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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

12 He hastened to publish The Surey Impostor


Non-Conformity was strong in Lancashire, and the Anglican church as well as the government had for many years been at no little pains to put it down. Here was a chance to strike the Puritans at one of their weakest spots, and the Church of England was not slow to use its opportunity. Zachary Taylor, rector of Wigan and chaplain to the Bishop of Chester, had already familiarized himself with the methods of the exorcists. In the previous year he had attacked the Catholics of Lancashire for an exorcism which they claimed to have accomplished within his parish.[11] Pleased with his new role, he found in Thomas Jollie a sheep ready for the shearing.[12] He hastened to publish _The Surey Impostor_,[13] in which, with a very good will, he made an assault upon the reality of Dugdale's fits, charged that he had been pre-instructed by the Catholics, and that the Non-Conformist clergymen were seeking a rich harvest from the miracles they should work. Self-glorification was their aim. He made fun of the several divines engaged in the affair, and accused them of trickery and presumption in their conduct of the case.[14]

Of course Taylor was answered, and with a bitterness equal to his own. Thomas Jollie replied in _A Vindication of the Surey Demoniack_. "I will not foul my Paper," wrote the mild Jollie, "and offend my reader with those scurrilous and ridiculous Passages in this Page. O, the Eructations of an exulcerated Heart! How desperately wicked is the

Heart of Man!"[15]

We shall not go into the details of the controversy, which really degenerated into a sectarian squabble.[16] The only discussion of the subject that approached fairness was by an anonymous writer,[17] who professed himself impartial and of a different religious persuasion from Jollie. To be sure, he was a man who believed in possession by spirits. It may be questioned, too, whether his assumption of fair dealing towards the Church of England was altogether justified. But, at any rate, his work was free from invective and displayed moderation. He felt that the Dissenting clergymen were probably somewhat deluded. But they had acted, he believed, under good motives in attempting to help one who had appealed to them. Some of them were not only "serious good Men," but men well known in the nation. This, indeed, was true. The Dissenters had laid themselves open to attack, and doubtless some of them saw and regretted their mistake. At least, it seems not without significance that neither Oliver Heywood nor Richard Frankland nor any other of the Dissenters was sure enough of his ground to support Jollie in the controversy into which he had been led.[18]

We have gone into some detail about the Dugdale affair because of its importance in its time, and because it was so essentially characteristic of the last era of the struggle over the power of the Devil. There were cases of possession not only in Lancashire but in Somersetshire and in and around London. Not without a struggle was His Satanic Majesty surrendering his hold.

We turn from this controversy to follow the decisions of those eminent judges who were nullifying the statute against witches. We have already mentioned three names, those of Holt, Powell, and Parker. This is not because they were the only jurists who were giving verdicts of acquittal--we know that there must have been others--but because their names are linked with significant decisions. Without doubt Chief Justice Holt did more than any other man in English history to end the prosecution of witches. Justice Powell was not so brave a man, but he happened to preside over one of the most bitterly contested of all trials, and his verdict served to reaffirm the precedents set by Holt. It was Justice Parker's fortune to try the last case of witchcraft in England.

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