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witty correction of the folly of believing in witchcraft.
“ On Monday last, March 26th, 1682, about one of the clock in the afternoon, came four women, well-habited, into the Blue Boar Inn, in Holborn, and going to the dunghill there, they opened a hole in it about a foot and an half deep, where they placed a bottle with the neck downwards, in which, they say, was a girl's u-e, that was said to be bewitched; and that they had been advised by a skilful chemist to put therein mercury, needles, pins, and other magical ingredients, and to bury it in a dunghill, which they did, covering the bottle, and sat them down to work, that none might meddle with it, where they continued sitting (a great concourse of people visiting them and wondering at them) till the next morning, when the woman supposed to be the witch appeared in a very swollen condition and demanded the bottle, which they resolutely denying, and opposing her from meddling with it, she at last was forced to leave them, with many dreadful imprecations. About one of the clock the same day, they say, that news was brought them the witch was dead, and that the girl was perfectly recovered; at which they, much rejoicing, took up their bottle and departed.”
Aubrey was deeply infected with the vapours of superstition; and, with more labour than profit, collected what he termed Miscellanies from various authors, to which he added his own observations. A selection from those will serve to shew the general tendency this way.—Sir Kenelm Digby, whom Aubrey terms a great linguist' and magazine of arts, is said to have been born, fought fortunately, and died, on the eleventh of June: hence it must be inferred, that this was his lucky or unlucky day. That he was born, was certainly beneficial to science; that he was not killed in battle, was happy for himself and the “arts;" but who shall decide the rest ? We must acknowledge with the last lines of his epitaph by Farrar —
“ 'Tis rare, that one and self-same day should be His day of birth, of death, of victory."
Aubrey thought himself of some little consequence, and discovered that the third of November, his own birth-day, had been distinguished by several very important events in antient history'; indeed he was convinced, that the final overflow of a piece of marsh-land belonging to him on this inauspicious day had some reference to the fatal inundation of the Godwin Sands, 580 years before, that too happening on the third of November.
This famous city of London had its unlucky houses in the time of this Wiseacre, whose fancies were no doubt far from singular. The Fleece tavern, York-street, Covent Garden, was one of these doleful piles of brick and mortar, and wit
nessed many homicides; three of which occurred within Aubrey's knowledge: a handsome brick mansion, on the south side of Clerkenwell churchyard, had so bad a name for ill-luck, that it was seldom tenanted for at least forty years, and finally quite deserted: another in Holborn had no less than six tenants, not one of whom were fortunate in it: one opposite Charing Cross was the place where Lady Baynton died: a few years after Lady Hoby, her sister, finished her mortal career there of the small pox; and twenty years later the same disease was fatal to their nephew on these pernicious premises.
“ The last summer,” says Aubrey, “on the day of St. John Baptist, 1694, I accidentally was walking in the pasture behind Montague-house: it was 12 o'clock. I saw there about two or three and twenty young women, most of them well habited, on their knees, very busy, as if they had been weeding. I could not presently learn what the matter was; at last, a young man told me that they were looking for a coal under the root of a plantain, to put under their heads that night, and they should dream who would be their husbands : it was to be found that day and hour. The women have several magical secrets handed down to them by tradition ; for this purpose, as, on St. Agnes night, 21st January, take a row of pins, and pull out every one, one after another, saying a paternoster, or our father,' sticking a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry.” Ben Jonson, in one of his Masks, makes some mention of this:
“ And on sweet St. Agnes night
Which an empty dream discovers." Another method used by love-sick girls was to sleep in a county not their usual residence, where they knit the left-legged garter round their rightlegged stocking, leaving the other garter and stocking untouched in this way. They then repeated the following lines, knitting a knot at each comma:
“ This knot I knit,
and what he wears, And what he does all the days." The next dream upon the subject represented the gentleman to the lady's ardent gaze bearing a badge of his occupation. A lady acknowledged to Aubrey that she had practised the incantation, and was favoured with a vision.
« About two or three years after, as she was one Sunday at church, up pops a young Oxonian in the pulpit. She cries out presently to her sister, “This is the very face of the man that I saw in my dream'." He became
her husband. “Sir William Soames lady did the like."
“Another way is, to charm the moon thus. At the first appearance of the new moon after New year's day, go out in the evening, and stand over the bars of a gate or stile, looking on the moon,
* All hail to thee, Moon, all hail to thee!
This night who my husband must be.' You must presently after go to bed. I knew two gentlewomen that did thus when they were young maids, and they had dreams of those that married them.”
“ Most houses of the west end of London," says Aubrey, “ have the horse shoe on the threshold.” The horse shoe, it seems, lost its virtue if purchased or received as a gift; it should be accidentally found to prevent the operations of witches within the house under its protection.