences which passed as
schoolboy jokes at Versailles. The guardians of the Royal child, the
Duke and Fleury, who are so indulgent to the Court, are terrible to the
town. A donkey-driver and a noble, one M. des Chauffours, are burnt
alive. The advent of the Cardinal Minister could not be celebrated more
worthily than by a moral reformation, by making a severe example of
those who corrupted the people. Nothing more timely than to pass some
terrible and solemn sentence on this infernal girl, who made so heinous
an assault on the innocent Girard!
 I am not speaking of executions done by the people of
their own accord. A hundred years ago, in a village of
Provence, an old woman on being refused alms by a landowner,
said in her fury, You will be dead to-morrow. He was
smitten and died. The whole village, high and low, seized the
old woman, and set her on a bundle of vine-twigs. She was
burnt alive. The Parliament made a feint of inquiring, but
punished nobody.[In 1751 an old couple of Tring, in
Hertfordshire, according to Wright, were tortured, kicked,
and beaten to death, on the plea of witchcraft, by a maddened
Observe what was needed to wash that father clean. It was needful to
show that, even if he had done wrong and imitated Des Chauffours, he
had been the sport of some enchantment. The documents were but too
plain. By the wording of the Canon Law, and after these late decrees,
somebody ought to be burnt. Of the five magistrates on the bench, two
only would have burnt Girard. Three were against Cadière. They came to
terms. The three who formed the majority would not insist on burning
her, would forego the long, dreadful scene at the stake, would content
themselves with a simple award of death.
In the name of these five, it was settled, pending the final assent
of Parliament, That Cadière, having first been put to the torture in
both kinds, should afterwards be removed to Toulon, and suffer death by
hanging on the Place des Prêcheurs.
This was a dreadful blow. An immense revulsion of feeling at once
took place. The worldlings, the jesters ceased to laugh: they
shuddered. Their love of trifling did not lead them to slur over a
result so horrible. That a girl should be seduced, ill-used,
dishonoured, treated as a mere toy, that she should die of grief, or of
frenzy, they had regarded as right and good; with all that they had no
concern. But when it was a case of punishment, when in fancy they saw
before them the woeful victim, with rope round her neck, by the gallows
where she was about to hang, their hearts rose in revolt. From all
sides went forth the cry, Never, since the world began, was there seen
so villanous a reversal of things; the law of rape administered the
wrong way, the girl condemned for having been made a tool, the victim
hanged by her seducer!
In this town of Aix, made up of judges, priests, and the world of
fashion, a thing unforeseen occurred: a whole people suddenly rose, a
violent popular movement was astir. A crowd of persons of every class
marched in one close well-ordered body straight towards the Ursulines.
Cadière and her mother were bidden to show themselves. Make yourself
easy, mademoiselle, they shouted: we stand by you: fear nothing!
The grand eighteenth century, justly called by Hegel the reign of
mind, was still grander as the reign of humanity. Ladies of
distinction, such as the granddaughter of Mde. de Sévigné, the charming
Madame de Simiane, took possession of the young girl and sheltered her
in their bosoms.
A thing yet prettier and more touching was it, to see the Jansenist
ladies, elsewhile so sternly pure, so hard towards each other, in their
austerities so severe, now in this great conjuncture offer up Law on
the altar of Mercy, by flinging their arms round the poor threatened
child, purifying her with kisses on the forehead, baptizing her anew in
If Provence be naturally wild, she is all the more wonderful in
these wild moments of generosity and real greatness. Something of this
was later seen in the earliest triumphs of Mirabeau, when he had a
million of men gathered round him at Marseilles. But here already was a
great revolutionary scene, a vast uprising against the stupid
Government of the day, and Fleury's pets the Jesuits: a unanimous
uprising in behalf of humanity, of compassion, in defence of a woman, a
very child, thus barbarously offered up. The Jesuits fancied that among
their own rabble, among their clients and their beggars, they might
array a kind of popular force, armed with handbells and staves to beat
back the party of Cadière. This latter, however, included almost
everyone. Marseilles rose up as one man to bear in triumph the son of
the Advocate Chaudon. Toulon went so far for the sake of her poor
townswoman, as to think of burning the Jesuit college.
The most touching of all these tokens in Cadière's favour, reached
her from Ollioules. A simple boarder, Mdlle. Agnes, for all her
youthful shyness, followed the impulse of her own heart, threw herself
into the press of pamphlets, and published a defence of Cadière.
So widespread and deep a movement had its effect on the Parliament
itself. The foes of the Jesuits raised their heads, took courage to
defy the threats of those above, the influence of the Jesuits, and the
bolts that Fleury might hurl upon them from Versailles.
 There is a laughable tale which expresses the state of
Parliament with singular nicety. The Recorder was reading his
comments on the trial, on the share the Devil might have had
therein, when a loud noise was heard. A black man fell down
the chimney. In their fright they all ran away, save the
Recorder only, who, being entangled in his robe, could not
move. The man made some excuse. It was simply a chimneysweep
who had mistaken his chimney.
The very friends of Girard, seeing their numbers fall off, their
phalanx grow thin, were eager for the sentence. It was pronounced on
the 11th October, 1731.
In sight of the popular feeling, no one dared to follow up the
savage sentence of the bench, by getting Cadière hanged. Twelve
councillors sacrificed their honour, by declaring Girard innocent. Of
the twelve others, some Jansenists condemned him to the flames as a
wizard; and three or four, with better reason, condemned him to death
as a scoundrel. Twelve being against twelve, the President Lebret had
to give the casting vote. He found for Girard. Acquitted of the capital
crime of witchcraft, the latter was then made over, as priest and
confessor, to the Toulon magistrate, his intimate friend Larmedieu, for
trial in the bishop's court.
The great folk and the indifferent ones were satisfied. And so
little heed was given to this award, that even in these days it has
been said that both were acquitted. The statement is not
correct. Cadière was treated as a slanderer, was condemned to see her
memorials and other papers burnt by the hand of the executioner.
There was still a dreadful something in the background. Cadière
being so marked, so branded for the use of calumny, the Jesuits were
sure to keep pushing underhand their success with Cardinal Fleury, and
to urge her being punished in some secret, arbitrary way. Such was the
notion imbibed by the town of Aix. It felt that, instead of sending her
home, Parliament would rather yield her up. This caused so
fearful a rage, such angry menaces, against President Lebret, that he
asked to have the regiment of Flanders sent thither.
Girard was fleeing away in a close carriage, when they found him out
and would have killed him, had he not escaped into the Jesuits' Church.
There the rascal betook himself to saying mass. After his escape thence
he returned to Dôle, to reap honour and glory from the Society. Here,
in 1733, he died, in the perfume of holiness. The courtier
Lebret died in 1735.
Cardinal Fleury did whatever the Jesuits pleased. At Aix, Toulon,
Marseilles, many were banished, or cast into prison. Toulon was
specially guilty, as having borne Girard's effigy to the doors of his
Girardites, and carried about the thrice holy standard of the
According to the terms of the award, Cadière should have been free
to return home, to live again with her mother. But I venture to say
that she was never allowed to re-enter her native town, that flaming
theatre wherein so many voices had been raised in her behalf.
If only to feel an interest in her was a crime deserving
imprisonment, we cannot doubt but that she herself was presently thrown
into prison; that the Jesuits easily obtained a special warrant from
Versailles to lock up the poor girl, to hush up, to bury with her an
affair so dismal for themselves. They would wait, of course, until the
public attention was drawn off to something else. Thereon the fatal
clutch would have caught her anew; she would have been buried out of
sight in some unknown convent, snuffed out in some dark In pace.
She was but one-and-twenty at the time of the award, and she had
always hoped to die soon. May God have granted her that mercy!
 Touching this matter, Voltaire is very flippant: he
scoffs at both parties, especially the Jansenists. The
historians of our own day, MM. Cabasse, Fabre, Méry, not
having read the Trial, believe themselves impartial,
they are bearing down the victim.
A woman of genius, in a burst of noble tenderness, has figured to
herself the two spirits whose strife moulded the Middle Ages, as coming
at last to recognise each other, to draw together, to renew their olden
friendship. Looking closer at each other, they discern, though somewhat
late, the marks of a common parentage. How if they were indeed
brethren, and this long battle nought but a mistake? Their hearts
speak, and they are softened. The haughty outlaw and the gentle
persecutor have forgotten everything: they dart forward and throw
themselves into each other's arms.(Consuelo.)
A charming, womanly idea. Others, too, have dreamed the same dream.
The sweet Montanelli turned it into a beautiful poem. Ay, who would not
welcome the delightful hope of seeing the battle here hushed down and
finished by an embrace so moving?
What does the wise Merlin think of it? In the mirror of his lake,
whose depths are known to himself only, what did he behold? What said
he in the colossal epic produced by him in 1860? Why, that Satan will
not disarm, if disarm he ever do, until the Day of Judgment. Then, side
by side, at peace with each other, the two will fall asleep in a common
* * * * *
It is not so hard, indeed, to bend them into a kind of compromise.
The weakening, relaxing effects of so long a battle allow of their
mingling in a certain way. In the last chapter we saw two shadows
agreeing to form an alliance in deceit; the Devil appearing as the
friend of Loyola, devotees and demoniacs marching abreast, Hell touched
to softness in the Sacred Heart.
It is a quiet time now, and people hate each other less than
formerly. They hate few indeed but their own friends. I have seen
Methodists admiring Jesuits. Those lawyers and physicians whom the
Church in the Middle Ages called the children of Satan, I have seen
making shrewd covenant with the old conquered Spirit.
But get we away from these pretences. They who gravely propose that
Satan should make peace and settle down, have they thought much about
There is no hindrance as regards ill-will. The dead are dead. The
millions of former victims sleep in peace, be they Albigenses, Vaudois,
or Protestants, Moors, Jews, or American Indians. The Witch, universal
martyr of the Middle Ages, has nought to say. Her ashes have been
scattered to the winds.
Know you, then, what it is that raises a protest, that keeps these
two spirits steadily apart, preventing them from coming nearer? It is a
huge reality, born five hundred years ago; a gigantic creation accursed
by the Church, even that mighty fabric of science and modern
institutions, which she excommunicated stone by stone, but which with
every anathema has grown a storey higher. You cannot name one science
which has not been itself a rebellion.
There is but one way of reconciling the two spirits, of joining into
one the two churches. Demolish the younger, that one which from its
first beginning was pronounced guilty and doomed as such. Let us, if we
can, destroy the natural sciences, the observatory, the museum, the
botanical garden, the schools of medicine, and all the modern
libraries. Let us burn our laws, our bodies of statutes, and return to
the Canon Law.
All these novelties came of Satan. Each step forward has been a
crime of his doing.
He was the wicked logician who, despising the clerical law,
preserved and renewed that of jurists and philosophers, grounded on an
impious faith, on the freedom of the will.
He was that dangerous magician who, while men were discussing the
sex of angels and other questions of like sublimity, threw himself
fiercely on realities, and created chemistry, physics, mathematicsay,
even mathematics. He sought to revive them, and that was rebellion.
People were burnt for saying that three made three.
Medicine especially was a Satanic thing, a rebellion against
disease, the scourge so justly dealt by God. It was clearly sinful to
check the soul on its way towards heaven, to plunge it afresh into
What atonement shall we make for all this? How are we to put down,
to overthrow, this pile of insurrections, whereof at this moment all
modern life is made up? Will Satan destroy his work, that he may tread
once more the way of angels? That work rests on three everlasting
rocks, Reason, Right, and Nature.
* * * * *
So great is the triumph of the new spirit, that he forgets his
battles, hardly at this moment deigns to remember that he has won.
It were not amiss to remind him of his wretched beginnings, how
coarsely mean, how rude and painfully comic were the shapes he wore in
the season of persecution, when through a woman, even the unhappy
Witch, he made his first homely flights in science. Bolder than the
heretic, the half-Christian reasoner, the scholar who kept one foot
within the sacred circle, this woman eagerly escaped therefrom, and
under the open sunlight tried to make herself an altar of rough
She has perished, as she was certain to perish. By what means?
Chiefly by the progress of those very sciences which began with her,
through the physician, the naturalist, for whom she had once toiled.
The Witch has perished for ever, but not the Fay. She will reappear
in the form that never dies.
Busied in these latter days with the affairs of men, Woman has in
return given up her rightful part, that of the physician, the
comforter, the healing Fairy. Herein lies her proper priesthooda
priesthood that does belong to her, whatever the Church may say.
Her delicate organs, her fondness for the least detail, her tender
consciousness of life, all invite her to become Life's shrewd
interpreter in every science of observation. With her tenderly pitiful
heart, her power of divining goodness, she goes of her own accord to
the work of doctoring. There is but small difference between children
and sick people. For both of them we need the Woman.
She will return into the paths of science, whither, as a smile of
nature, gentleness and humanity will enter by her side.
The Anti-natural is growing dim, nor is the day far off when its
eclipse will bring back daylight to the earth.
* * * * *
The gods may vanish, but God is still there. Nay, but the less we
see of them, the more manifest is He. He is like a lighthouse eclipsed
at moments, but alway shining again more clearly than before.
It is a remarkable thing to see Him discussed so fully, even in the
journals themselves. People begin to feel that all questions of
education, government, childhood, and womanhood, turn on that one
ruling and underlying question. As God is, so must the world be.
From this we gather that the times are ripe.
* * * * *
So near, indeed, is that religious dayspring that I seemed momently
to see it breaking over the desert where I brought this book to an end.
How full of light, how rough and beautiful looked this desert of
mine! I had made my nest on a rock in the mighty roadstead of Toulon,
in a lowly villa surrounded with aloe and cypress, with the prickly
pear and the wild rose. Before me was a spreading basin of sparkling
sea; behind me the bare-topt amphitheatre, where, at their ease, might
sit the Parliament of the world.
This spot, so very African, bedazzles you in the daytime with
flashings as of steel. But of a winter morning, especially in December,
it seemed full of a divine mystery. I was wont to rise exactly at six
o'clock, when the signal for work was boomed from the Arsenal gun. From
six to seven I enjoyed a delicious time of it. The quickmay I call it
piercing?twinkle of the stars made the moon ashamed, and fought
against the daybreak. Before its coming, and during the struggle
between two lights, the wonderful clearness of the air would let things
be seen and heard at incredible distances. Two leagues away I could
make everything out. The smallest detail about the distant mountains, a
tree, a cliff, a house, a bend in the ground, was thrown out with the
most delicate sharpness. New senses seemed to be given me. I found
myself another being, released from bondage, free to soar away on my
new wings. It was an hour of utter purity, all hard and clear. I said
to myself, How is this? Am I still a man?
An unspeakable bluish hue, respected, left untouched by the rosy
dawn, hung round me like a sacred ether, a spirit that made all things
One felt, however, a forward movement, through changes soft and
slow. The great marvel was drawing nearer, to shine forth and eclipse
all other things. It came on in its own calm way: you felt no wish to
hurry it. The coming transfiguration, the expected witcheries of the
light, took not a whit away from the deep enjoyment of being still
under the divinity of night, still, as it were, half-hidden, and slow
to emerge from so wonderful a spell.... Come forth, O Sun! We worship
thee while yet unseen, but will reap all of good we yet may from these
last moments of our dream!
He is about to break forth. In hope let us await his welcome.
LIST OF LEADING AUTHORITIES.
Graesse, Bibliotheca Magiæ, Leipsic, 1843.
Magie Antique—as edited by Soldan, A. Maury, &c.
Calcagnini, Miscell., Magia Amatoria Antiqua, 1544.
J. Grimm, German Mythology.
Acta Sanctorum.—Acta SS. Ordinis S. Benedicti.
Michael Psellus, Energie des Démons, 1050.
Cæsar of Heisterbach, Illustria Miracula, 1220.
Registers of the Inquisition, 1307-1326, in Limburch;
and the extracts given by Magi, Llorente, Lamothe-Langon, &c.
Directorium. Eymerici, 1358.
Llorente, The Spanish Inquisition.
Lamothe-Langon, Inquisition de France.
Handbooks of the Monk-Inquisitors of the Fifteenth and
Sixteenth Centuries: Nider's Formicarius; Sprenger's Malleus.
C. Bernardus's Lucerna; Spina, Grillandus, &c.
H. Corn. Agrippæ Opera, Lyons.
Wyer, De Prestigiis Dæmonum, 1569.
Bodin, Démonomanie, 1580.
Remigius, Demonolatria, 1596.
Del Rio, Disquisitiones Magicæ, 1599.
Boguet, Discours des Sorciers, Lyons, 1605.
Leloyer, Histoire des Spectres, Paris, 1605.
Lancre, Inconstance, 1612: Incredulité, 1622.
Michaëlis, Histoire d'une Pénitente, &c., 1613.
Tranquille, Relation de Loudun, 1634.
Histoire des Diables de Loudun (by Aubin), 1716.
Histoire de Madeleine Bavent, de Louviers, 1652.
Examen de Louviers. Apologie de l'Examen (by Yvelin),
Procès du P. Girard et de la Cadière; Aix, 1833.
Pièces relatives à ce Procès; 5 vols., Aix, 1833.
Factum, Chansons, relatifs, &c. MSS. in the Toulon
Eugène Salverte, Sciences Occultes, with Introduction
A. Maury, Les Fées, 1843; Magie, 1860.
Soldan, Histoire des Procès de Sorcellerie, 1843.
Thos. Wright, Narratives of Sorcery, &c., 1851.
L. Figuier, Histoire du Merveilleux, 4 vols.
Ferdinand Denis, Sciences Occultes: Monde Enchanté.
Histoire des Sciences au Moyen Age, by Sprenger,
Pouchet, Cuvier, &c.
Printed by Woodfall and Kinder, Angel Court, Skinner Street,