Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Remarks On The Reliques Of Ancient Poetry — Fairies

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

The origin of vulgar superstitions is a very curious subject, which, leading us often into the most remote antiquity, lays open the early history of nations, but is generally obscure in proportion to its antiquity. Of this remark, a strong proof may be deduced from our antiquated notions about

"The faery ladies dancing on the hearth;"

of which our best poets have frequently made so good an use ; and concerning which, hypotheses the most opposite and irreconcileable have been formed.

Isaac Casaubon, in his learned treatise "De Satyrica Pdesi," lib. i. cap. 1, p. 45, derives them from the Greeks : "Attici et Iones," says he, " Satyros vocarant ; poetarum principi sunt centauri." Of the same opinion also was Ben Jonson, whose " Masque of Queens " may be consulted with advantage upon this subject; and who, in his learned notes upon that performance, deduces our word "fairy" from this original. It is certain that there are some points of resemblance between these beings and the ancient satyrs : of whom Orpheus, Hymn liii. 7, where we have the former appellative explained : for is only the ancient form , as appears from the fera of the Latins. Such, again, were the nymphs: " the wakeful nymphs, deities formidable to the country girls," says Theocritus :

which is exactly like our ballad :

"And if the house be foul,
Upstairs we nimbly creep,
And find the sluts asleep."

Hence, adds the scholiast, we call some people . So also Baxter, ad. Hor. O. ii. 19: "Nomphæ et satyri erant dii manes, qui a vulgo creduntur etiam hodie in silvis saltitare. Satyri ideo capripedes quod primis temporibus silvestres homines caprinis pellibus amiciebantur. Etiam hodie priorum seculorum habitu, albis scilicet et coeruleis vestimentis, saltare feruntur."

It is obvious, however, that we do not find, in these nymphs and satyrs, that diminutive and sprightly species of existence which constitutes our idea of a fairy.

Others, again, tell us that "this fiction of the fairies was undoubtedly brought, with many other fantastic extravagances of the like nature, from the Eastern nations, by the European Christians who had been at the holy war" (Warton, "Obs. on Spenser," p: 43). "There was formerly," we are told, "in the East, a race of creatures named Dives and Peris by the Persians, and Ginn by the Arabians: whence the Greeks have formed their ; the Romans their genius, ingenium, divus, etc. God, before the formation of Adam, created the Dives, and intrusted to them the government of the world for seven thousand years" (Herbelot, "Bibliot. Orient.," pp. 298, 387). "The Peris succeeded them, and inhabited the earth for two thousand years more. The Dives were powerful and strong; the Peris were wiser and better" (Bailly, "Lettres sur l'Atlantide," p. 131, ubi plura).

Here the name inclines to support the derivation proposed ; and the time conspires, at first sight, to the same end : for Mr. Warton, we have seen, supposes the notion to have been introduced by the Crusaders : and the historian of the Troubadours says, that the most early mention of it occurs in a sirvente of William, Count of Poitou, who died in 1122 : " Les fées, dit-il, " l'ont ainsi constitué. Nous ne connoissons pas de témoignage plus ancien sur les fées ; et, sans doute, elles faisoient peu de sensation l puisque les Troubadours n'ont point du tout profité des ressources qu'elles pouvoient fournir à la poésie " (" Hist. litt. des Troub.," tom. i., p. 13). If, however, our fairies are connected with the Persian Peris, it is only as both nations are sister descendants from the great Asiatic hive, and transported into the countries of their respective settlements divers ragments of the popular belief of their Partarian ancestors ; among whom this superstition still constitutes a part of the vulgar creed. See Tooke's "Russia," vol. iii., pp. 258-281; whence we learn that the followers of Schamanism believe in the existence of spirits who dwell in water, earth, volcanoes, and forests; that there are some fairies who ride their horses, and others who preside over mines, and whom they call lords of iron. Indeed, that we are not indebted to the Crusades for this notion appears from their being mentioned earlier. Thus, in an old chronicle (ap. Eccard, "Hist. Geneal. Saxon.," super, p. 567), they were seen by Earl Helperic, the 4th in descent from Witikind : "Hic, quadam die cum in venatione esset, vidit nanos illic ludentes et præliantes : ex quibus unum audivit ventilantem cornu; et post sonitum cornu omnes bestiæ convenerunt, et se praesentia illius exhibuerunt. Quod comes cernens, cornu de manu ejus tulit, et festinanter fugit. Nanus autem insequebatur eum, clamans, `redde mihi cornu; si mihi reddideris, ditior de die in diem eris; si vero non reddideris, alieni haeredes tui erunt, et generatio tua ad nihilum deveniet.' Et cornu, quod comes manu tenebat, nusquam apparuit." Such also are the sprites spoken of by Gervase of Tilbury (ap. Tyrwhitt ad Chaucer, 6441), who were " staturâ pusilli, dimidium pollicis non habentes ;" whereas the Peris seem to have been gigantic. If, therefore, they had not found their way down so low as Provence before the twelfth century, this must have proceeded from their having been introduced into Europe by our Northern ancestors, who imported them, as I conceive, from the plains of Tartary. That we are justified in assigning to them a Northern descent, is countenanced by a profound Antiquary (Eccard, in Præfat ad Leibnitz, "Collectan. Etymolog.," p. 8), who conceives the word fie, or fata, to be of Celtic origin, being derived from ffawwd, augurium : whence were denominated their soothsayers, (of whom Strabo, lib. iv., p. 302, Ammian. Marcellin., xv. f.); whence also came the Latin votes (which Mr. Macpherson also derives from the Celtic, "Critical Dissert.," p. 205); and with which is connected the Greek (with the digamma, cf. Heyne, ad Virgil. Eel., ix. 34), our waits, a species of nocturnal musician well known in the Midland Counties, and the German waght. "Upon the abolition of the old Celtic religion," continues Mr. Eccard, ubi supra, "the memory of these votes, or fate, continued among the common people in France, who gave that name to their rustic sprites, whom they believed to foretell future events : in like manner as from the Druids, another order of the Celtic priesthood, the nightmare is still called die trutte in Germany. In a late journey," adds he, "which I took into Misnia, I found that the peasants called our frau Holde—i.e., Hecate, or Velleda—frau Faute, the lady Faute : and thus also Vauda, that famous prophetess and heroine of the Poles, may have been denominated from the same source by the insertion of the letter u : so that these vates seem to have been known to the Germans and Sarmate as well as to the Celts." Mr. Tyrwhitt's derivation (ad Chaucer, ut supra), though somewhat varying from Eccard's, is reconcilable therewith; as the former supposes the modern word to be derived from the Latin, while the latter conceives both to be descended from the same source. "Féerie" (says he), "Fr. from fée, the French name for those fantastical beings which, in the Gothic language, are called alfs, or elves. The corresponding names to fée in other romance dialects, are fata, Ital., and hada, Span., so that it is probable that all three are derived from the Lat. fatum, which, in the barbarous ages, was corrupted into fatus and fata. See Menage in v. Fée ; Du Cange in v. Fadus." It seems to me that our old English word for the individual or concrete is fay, and that fairy was the abstract substantive denoting the species ; which, if true, negatives their descent from Peri.

Of the alfs, or elves, mentioned by Mr. Tyrwhitt, it may be observed, that they were so denominated from their diminutive stature, q. d. half-men, homines dimidiati. Eccard speaks of them as only "swart faëries of the mine."—" Metallorum deum habuisse Celtes facile crediderim; cum. et nos alpes, sive virunculos metallicos venerati simus ; et slavi coboldos, quod idem denotat, tanquam præsides metallorum coluerint " (ubi supra, p. 20). This hypothesis effectually destroys the etymology of those who would derive our elfs and goblins from the faction of the Guelfs and Ghibelines in Italy (see Warton's "Spenser," p. 38) ; though I am willing enough to believe that Spenser gave in to this general opinion. The goblins are, doubtless, related to the cobolds of Eccard ; but a more immediate connexion may be traced to the Gobelinus, whom St. Taurinus drove from the temple of Diana at Evreux, in Normandy, and who still "degit in eadem urbe, et ni variis frequenter formis apparens neminem lædit " (" Orderic. Vitall.," I. v., p. 556, ap. Tyrwhitt, ut supra). The in-noxious nature of this demon resembles that which Gervase of Tilbury (" Ot. Imp.," iii. c. 61, 2, ibid. citat) relates of the demons, "quos Galli neptunos, Angli portunos, nominant . . . id illis insitum est, ut obsequi posint, et obesse non posint." These last, indeed, he in-forms us, were fond of a little mirth, as they would perform the same prank as Puck relates in Midsummer Night's Dream, act ii., sc. 1. " Cum enim inter ambiguas noctis tenebras Angli solitarii quandoque equitant, Portunus nonnunquam invisus equitanti sese copulat ; et cum diutius comitatur euntum, tandem loris arreptis, equum in lutum ad manum ducit; in quo dum infixus volutatur, Portunus exiens cachinnum facit; et sic, hujuscemodi ludibrio humanam simplicitatem deridet."

It is far from my intention to enter into a detail of all the feast related of these aerial beings by our credulous ancestors ; but, having laid open the prevailing opinions relative to their origin, I shall content myself with directing the attention of your readers to two or three detached passages concerning them, scattered up and down in different authors. Eccard (ut supra, p. 22) mentions " spectra ex Druidibus conficta, quæ trutten et weisse frauen, candide indutas fceminas, vel etiam sapientes laminas dicimus ; quæ bona consilia hominibus dare, et mala averruncare vulgo adhuc apud plebem creduntur." May not our word fairy come from this frauen I

Reginald Scot, in his " Discovery of Witchcraft," 1584, makes mention of the Lares, Larva, Verinculi terrei, such as was Robin Goodfellow in England, who would supply the office of servants, specially of maids; and Hudgin, a very familiar and sociable hob-goblin in Germany, so called because he always wore a cap or hood. Such also was Frier Rush, who also inhabited the kitchen. In Book vii. he mentions their different names as spirits, hags, fairies, imps, incubi, Robin Goodfellows, men-in-the-oak, puckles, fire-drakes, hob-goblins, tom-thumbs, etc. ; and in Book iv. he contends that these superstitious notions were invented, or, at least, encouraged by the monks, in order to cover their debaucheries ; Robin Goodfellow being but a lewd cosening frier. (See Oldys, Brit. Libr., No. xxxvii.)

Burton enters pretty much at large into the subject; he divides them into their several elements (" Anat. Melanch.," Part I., § 2, Memb. r, Subs. 2, p. 47), like as Michael Psellus had said before him :* See Shakespeare's Tempest, act i., sc. ii., p. 25, edit. 1785, Johnson's note 3. And after him our Hooker (book i., cap. 4) : " The fall of the angels was pride. Since their fall, being dispersed some in the air, some on the earth, some in the water, some among the minerals, dens, and caves that are under the earth, they have by all means laboured to effect an universal rebellion." Thus Milton, Il Penseroso:

"Those demons that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground."

Whence Mason, Caractacus, act i., scene z :

"The spirits of air.
Of earth, of water, nay, of heav'n itself."

In the list of intertocutori, in L'Adamo of G. B. Andremi, is a " choro di spiriti ignei, aerei, acquatici, ea' infernali " (Warton's " Essay on Pope," vol. ii., Appendix). The Rosicrucian doctrine of the invisible inhabitants of the four elements, which is exposed in so agree-able a manner by Abbé Villars, in his " Entretiens du Comte de Gabalis" (Entret. 2d), is founded upon a very antient and prevailing superstition; since, besides the instances alleged above, Procopius (" Gothic," lib. ii.) tells us that the people of Thule worship demons aerial, terrestrial, and marine, who are said to dwell in springs and rivers.

But, to confine ourselves to those at present under discussion, Burton says of the water-nymphs, that " some call them fairies, and say that Habundia is their queene. Olaus Magnus, lib. iii., hath a long narration of one Hotherus, a king of Sweden, that, having lost his company as he was hunting one day, met with these water-nymphs or fairies, and was feasted by them. Terrestrial devils are those lares, genii, faunes, satyrs, wood-nymphs, foliots (esprits follets, Fr.; folleti, Ital. Tyrw. ub. supr.), fairies, Robin Goodfellows, trulli, etc. Some put out fairies into this ranke (elvas Olaus vocat, lib. iii.), which had been in former times adored with much superstition, with sweeping their houses, and setting of a paile of cleane water, good victuals, and the like; and then they should not be pinched, but finde money in their shoes, and be fortunate in their enterprises." Thus Drayton, in that elegant system 'of faery, his "Nimphidia" :

"These make our girls their sluttery rue
By pinching them both black and blue,
But put a penny in their shoe
The house for cleanly sweeping."

" They are sometimes seene," adds Burton, " by old women and children. Hierome Pauli, in his description of the city of Bercius, in Spaine, relates how they have been familiarly seen neare that towne about fountains and hills. So Lilly tells us (" Life," p. 152) that the fairies love the Southern side of hills, mountains, groves : and thus also the thime for Dr. Dee's " Unguent," in p. 214, must be " gathered neare the side of a hill where fayries use to be." " Nonnunquam (saith Tritemius) in sua latibula montium simpliciores homines ducant, stupenda mirantibus ostentes miracula, nolarum sonitus, spectacula, etc. ?" In like manner the Welsh call their fairies " the spirits of the mountains," p. 203. " Paracelsus (in libro de zilphis et pig-'Timis) reckons up many places in Germany where they do usually walke in little coats, some two foot long." And such were the portuni of Gervas. Tilbur. (ut supra) " senili vultu, facie corrugata." " A bigger kinde there is of them, called with us hobgoblins and Robin Goodfellowes, that would, in those superstitious times, grinde corne for a messe of milke, cut wood, or doe any manner of drudgery worke. Tholosanus calls them trullos and getulos; and saith, that in his dayes they were common in many places of France; qui et in famulitio vitis et foeminis inserviunt, conclavis scopis purgant, patinas mundant, ligna portant, equos curant, etc. (lib. vii., cap. 14). Dithmarus Bleskenius, in his description of Iceland, reports for a certainty that almost in every family they have yet some such familiar spirits ; and Fælix Malleolus (in his book " De Crudel. Daemon.") affirms as much, that these trolli, or telchines, are very common in Norway, and seene to doe drudgery worke, ad ministeria utuntur ; to draw water, saith Wierus (lib. i., c. 22), dresse meat, or any such thing.

"Another sort of these there are which frequent forlorne houses where treasure is hid, as some thinke, or some murder,, or suchlike villany, committed, to which the Italians call foliots; most part innoxious." Of these Gervase of Tilbury speaks (Dec. i. cap. r8) under the denomination of folleti. Cardan (lib. xvi. de Rerum Varietat.) holds, " they will make strange noyses in the night, howle sometimes pitifully, and then laugh againe, cause great flame and sudden lights, fling stones, rattle chaines, shave men, open doores and shut them, fling downe platters, stooles, chests, sometimes appeare in the likenesse of hares, crowes, black dogges," etc. Of this species was the spirit mentioned in the MS. Antiquities of Lincoln, Harleian MSS. No. 682g, fol. 162, under the article Bolingbroke; and, as I do not know that the account has ever appeared in print, I shall transcribe it at length, and literatim, from the MS.:

"One thinge is not to be passed by, affirmed as a certaine trueth by many of the inhabitants of the towne upon their owne knowledge ; which is, that the castle is haunted by a certaine spirit in the likenesse of a hare, which, at the meeting of the auditors, doeth usually runne betweene their legs, and sometymes overthrows them, and soe passes away. They have pursued it down into the castle-yard, and seene it take in att a grate into a low cellar, and have followed it thither with a light ; where, notwithstanding that they did most narrowly observe it, and that there was noe other passage out but by the doore or windowe, the roome being all close framed of stones within, not having the least chinke or crevice, yett they could never fynde it. And att other tymes it bath ben seene run in at iron-grates below, into other of the grottos (as there be many of them), and they have watched the place, and sent for houndes, and put in after it, but after a while they have come crying out."

Thus far the MS. :

"Others there are, which Mizaldus cals ambulones, that walke about midnight on great heaths and desart places ; which" (sayeth Lavater, lib. i. cap. 44), "draw men out of the way, and lead them all night a byway, or quite barre them of the way. These have several names in several places ; we commonly call them pucks. In the deserts of Lop, in Asia, such illusions of walking spirits are often perceived, as you may read in Marcus Paulus, the Venetian, his travels. If one lose his company by chance, these devils will caul him by his name, and counterfeyt voyces of his companions, to educe him: daemonum cernuntur et audiuntur ibi frequentes illustones, unde viatoribus cavendum, ne se dissocient ; aut a tergo maneant ; voces enim fingunt sociorum, ut a recto itinere abducant."

Hence our Milton, who well knew how to apply the fruits of an extensive reading to all the purposes of a most fervid and poetical imagination :

"A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes, and beck'ning shadows dire,
And aëry tongues, that syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses."

Cornus, v. 205.

"Hieronymus Pauli (in his booke of the hits of Spayne) relates of a great mount in Cantabria where such spectrums are to be seene : mons sterilis et nivosus, ubi intempesta nocte umbræ apparent. Lavater and Cicogna have variety of examples of spirits and walking devils in this kinde.

" Sometimes they sit by the highway-side to give men falls, and make their horses stumble and start as they ride ; offendicula faciunt transeuntibus in via, et petulanter rident cum vel hominem, vet jumentum ejus, pedes atterere faciant; et maxime si homo maledictis et calcaribus saeviat; if you will believe the relation of that holy man Ketellus (in Nubrigensis, lib. ii. c. 21), who had an especial grace, gratiam divinitus collatam, to see devills, and to talke with them, et impavidus cum spiritibus sermonem miscere."

On the subject of subterraneous fairies, Burton is not so full. He confines himself to observe that "Olaus Magnus (lib. vi. c. 19) makes sixe kinds of them, some bigger, some lesse. These, saith Munster (in Cosmogr.), are commonly seene about mines of metals ; and are some of them noxious, some again doe noe harm." Of these Mr. Sarjent has made good use in his elegant dramatic poem intituled "The Mine ;" in the learned notes on which performance are contained more particulars relative to this species of beings. " The metall-men in many places account it good lucke, a signe of treasure and rich ore, when they see them. George Agricola (in his booke "De Subterraneis Animantibus," c. 37) reckons two more notable kindes of them, which he calls Getuli and Cobalt" (hence, perhaps, or from the Sclavonic cobold, mentioned by Eccard above, the mineral called cobalt); "both are cloathed after the manner of metall-men, and will, many times, imitate their workes ; vestiti more metallicorum, gestus et opera eorum imitantur."

In the very entertaining "Mélanges de Littérature" of Vigneul, Marville (tom. i., p. 11 r, edit. 1789) is an amusing tale, which may not improperly be introduced on this occasion, and of which I shall therefore present your readers with a translation.

" Piron is an ancient castle, situated on the coast of Lower Nor mandy, opposite to Jersey and Guernsey. Andrew du Chesne (in his book "Of the Antiquities, Towns, Castles, and Remarkable Places of France," corrected and augmented by his son Francis, Paris, 1668), mentions it as a strong castle ; and M. Scudery has given an elegant description of it, under the name of the castle of Resmelians or Vivarambe, in his "Almaïde."

" This castle is so ancient, and accompanied with so many marvellous circumstances, that the good folks thereabouts believe it to have been built by the fairies, many years before the Norwegians or Normans settled in Neustria. (If any one chooses to find a re-semblance between Piron and the Peri of Persia, he has my leave so to do.) They will tell you that these fairies, the daughters of a great lord of the country, who was also a famous enchanter, assumed the form of wild geese when these Northern pirates landed at Piron; and that they are the very same birds which come every year and build their nests in this wonderful castle. The thing is certainly surprising, and well deserves the naturalist's attention. The following is a description of it :

"At the foot of the castle `walls are eighteen or twenty stone niches, wherein the inhabitants place every year nests of straw or hay for the wild geese, that never fail to come on the first of March. They come during the night, and commence their annual visit by flying round and round several times, to see, by the light of the moon or stars, whether their nests are ready. The day following they take possession of those nests which they like best; a selection which is not concluded without blows. Sometimes they inflict such wounds upon each other with their claws and beaks that they are covered with blood; and make so great a noise that the echoes which inhabit the old walls of the castle resound with their cries ; and, neither in the apartments of the castle, nor in the neighbouring cottages, can you hear for their clamour. When the bravest of the geese have filled all the nests, the peasants place six or seven others on the parapets of the walls, and these do not long remain empty. As these walls are of a very extraordinary height, the birds which lay their eggs there, take care, as soon as the young ones are hatched, to inform the people by their cries, that they may come and take them down into the ditch. If the peasants neglect this good office, the mothers themselves take them down; and, affectionately stretching forth their wings, break the fall and prevent them from being hurt.

"They keep all the while in pairs ; and it is remarkable that they are true wild geese, and that sometimes none of these birds are to be seen in the neighbouring districts at the time when thousands are swimming upon the lakes of Piron.

"Though elsewhere they are so wild that they will not let one come within six hundred paces of them, yet, while they reside within the castle, to testify due gratitude for the hospitality of their land-lord, they lay aside their savage nature (exeunt silzvestrem animum), coming to take bread out of the hand, and not being frightened either by cries or by the firing of guns. They sift: from the beginning of March to the middle of May. When the young ones are strong enough to follow them, they go off in the night, and make their retreat to the neighbouring lakes till the same time next year.

The people of the country, who plume themselves upon their observations, pretend (as is affirmed of the storks Switzerland and Holland) that it is a good sign when a great number of wild geese come to Piron. The lord of the castle, who is very careful that their nests should be soft, and that they should have plenty of meat, told us that there were a great many this year, whence it is conjectured that there will be a good year, or that we shall have peace.

" I knew an old Norman gentleman who told me that, when he was a child, he was taught to read a very old chronicle, in which it was related, that when a son was born to the illustrious house of Piron, the males of these birds were cloathed with grey plumage, and took the upper hand in the courts of the castle ; but, when it was a daughter, the females, with feathers whiter than the snow, had the right hand of the males. But, if this daughter were to take the veil, it was observed that one of these geese would build no nest, but would sit alone in a corner, eating very little, and, I know not why, heaving the deepest sighs."

It is well known that the ministry of fairies was peculiarly conversant with the birth of children. It is unnecessary to accumulate passages to this point ; the testimony of Milton is express ; and he has touched it with his usual liveliness of fancy :

" Good luck befriend thee, son ; for, at thy birth
The faëry ladies danc'd upon the hearth ;
The drousy nurse bath sworn she did them spie
Come tripping to the room where thou didst lie,
And, sweetly singing round about thy bed,
Strow all their blessings on thy sleeping head."

At a Vacation Exercise.

They were also supposed to predict deaths ; of which the diligence of Burton hath amassed various instances ; to which may be added the marvellous tales related by Dr. Plot, in his letter concerning an intended journey through England, published by Hearne in his edition of " Leland's Itinerary," vol. ii., p. 135.

They entered largely into the mystic philosophy of the last century. The life of Lilly shows how much he made use of them :

" Since I have related of the queen of the fairies," says he, " I shall acquaint you that it is not for everyone, or every person, that these angelical creatures will appear unto ; or [nor] indeed is it given to very many persons to endure their glorious aspects. A very sober, discreet person, of virtuous life and conversation, was beyond measure desirous to see something in this nature. He went with a friend into my Hurst wood : the queen of fairies was invocated : a gentle murmuring wind came first ; after that, among the hedges, a smart whirl-wind; by-and-by a strong blast of wind blew upon the face of the friend ; and the queen appearing in a most illustrious glory, 'No more, I beseech you,' quoth the friend ; 'my heart fails, I am not able to endure longer.' Nor was he ; his black curling hair rose up, and I believe a bullrush would have beat him to the ground."

And, soon after, "The fairies love the southern side of hills, mountains, groves." Hence, in the receipt for the Unguent (infra, p. 214), the thime " must be gathered near the side of a hill where fayries use to be." Lilly goes on : " Neatness and cleanliness of apparel, a strict diet, an upright life, fervent prayers unto God, conduce much to the assistance of those who are curious these ways" (p. 152). The former of these requisites, an attention to cleanliness, is insisted upon, as we have seen, by Burton and Drayton ; and is further mentioned in the ballad (infra p. 208 [33] ):

"And if the house be foul
With platter, dish, or bowl,
Upstairs we nimbly creep,
And find the sluts asleep," etc.

In like manner, the dæmons of the Greeks disliked all ill smells :

Athenaeus, lib. x., p. 442.

which reminds me of the manner in which Tobias freed the house of his father-in-law Raguel from the evil spirit (Tobit viii. 2). Of whom Milton, " Paradise Lost" (iv. 166) :

"So entertain'd those odorous sweets the fiend
Who came their bane; though with them better pleas'd
Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume
That drove him, though enamour'd, from the spouse
Of Tobit's son, and with a vengeance sent
From Media post to Egypt."

As to the second requisite, the necessity of sobriety and religious conversation to constitute an adept, it is frequently inculcated by the knavish enthusiast—for he seems to have been both—whom I have cited above. Thus Evans the astrologer, wanting to invoke the " angel Salmon, of the nature of Mars, reads his litany every day at select hours, wears his surplice, lives orderly all the time" (" Life of William Lilly," p. 32). Nor was this confined to an intercourse with fairies ; the Rosicrucians required from their scholars a renunciation of all carnal delights (see " Warton on Pope," vol. i., p. 227 ; " Entretiens du Comte de Gabalis," entr. 2d: and, which is the same work, "Chiave del Gabinetto del Cavagl. Borri," 12mo, Colog., p. 1 6) ; which is elegantly alluded to by Mr. Pope in his sprightly dedication of the " Rape of the Lock ;" and which was actually made by Apollonius of Tyana, at sixteen years of age (see " Bayle" au Mot): "The chemists," i.e., alchemists, "lay it down," says Sprat (" Hist. of the Royal Society," [1667], pt. i., sect. xiv., p. 34), "as a necessary qualification of their happy man, to whom God will reveal their adored elixir, that he must be rather innocent and virtuous than knowing."

With regard to the method of invoking fairies by a chrystal glassful of earth, it is further described by the Abbé Villers (" Comte de Gabalis," entretien 2d. ; "Chiave del Gabinetto," etc., p. 28) :

" We need only close up a glassful of conglobated air, water, or earth, and expose it to the sun one month ; then separate the elements according to art. 'Tis wondrous what a magnetic quality each of these purified elements has to attract nymphs, sylphs, and gnomes. Take but ever so small a dose every day, and you will see the republick of sylphs fluttering in the air, the nymphs making to the banks in shoals, and the gnomes, the guardians of wealth, spreading forth their treasures ;" as he has just before taught how the salamanders may be reduced under command with a globe of glass wherein the solar beams are concentrated by means of concave mirrors.

The use of glasses in incantations is alluded to by Dr. Sprat, "Hist. of Royal Society," pt. ii., sect. 16, p. 97 :

"'Tis true, the mind of man is a glass, which is able to represent to itself all the works of nature ; but it can only show those figures which have been brought before it; it is no magical glass, like that with which astrologers use to deceive the ignorant, by making them believe that therein they may behold the image of any place or person in the world, though never so far removed from it."

Mr. Warton (" Hist. of English Poetry," vol. i., p. 407) derives them from the Arabians, who pretended to predict future events by consulting mirrors. " It is certain," he observes, "that they applied the study of opticks, which they borrowed from the Aristotelian philosophy, to several purposes of natural magick, and that the modern philosophers are indebted for many useful discoveries to that polished people." This Eastern origin is countenanced by the narration of an Arabic MS. described by M. de Guignes (Account of the French King's MSS., vol. i, p. 145), the title of which, " The Golden Meadows," seems to be borrowed from a work of John Moschus, or from the writings intituled mentioned by Gellius in his preface. In this MS. the author, Masondi, relates that the sixth Pharaoh, who built the Alexandrian Pharos, put a looking-glass on the top, in which the country of Roum, the islands of the sea, together with all that passed among their inhabitants, and the vessels that arrived, might be seen. The same circumstance is mentioned by Abulfeda ; but here we have it related by a more ancient writer. It seems to have been referred to by Spenser (" Fairy Queen," b. iii., cant. ii., st. 18, 19, 20) :

"The great magitian Merlin had deviz'd,
By his deep science and hell dreaded might,
A looking-glasse, right wondrously aguiz'd,
Whose vertues through the wyde worlde soone were solemniz'd.

"It vertue had to show in perfect sight
Whatever thing was in the world contaynd
Betwixt the lowest earth and heven's hight,
So that it to the looker appertaynd ;
Whatever foe had wrought, or frend had faynd,
Therein discovered was, ne aught mote pas,
Ne aught in secret from the same remaynd;
Forthy it round and hollow shaped was.
Like to the world itselfe, and seem'd a world of glas.

"Who wonders not that reades so wonderous worke?
But who does wonder, that has red the towre
Wherein the AEgyptian Phao long did lurke
From all men's vew, that none might her discoure
Yet she might all men vew out of her bowre?
Great Ptolemee it for his leman's sake
Ybuilded all of glasse by magicke powre."

The description in the 19th stanza of which corresponds remarkably with a passage of Langland's (" Piers Ploughman," pass. xi.):

"In a mirrour hight midle earth she made me to loke, Sithen she sayd to me, `Here mightest thou se wonders."

But Mr. Cowley seems to go somewhat too far when he extends it to the Supreme :

"The thing thou sawst

Shap'd in the glass of the divine foresight."

Davideis, b. ii. v. 828.

It is from this prevailing notion that Chaucer borrows one of the presents made by " the king of Arabie and of Inde" to Cambuscan, king of Tartarie, in his " Squiere's Tale," where, at vs. 10445, the ambassador of the former says, in a passage which one may see that Spenser had read :

This mirrour eke that I have in min hond
Hath swiche a might that men may in it see
When ther shal falle ony adversitee
Unto your regne or to yourself also,
And openly who is your friend or fo :
And over all this, if any lady bright
Hath set hire herte on any maner wight,
If he be fais she shal his treson se,
His newe love, and all his subtiltee,
So openly that there shal nothing hide."

Milton, whose fervid imagination was copiously impregnated and nourished by the fictions of our ancient romances, had not forgotten this when he invokes Melancholy to ---

"Call up him that left half-told
The story of Cambuscan bold,
Of Camball, and of Algarsife
And who had Canace to wife,
That own'd the virtuous ring and glass;
And of the wondrous horse of brass
On which the Tartar king did ride."

This use of glasses is referred to by Shakespeare :

The law — like a prophet,
Looks in a glass, that shews what further evils
Are now to have no successive degrees."

Measure for Measure, act ii. sc. 2,

vol. ii. (1785) p. 49; where (and at Macbeth, act iv. sc. 1, vol. iv. sc. 1, p. 593) see the notes ; also Geo. Sandys, Travels, p. 89.

Mr. Barrington remarks (in his " Obs. on Anc. Stat.," p. r, note b.) that "the oldest book in the German law is intituled, `Spiegel,`or the Looking-glass;' which answers to our `Mirrour of Justices.' One of the ancient, Icelandic books is styled ` Speculum Regale.' There is also, in the Teutonic antiquities of Schrevelius, a collection of the ancient laws of Pomerania and Prussia under the title of `Speculum." He observes, " that the same title being given to so many ancient law-books in different countries cannot be the effect of mere accident ;" and adds, in his fourth edition, that it "probably means that the points treated of are so inculcated that one may see them tanquam in specula." Mr. Warton, however (ubi supra), infers with greater probability, that the use of this term, as a title for books, is derived from the Arabian use of mirrors in natural magic : and in confirmation of his supposition, we find an Arabian treatise intituled " The Mirror which reflects the World," ib., p. 407. And it was a very favourite title for books in the dark ages. Thus we have the "Sachsen Spiegel," or Speculum Saxonicum (Selden, "Tit. Hon.," pt. i., chap. i. sect. 25); the "Speculum Historiale," of Richard of Cirencester (Dr. Stukeley's account of him, p. 9), and of Vincentius Bellovacensis, or Vincent of Beavis ("Warton," vol. i., p. 133) ; the " Speculum Stultorum," of Nigel de Wircher, 1200 (ib., p. 419) ; the " Speculum Astrologim" of Albert the Great (" Bayle, au Mot," not. F) ; our Lord Buckhurst's

Mirrour of Magistrates," and George Whetstone's English "Mirrour" (" Tatter," new edit., vol. vi., p. 69) ; the "Speculum Juris of Durandus ; a musical treatise, intituled " Speculum Musicae," mentioned by Dr. Burney; the "Speculum Vitæ Christi" ("Biograph. Britann." vol. iii., p. 375) ; a German play, 1561, " De Spiegel der Minne (" Dodsley's Old Plays," vol. i., p. 32) ; and others mentioned by Warton (vol. ii., pp. 2, 10, 68, 170, 190, 193, 206, 408 ; vol. iii., p. 2-16) ; the Abbé de Sade (Vie de Pétrarque, vol. ii., p. 179) ; and Whitaker (" Hist. of Manchester," vol. i., p. 90). I will only add that the public book of accounts of the state debtors in Florence is called " Il Specchio" ; that the magistrates of Haerlem preserve, with great care, a copy of Bp. Grosseteste's " Speculum Humanæ Salvationis ;" and that, in the Bodleian Library, there is a German treatise on the game of chess, intituled " Scharch-spiel."

From this magical use of glasses, Butler, referring to the magical use of stones (on which see Blackstone, "Comment.," b. iii., ch. xxii., p. 340: and Gibbon, " Hist. Decl.," ch. xxxiv., p. 14), says :

"Kelly did all his feats upon
The devil's looking-glass, a stone."

Hudibras, part canto 3, v. 631.

On which lines I will cite part of Dr. Nash's note, as his edition is in few hands ; though I am sensible my digressions have already exceeded the just bounds of a note : "The poet might here term this stone the ' devil's looking-glass' from the use which Dee and Kelly made of it, and because it has been the common practice of conjurors to answer the enquiries of persons by representations shown to them in a glass. Dr. Merick Casaubon quotes a passage to this purpose from a MS. of Roger Bacon,* inscribed, `De Dictis et Factis falsorum Mathernaticorum et Daemonum.' The dæmons sometimes appear to them really, sometimes imaginarily, in basons and polished things, and show them whatever they desire. Boys looking upon these surfaces see, by imagination, things that have been stolen, to what places they have been carried, what persons took them away, and the like. In the Pro emium of Joachim Camerarius to Plutarch De Oraculis, we are told that a gentleman of Nuremberg had a crystal which had this singular virtue, viz., if anyone desired to know anything past or future, let a young man, castus, or who was not yet of age, look into it, he would first see a man so and so apparelled, and afterwards what he desired. We meet with a similar story in Heylin's " Hist. of Ref.," part iii. The Earl of Hertford, brother to Queen Jane, having formerly been employed in France, acquainted himself there with a learned man, who was supposed to have great skill in magick. To this person, by rewards and importunities, he applied for information concerning his affairs at home ; and his impertinent curiosity' was so far gratified, that, by the help of some magical perspective, he beheld a gentleman in a more familiar posture with his wife than was consistent with the honour of either party. To this diabolical illusion he is said to have given so much credit, that he not only estranged him-self from her society at his return, but furnished a second wife with an excellent reason for urging the disinherison* of his former children." Thus far Dr. Nash.

Having thus endeavoured to trace the popular superstition of fairies in its origin, and having accompanied it in its progress, its decline and fall will be best described in the words of Sprat : " In the modern ages these fantastical forms were revived, and possessed Christendom in the very height of the schoolmen's time. An infinite number of fairies haunted every house; all churches were filled with apparitions; men began to be frighted from their cradles, which fright continued to their graves, and their names also were made the causes of scaring others. All which abuses, if those acute philosophers did not pro-mote, yet they were never able to overcome; nay, not even so much as King Oberon and his invisible army. But from the time in which the real philosophy has appeared, there is scarce any whisper remaining of such horrors ; every man is unshaken at these tales, at which his ancestors trembled; the course of things goes quietly along in its own true channel of natural causes and effects. For this we are beholden to experiments ; which, though they have not yet completed the discovery of the true world, yet they have already vanquished those wild inhabitants of the false worlds that used to astonish the minds of men. A blessing for which we ought to be thankful, if we remember that it is one of the greatest curses that God pronounces on the wicked, `that they shall fear where no fear is."' (" Hist. of the Royal Society," part iii., sect xii., p. 341.)

Permit me to conclude this long, and to enliven this dull note, by recommending to the notice of your readers the following elegant translation of one of the prettiest poems on the subject of fairies; in which the characteristic and appropriate levity of the original is very happily preserved.

Home | More Articles | Email: