« PreviousContinue »
too, that he gained the heart of the young lady by means of sorcery and the assistance of the devil.” The fascination exercised at will by Mary herself, when long past her prime, was of a kind which set one of our foremost essayists to work out the problem, how is it that the belle of eighteen is often deserted for the woman of forty, and that the patent witchery of youth and prettiness goes for nothing against the latent witchery of a mature siren ? What is the secret ? he asks : how is it done? The world, even of silly girls, has got past any belief in spells and talismans, such as Charlemagne's mistress wore, and yet the man's fascination seems to them quite as miraculous and almost as unholy as if it had been brought about by the black art. “If they had any analytical power, they would understand the diablerie of the mature sirens clearly enough, for it. is not so difficult to understand when one puts one's mind to it.” Riper knowledge of the world, a suavity of manner and “ moral flexibility, wholly wanting to the young,” enlarged sympathy, and cultivated tact, and colloquial ease and skill,—these, and such as these, are the witchcrafts the elder charmers use; such as these, if not these only.
Glancing here and there at the miscellanies of history for examples to our purpose, we think of the submission of Attila to Pope Leo, whose dauntless confidence and venerable aspect made so profound an impression upon him, as attributed by legend to a visible apparition of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, who “menaced the trembling heathen with a speedy divine judgment if he repelled the proposals of their successor.” But this materialising view, to adopt the objections of the historian of Latin Christianity, though it may have heightened the beauty of Raffaelle's painting, by the introduction of preterhuman forms, lowers the moral grandeur of the whole transaction. The simple faith in his God, which, says Dean Milman, “ gave the Roman pontiff courage to confront" the barbarian king, “is far more christianly sublime than this unnecessarily-imagined miracle.” Applicable, again, from another point of view, is the instance of St. Dominic's rare power of infusing a profound and enduring devotion to one object. “Once within the magic circle, the enthralled disciple lost all desire to leave it,” so potent was the master's holy art, which was believed to be miracle. So, again, with his rival saint, the founder of the Franciscan order, and to whom so many miracles are ascribed, but the moral miracle of whose self-sacrificing love is now recognised as the mainspring of success. As one of Corneille's heroes puts it,
"Tout miracle est facile où mon amour s'applique." When the Scheldt bridge was completed, in 1585, the famous bridge of Parma, which has been advantageously compared with the celebrated Rhine-bridge of Julius Cæsar, the citizens of Antwerp could hardly believe that the structure had been reared by human
ever, had beewas the intellect inspiring a stead
agency, but loudly protested that invisible demons had been summoned to plan and perfect this fatal and preterhuman work. “ They were wrong,” says Mr. Motley. “ There had been but one demon -one clear lofty intelligence, inspiring a steady and untiring hand. The demon was the intellect of Alexander Farnese;" which, however, had been assisted in its labour by the hundred devils of envy and discord rife in the ranks of his foes.
The same accomplished historian, having to treat of Lerma's influence over Philip III., says, “the people thought their monarch bewitched.” But the all-grasping favourite was no wizard ; only an adventurer with his wits about him. Sorcerer he was not, nor much of a sage, but very much a shrewd man of business, with a will of his own, and tact to enforce it on one who had none. The unbounded rapacity of the duke is the evil element in this case. Had he been a disinterested minister, his ascendency might have been as salutary to Spain as in fact it was the reverse ; and then it might have been said of it, with Leontes in the statue scene,
“ If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.” The celebrated Thomas Hamilton, earl of Haddington, president of the Court of Session, and Secretary of State for Scotland, was nicknamed by his sovereign, from the place of his residence, · Tam o' the Cowgate,' under which title he is said to be now better remembered than by any other. Him James I. visited, when in Scotland in 1617; and very rich the king found the old statesman, whom, on that account, popular rumour accredited with the actual possession of the philosopher's stone; there being “no other feasible mode of accounting for his immense wealth, which rather seemed the effect of supernatural agency than of worldly prudence or talent." It seems that King James was vastly tickled with the idea of the philosopher's stone, and of so enviable a talisman having fallen into the hands of a Scottish judge; so his majesty took care to let his trusty old friend and gossip know of the rumours afloat. The lord president, we are told, immediately invited the king, and the rest of the company present, to come and dine with him next day, when he would lay open to them the mystery of the talisman in question. Next day saw his Cowgate palazzo thronged with the invited guests, all of whom his lordship gratified with a dainty repast. That over, James reminded Tam of his philosopher's stone, and declared himself to be on the tenterhooks of expectation till the mystery should be solved. The president the addressed king and courtiers in a pithy speech, whereof the peroration explained that his whole secret lay in two simple and familiar maxims : “ Never put-off till tomorrow what can be done to-day ;” and “ Never trust to another's hand what your own can execute."
thing... sorcerer; he shrewd soldier sa
French traders are said to have a proverb about English luck," and to believe that in commerce we are specially fortunate ; nay, some of the more pious among them have been quoted as going so far as to say that, since we renounced the pope, the devil has made us exceptionally “lucky,' he being the prince of this world. “But our hard-working long-sighted merchants know much better: their theory of chance is, that the best ship takes merchandise the most safely and most quickly, and that the best seamanship saves the ship from being wrecked much more than “luck' does." Harapha, the giant of Gath, in Samson Agonistes, twits the blinded hero with having gained his miraculous strength by “ black enchantments, some magician's art," and is thus answered :
“I know no spells, use no forbidden arts;
At my nativity this strength." Urbain Grandier, as the shrewd soldier says in Vingt Ans après, was not a sorcerer; he was a savant, and that is quite another thing. “Urbain Grandier did not foretell the future ; he was acquainted with the past, which is sometimes much worse.” One of the nuns who were implicated in the dismal Grandier procès, on avowing solemnly the innocence of the condemned priest, was taunted by M. de Laubordemont with speaking at the instigation of the devil. But, remorseful at her share in bringing about Grandier's condemnation, she answered that she had never been possessed of any demon—as all the nuns of Loudun on their own showing were
-excepting the demon of revenge, and that it was no magical compact, but her own evil thoughts, which had led to at least her demoniacal possession.
Fiction must not be altogether left out in this cold collation of scraps and sundries. The admiring Parisians, in Victor Hugo's masterpiece, see absolute magic in the miraculous tricks of Esmeralda's goat-one of those learned animals which, in the Middle Ages, brought their instructors in peril of the stake. The sorceries of poor golden-hoofed Djali, however, are explained to be very innocent tricks, it being sufficient, in most cases, to hold the tambourine to the animal in such or such a way, to make it do what you wished.
Rebecca the Jewess, in Ivanhoe, is tried for unlawful correspondence with mystical powers, and divers weighty charges are preferred against her, supported by circumstances either altogether fictitious or trivial, and natural in themselves, but rendered pregnant with suspicion by the exaggerated manner in which they are told, and the sinister commentaries which the witnesses add to the facts. She has bewitched the Templar, and the credulity of the assembly greedily swallows every allegation in proof, however incredible. But when Rebecca, at the grand master's command, unveils, and looks
which hehe plot of The Bcott, take the ballmaginary witchcraft.
on her judges with a countenance in which bashfulness contends with dignity, her exceeding beauty excites a murmur of surprise ; and the younger knights tell each other, by significant glances, silently interchanged, that Sir Brian's “best apology was in the power of her real charms, rather than of her imaginary witchcraft." As another example from Scott, take the ballad-history whence he derived the plot of The Bride of Lammermoor, and portions of which he quotes in the Introduction to that tragedy of doom ; remarking at the same time that it was “needless to point out to the intelligent reader that the witchcraft of the mother consisted only in the ascendency of a powerful mind over a weak and melancholy one”—that is, in his version, of Lady Ashton over Lucy.
What says Luigi Pulci, as cited by Nello in Romola, as to the magic ascribed to a certain trenchant blade ? “ Dombruno's sharpcutting scimitar had the fame of being enchanted; but,” says Luigi, “I am rather of opinion that it cut sharp because it was of strongly-tempered steel.” It is in the same historical novel that, discussing with Tito the pledge of Fra Domenico to face the ordeal by fire, Spini exclaims, with a grimace intended to hide a certain shyness in trenching on this speculative ground, “ But suppose he did get magic and the devil to help him, and walk through the fire, after all ? how do you know there's nothing in these things ? Plenty of scholars believe in them, and this Frate is bad enough for anything." Tito answers, with a shrug, that of course there are such things, but he has particular reasons for knowing that the Frate is not on such terms with the devil as can give him any confidence in this affair. “ The only magic he relies on is his own ability.” We may apply to the like purpose the changed conviction of the Hebrew outcasts, pestilent-stricken pariahs, to whose service Romola so nobly devotes herself: “ The suspicion that Romola was a supernatural form was dissipated, but their minds were filled instead with the more effective sense that she was a human being whom God had sent over the sea to command them.”
The Brown Woman in Hood's Tylney Hall, an accepted fortune-teller, owes her repute to a shrewd and subtle foresight as to the probable course of human affairs, the conscious result simply of her sagacity, experience, and knowledge of the world. Her dominion is but “the power of a strong mind over weak ones ;' but her reputation invests her with respect and awe in the eyes of the vulgar, “while from servants and retainers it procured private goodwill and unbounded confidence, furnishing her with a circumstantial history of the past and present in exchange for the glimmerings she chose to give of the future.” And these domestic confidences may be said, as in so many other such cases, to have constituted her working capital. Trust her, and such as her, to put it out at good interest.
THE HAUNTED BARONET
BY J. S. LE FANU,
CHAPTER XIII. THE MIST ON THE MOUNTAIN. DOCTOR TORVEY was sent for early next morning, and came full of wonder, learning, and scepticism. Seeing is believing, however ; and there was Philip Feltram living, and soon to be, in all bodily functions, just as usual.
• Upon my soul, Sir Bale, I couldn't have believed it, if I had not seen it with my eyes,' said the Doctor impressively, while sipping a glass of sherry in the breakfast-parlour,' as the great panelled and pictured room next the dining-room was called. “I don't think there is any similar case on record—no pulse, no more than the poker; no respiration, by Jove, no more than the chimneypiece ; as cold as a lead image in the garden there. Well, you'll say all that might possibly be fallacious ; but what will you say to the cadaveric stiffness ? Old Judy Wale can tell you ; and my friend Marcella—Monocula would be nearer the mark—Mrs. Bligh, she knows all those common, and I may say up to this, infallible, signs of death, as well as I do. There is no mystery about them ; they'll depose to the literality of the symptoms. You heard how they gave tongue. Upon my honour, I'll send the whole case up to my old chief, Sir Hervey Hansard, to London. You'll hear what a noise it will make among the profession. There never was—and it ain't too much to say there never will be—another case like it.'
During this lecture, and a great deal more, Sir Bale leaned back in his chair, with his legs extended, his heels on the ground, and his arms folded, looking sourly up in the face of a tall lady in white satin, in a ruff, and with a bird on her hand, who smiled down superciliously from her frame upon the Baronet. Sir Bale seemed a little bit high and dry with the Doctor.
• You physicians are unquestionably,' he said, “a very learned profession.'
The Doctor bowed.
Medicine,' answered Sir Bale. 'I was aware you never knew what was the matter with a sick man ; but I didn't know, till now, that you couldn't tell when he was dead.' SECOND SERIES, VOL. II. F.S. VOL. XII.