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A History of Witchcraft in England from 1558 to 17

Commissary to the Reverend father in God


See Hale, _op. cit._, 148, 157.

[49] Hale, _op. cit._, 148; _Depositions ... from the Court of Durham_, 99; _Arch. Cant._, XXVI, 21.

[50] Hale, _op. cit._, 148, 185.

[51] _Ibid._, 157.

[52] _Denham Tracts_ (Folk Lore Soc., London), II, 332; John Sykes, _Local Record ... of Remarkable Events ... in Northumberland, Durham, ..._ etc. (2d ed., Newcastle, 1833-1852), I, 79.

[53] See, for example, _Acts P. C._, n. s., VII, 32 (1558).

[54] _Cal. St. P., Dom., 1547-1580_, 173. Instance where the Bishop of London seems to have examined a case and turned it over to the privy council.

[55] Rachel Pinder and Agnes Bridges, who pretended to be possessed by the Devil, were examined before the "person of St. Margarets in Lothberry," and the Mayor of London, as well as some justices of the peace. They later made confession before the Archbishop of Canterbury and some justices of the peace. See the black letter pamphlet, _The discloysing of a late counterfeyted possession by the devyl in two maydens within the Citie of London_ [1574].

[56] Francis Coxe came before the queen rather than the church. He narrates his experiences in _A short treatise declaringe the detestable wickednesse of magicall sciences, ..._ (1561). Yet

John Walsh, a man with a similar record, came before the commissary of the Bishop of Exeter. See _The Examination of John Walsh before Master Thomas Williams, Commissary to the Reverend father in God, William, bishop of Excester, upon certayne Interrogatories touchyng Wytch-crafte and Sorcerye, in the presence of divers gentlemen and others, the XX of August, 1566_.

[57] We say "practically," because instances of church jurisdiction come to light now and again throughout the seventeenth century.



The year 1566 is hardly less interesting in the history of English witchcraft than 1563. It has been seen that the new statute passed in 1563 was the beginning of a vigorous prosecution by the state of the detested agents of the evil one. In 1566 occurred the first important trial known to us in the new period. That trial deserves note not only on its own account, but because it was recorded in the first of the long series of witch chap-books--if we may so call them. A very large proportion of our information about the execution of the witches is derived from these crude pamphlets, briefly recounting the trials. The witch chap-book was a distinct species. In the days when the chronicles were the only newspapers it was what is now the "extra," brought out to catch the public before the sensation had lost its flavor. It was of course a partisan document, usually a vindication of the worthy judge who had condemned the guilty, with some moral and religious considerations by the respectable and righteous author. A terribly serious bit of history it was that he had to tell and he told it grimly and without pity. Such comedy as lights up the gloomy black-letter pages was quite unintentional. He told a story too that was full of details trivial enough in themselves, but details that give many glimpses into the every-day life of the lower classes in town and country.

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