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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Discovery of the Fraudulent Practices of John Darrel


The

narrative of the St. Oses case appeared in 1582. It was called _A True and just Recorde of the Information, Examination and Confession of all the Witches taken at St. Oses in the countie of Essex: whereof some were executed, and other some entreated according to the determination of Lawe.... Written orderly, as the cases were tryed by evidence, by W. W._ The pamphlet is merely a record of examinations. It is dedicated to Justice Darcy; and from slips, where the judge in describing his action breaks into the first person, it is evident that it was written by the judge himself. Scot, who wrote two years later, had read this pamphlet, and knew of the case (_Discoverie_, 49, 542). There are many references to the case by later writers on witchcraft.

Eleven years later came the trials which brought out the pamphlet: _The most strange and admirable discoverie of the three Witches of Warboys, arraigned, convicted and executed at the last assises at Huntingdon ..._, London, 1593. Its contents are reprinted by Richard Boulton, in his _Compleat History of Magick, Sorcery, and Witchcraft_ (London, 1715), I, 49-152. There can be no doubt as to the historical character of this pamphlet. The Throckmortons, the Cromwells, and the Pickerings were all well known in Huntingdonshire. An agreement is still preserved in the archives of the Huntingdon corporation providing that the corporation shall pay L40 to Queen's College, Cambridge, in order that a sermon shall

be preached on witchcraft at Huntingdon each Lady day. This was continued for over two hundred years. One of the last sermons on this endowment was preached in 1795 and attacked the belief in witchcraft. The record of the contract is still kept in Queen's College, Brit. Mus. MSS., 5,849, fol. 254. For mention of the affair see Darrel, _Detection of that sinnful ... discours of Samuel Harshnet_, 36, 39, 110; also Harsnett, _Discovery of the Fraudulent Practises_, 93, 97. Several Jacobean writers refer to the case. What seems to be another edition is in the Bodleian: _A True and Particular Observation of a notable Piece of Witchcraft_--which is the inside heading of the first edition. The text is the same, but there are differences in the paging.

Perhaps the most curious of all Elizabethan witch pamphlets is entitled _The most wonderfull and true Storie of a certaine Witch named Alse Gooderidge of Stapenhill, who was arraigned and convicted at Darbie, at the Assizes there. As also a true Report of the strange Torments of Thomas Darling, a boy of thirteen years of age, that was possessed by the Devill, with his horrible Fittes and terrible apparitions by him uttered at Burton upon Trent, in the Countie of Stafford, and of his marvellous deliverance_, London, 1597. There are two copies of this--the only ones of which the writer knows--in Lambeth Palace library. They are exactly alike, page for page, except for the last four lines of the last page, where the wording differs. The pamphlet is clearly one written by John Denison as an abstract of an account by Jesse Bee. Harsnett, _Discovery of the Fraudulent Practices of John Darrel_, 266-269, tells how these two books were written. Denison is quoted as to certain insertions made in his manuscript after it left his hands, insertions which are to be found, he says, on pages 15 and 39. The insertions complained of by Denison are indeed to be found on the pages indicated of _The most wonderfull and true Storie of ... Alse Gooderidge_, thus establishing his authorship of the pamphlet. The account by Bee, of which this is an abstract, I have not seen. Alse Gooderidge was put through many examinations and finally died in prison. "She should have been executed, but that her spirit killed her in prison." John Darrel was one of those who sought to help the boy who had been bewitched by Alice. Darrel, however, receives only passing mention from the author of this pamphlet. The narrative does not agree very well in matters of detail with the Darrel tracts, although in the main outlines it is similar to them. It is very crudely put together, and, while it was doubtless a sincere effort to present the truth, must not be too implicitly depended upon.


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