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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Ady stood eminently for good sense


reader can readily see that More, Casaubon, and Homes were all on the defensive. They were compelled to offer explanations of the mysteries of witchcraft, they were ready enough to make admissions; but they were nevertheless sticking closely to the main doctrines. It is a pleasure to turn to the writings of two men of somewhat bolder stamp, Robert Filmer and Thomas Ady. Sir Robert Filmer was a Kentish knight of strong royalist views who had written against the limitations of monarchy and was not afraid to cross swords with Milton and Hobbes on the origin of government. In 1652 he had attended the Maidstone trials, where, it will be remembered, six women had been convicted. As Scot had been stirred by the St. Oses trials, so Filmer was wrought up by what he had seen at Maidstone,[44] and in the following year he published his _Advertisement to the Jurymen of England_. He set out to overturn the treatise of Perkins. As a consequence he dealt with Scripture and the interpretation of the well known passages in the Old Testament. The Hebrew witch, Filmer declared, was guilty of nothing more than "lying prophecies." The Witch of Endor probably used "hollow speaking." In this suggestion Filmer was following his famous Kentish predecessor.[45] But Filmer's main interest, like Bernard's and Gaule's before him, was to warn those who had to try cases to be exceedingly careful. He felt that a great part of the evidence used was worth little or nothing.


Ady's _Candle in the Dark_ was published three years later.[48] Even more than Filmer, Ady was a disciple of Scot. But he was, indeed, a student of all English writers on the subject and set about to answer them one by one. King James, whose book he persistently refused to believe the king's own handiwork, Cooper, who was a "bloudy persecutor," Gifford, who "had more of the spirit of truth in him than many," Perkins, the arch-enemy, Gaule, whose "intentions were godly," but who was too far "swayed by the common tradition of men,"[47] all of them were one after another disposed of. Ady stood eminently for good sense. It was from that point of view that he ridiculed the water ordeal and the evidence of marks,[48] and that he attacked the cause and effect relation between threats and illness. "They that make this Objection must dwell very remote from Neighbours."[49]

Yet not even Ady was a downright disbeliever. He defended Scot from the report "that he held an opinion that Witches are not, for it was neither his Tenent nor is it mine." Alas, Ady does not enlighten us as to just what was his opinion. Certainly his witches were creatures without power.[50] What, then, were they? Were they harmless beings with malevolent minds? Mr. Ady does not answer.

A hundred years of witchcraft history had not brought to light a man who was willing to deny in a printed work the existence of witches. Doubtless such denial might often have been heard in the closet, but it was never proclaimed on the housetop. Scot had not been so bold--though one imagines that if he had been quietly questioned in a corner he might have denied the thing _in toto_--and those who had followed in his steps never ventured beyond him.

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