Traditions of Lancashire, Volume 1 (of 2)
by John Roby
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"Twice did he and Sir John Wallop penetrate, with only eight hundred men, into the very heart of France, and four times did he and Sir Thomas Lovell save Calais,—the first time by intelligence, the second by stratagem, the third by their valour and undaunted courage, and the fourth by their unwearied patience and assiduity." "In the dangerous insurrection by Aske and Captain Cobler, his zeal for the prince's service and the welfare of his country caused him to outstrip his sovereign's commands by putting himself at the head of his troops without the king's commission, for which dangerous piece of loyalty he asked pardon, and received thanks." By stirring up jealousy and sedition, too, amongst the rebels, he gave his majesty time, by pretended treaties, to draw off the most eminent of the faction, and to overcome and dissipate the rest. Yet, with all this outward show of prosperity, and the bruit of noble deeds so various and multiplied, that Fame herself seemed weary of rehearsing them, there were not wanting evil reports and dark insinuations against his honour. Foul surmises prevailed, especially in the latter part of his life, as to the means by which he possessed himself of the estates he then held in right of his lady, and those too that he enjoyed through the attainder of her uncle, Sir James Harrington. He acknowledged himself a freethinker and a materialist, a character of rare occurrence in those ages, showing him to be as daring in his opinions as in his pursuits. That the soul of man was like the winding up of a watch, and that when the spring was run down the man died, and the soul was extinct, are still recorded as his expressions. In those days of demoralising ignorance, this open and unhesitating opinion might be the means of creating him many dangerous and deadly enemies, especially amongst the priesthood, whose office, though tending to higher and nobler ends than the mere thralling of man's spirit to creeds and systems of secular ambition, was yet but too often devoted to this purpose. Every power that human cruelty and ingenuity could compass was tried, but happily in vain, to confine the free and unfettered spirit for ever in the dark cells of ignorance and superstition.

From a number of unconnected accounts respecting this great, if not good man, whose virtues even would have been the vices of our own age, we find as the most prominent parts of his disposition a thorough contempt for the maxims and opinions of the world, and an utter recklessness of its censure or esteem. Marrying into the family of the Harringtons, he resided the latter part of his life at the Castle of Hornby, where we find him engaged in schemes for the most part tending to his own wealth and aggrandisement.

The chapel which he built is said to have been vowed at Flodden, but this statement is evidently untrue, having no foundation but the averments of those who content not themselves with a plain narrative of facts, but assume a licence to invent motives agreeable to their own folly or caprice. That Sir Edward Stanley made any such vow we cannot imagine, much less would he put it into execution. "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," was the governing principle of his life, and the mainspring of his actions. It would be a strange anomaly in the records of human opinions to find an edifice reared to perpetuate a belief which the founder thought a delusion, a mere system of priestcraft and superstition. To this prominent feature in his history our attention has been directed, and we think the following tradition assigns a better and more plausible motive for the founding of that beautiful structure, the chapel at Hornby.

It was by the still light of a cloudless harvest-moon that two men appeared to be sauntering up the stream that winds through the vale near Hornby. One of them wore a clerical habit, and the other, from his dress, seemed to attend in the capacity of a menial. They rested at the foot of a steep cliff overhung with firs and copse-wood. The castle, upon the summit, with its tall and narrow tower, like a feather stuck in its crown, was not visible from where they sat. The moon threw an unclouded lustre from her broad full face far away over the wide and heavy woods by which they were surrounded. A shallow bend of the stream towards the left glittered over its bed like molten silver, issuing from a dark and deep pool shaded by the jutting boughs and grim-visaged rocks from whence they hung.

The travellers now ascended by a narrow and precipitous path. Their task was continued with no little difficulty, by reason of the looseness of the soil, and the huge rocks that obstructed their progress. By dint of scrambling, rather than walking, they, however, approached to the summit, when a light became visible over the hill, growing brighter as they ascended. It was the castle turret, where Lord Monteagle generally spent the greater part of the night in study. Whatever might be the precise nature of his pursuits, they were not supposed to be of the most reputable sort.

"Wizard spells and rites unholy"

were said to occupy these midnight vigils. Often, as that lonely watch-tower caught the eye of the benighted peasant, did he cross himself, and fancy that shadows were flitting to and fro on the trembling and distant beam.

"There it is," said the hindmost person, who was none other than the parson of Slaidburn. "That lantern, I think, is unquenchable. Does thy master never quit yon burning pinnacle?"

"May be," replied the servant, "he careth not to be oft abroad; and who dare thwart his will? 'Troth he had need be of a tough temper that should give him speech unquestioned."

"They who hold a higher communion reck but little of this frail and pitiful dust," returned the clergyman, after a solemn pause. "It is enough that he hath sent for me. I would fain warn him ere he depart, else yon walls had not again echoed my footstep."

This confidential domestic spoke not; he was either too much attached to his master, or implicated with him, to hazard a remark.

The path was now wider and less difficult of access, leading over a pretty knoll, glittering like lode-stars in the dew, beyond which arose the huge and cumbrous pile then distinguished as the castle of Hornby.

The barking of some half-dozen hoarse-mouthed dogs announced their approach. Passing over the drawbridge, they entered the court-yard, from whence a side postern at that time opened a communication to the turret-chamber without passing through the main building. A winding staircase led them directly to the summit. Soft gleams of moonlight came at intervals through the narrow loopholes, being the only help or direction whereby to accomplish their ascent. After a tedious gyration, which more than once made the hindmost party pause to obtain a respite, the guide opened a low door. It swung heavily aside, disclosing a small ante-room, destitute of all furniture save a large oaken chest, that seemed to be the depository, or "ark," as it was usually called, for the safe keeping of the family archives.

The conductor approaching an opposite door gave a private signal. It flew open as if by its own impulse, displaying a chamber of no mean dimensions, in which, by the light from a gigantic lamp, was seen a figure seated before a table absolutely groaning with piles of books, and various apparatus of unknown and wondrous import. Instruments of unimaginable shape lay in heaps round the apartment; their use it were impossible to conjecture. Furnaces, alembics, jars, glass urinals, and bottles of all sizes, rendered the chamber perilous of access, save to those who were acquainted with the intricacies of this labyrinth. "Sir Edward," as he was yet generally styled, looked full at his visitors as they entered. His eye was large and dark, the expression fierce and commanding. He was clad in a gown of black silk, covering an inner vest of sables. From a broad belt, glittering with costly stones, hung a short sword and a pair of pistols richly embossed.

The upper portion of his head was bald; the hair on its sides short and frizzly. His beard was of a reddish tinge, trimmed square and bushy, beneath which his white ruff seemed to glisten from the sudden contrast. His forehead was high and retreating; his face pale, and-his cheek hollow and slightly wrinkled. His nose was small, looking ill suited to the other features, which were large and strongly-marked. His mouth was full, but compressed; and his teeth beautifully white and well shaped. When he spoke, they were much exposed, projecting slightly, and tending to give an air of ferocity to his countenance.

In stature he was tall and well formed. Proudly upright in his gait and attitude, he appeared like one born to be obeyed,—to rule in whatsoever station he occupied.

"Sir Hugh Parker. The parson of Slaidburn is welcome to Hornby," said Lord Monteagle, rising. "It is long since we have met. I claim the privilege of old fellowship: give me thy hand."

"My lord, I am here at your request. Your wishes are commands with my poor endeavours."

"Thou mayest retire, Maudsley," said the baron to his servant, motioning him to depart. The minister was accommodated with a low stool, made vacant for the occasion. Lord Monteagle, closing the book, abruptly addressed his visitor.

"I knew thou wast in the neighbourhood, and I would unravel a few arguments with thee; a few quiddities about thy profession. I know thou art skilful at thy trade, which, though a vocation having its basis in fraud, finding countenance through the weakness and credulity of mankind, doth yet hold the commonalty in thrall and terror—a restraint which none other scheme might peradventure impose."

"You are too harsh, my lord. I minister not to aught that, my conscience disapproves. Being of the Reformed Church, I do not mightily affect creeds and opinions. The Bible is the fountain, pure and undefiled; its waters fertilise and invigorate the seed of the faith, but choke and rot the rampant weeds of error and superstition."

"The Bible! A forgery: the invention of a cunning priesthood to mask and perpetuate their delusions. Prove its falsehoods to be the truth. Distinguish me thy revelation from the impostures of Mahomet, the dreams of the Sibyls, and the lying oracles of Heathenrie. Oblige me either to renounce my reason and the common principles which distinguish truth from error, or to admit the proof thou shalt allege, which proof, look thee, must be such as no imposture can lay claim to, otherwise it proves thy doctrine to be an imposture. If thy religion be true, there must be such a proof. For if the Being who gave this revelation which He requires all men to receive, have left His own truth destitute of the only proof which can distinguish it from an imposture, this will be an impeaching of His wisdom, an error in the very outset of the case, proving Him not the Allwise, but liable to infirmity and error. This, thou seest, will bring our debate within a narrow compass."

"Nevertheless, I must own the task is hard," replied the clergyman, "because of the blindness and impotency of that same reason of which thou vauntest, and the feebleness of our mental sight; for we cannot come at any abstract truth whatsoever but by many inferences hanging together as by a chain, one link of which, not fully apprehended or made fast, loosens the whole, and the argument falls to the ground."

"Does the reformed doctrine, too, require a belief in what the hearer may not comprehend?" said the baron, scornfully.

"Nay, there is a sufficiency in the evidence, and a fulness in this testimony, of which none other history can boast. What book is that, my lord?"

"The Anabasis."

"By whom?"

"Surely thou art in j'est. 'Tis Xenophon's."

"How? Xenophon!" said the divine; "methinks thou speakest unadvisedly. My reason or apprehension knoweth not of such a man, or that he writ this book, and yet thou boldly affirmest the history to be true!"

"I know not that it was ever doubted," replied the other. "The common consent and belief of mankind, the transmission of the record from remote ages, are of themselves no mean evidence of its truth. But there must have been a time when it was first written, and as he appeals in it to facts, to matters which were then of recent occurrence, and to the public knowledge and belief of those facts, surely every of these statements would have insured detection, especially if put forth at or about the time when the events took place. Would it not have been madness to appeal to eye-witnesses of transactions which never happened, which witnesses were then alive, and could easily have belied such an impudent and furtive attempt at imposture? The idea seems almost too absurd to refute."

"Thou judgest well. It would be madness and absurdity in the extreme to deny the existence of thy historian, or the events to which he refers; and yet a record which to thee is of the greatest moment, wherein thine own interests are for ever involved, and to the truth of which there is much more clear and irrefragable testimony, thou rejectest as a fraud and an imposture."

"What proof can its promulgers give me of the infallibility of their doctrines, even supposing these events to be true?"

"Miracles, acknowledged to be such, contravening and transcending the common course of nature,—these, I reckon, will be a sufficient warranty that the message is from the great Author of all things Himself."

"I own these are the strongest evidences that I could require, and I would admit them if I had witnessed their performance."

"Good. Now to the proof. It is impossible that any simple fact could be imposed, or that a number of persons could be made to believe they had witnessed such fact, unless it had actually taken place. For instance, if I were to assert that I had divided the waters of this river here, in the presence of the inhabitants, and that I had once led the whole of them over dryshod, the waters standing like a wall on each side, to guard their path, appealing to them at the same time in proof of my testimony; it would be impossible, I say, to convince those people it were true, provided the event had not happened. Every person would be at hand to contradict me, and consequently it would be impossible that such an imposition could be put upon them against the direct evidence of their senses."

"Granted," replied the baron. "But this tale I am not too bold to infer might be invented when that generation had passed, when the credulity of coming ages might lead men to believe in such foolish and monstrous imaginings, like the labours of Hercules, the amours of Jove, and the cannibal exploits of Saturn."

"Nay, but hear me. Whenever such a story was first promulged, were it then stated that not only public monuments remained to attest the event, but that public rites and ceremonies were kept up for its express commemoration, which rites were to that day continual, and to which those writings appealed as evidence attesting the performance of such miracles, then must the deceit have been rendered but the more glaring and easy of detection, as no such monuments could exist, no rites, no ceremonies demonstrating the truth of this appeal could be in observance. Thus, if I should now invent the tale about something done two thousand odd years ago, a few might, peradventure, be credulous enough to believe me; but if I were to say that ever after, even to this day, every male had his nose slit and his ears bored in memory of this event, it would be absolutely impossible that I should gain credit for my story, because the universality of the falsehood being manifest, and the attestation thereof visibly untrue, would prove the whole history to be false. Such were the rites and customs of the Jews."

"But still, rites and observances were practised by the heathen, which ceremonies ye acknowledge to have been false and impious, yet their followers worshipped and slid their neck into the yoke as readily as thy favourite Hebrews, who are proverbially rogues and cheats in the estimation even of infidels themselves."

"Ay, but impostors appeal not to facts, to eye-witnesses of some event, confirming and attesting the authority of their mission. Moses could not have persuaded half-a-million of persons that he had brought them through the Red Sea, fed them forty years with manna in the wilderness, and performed many other miracles during their journey, had not the facts been well known; and down to this day the rites and ceremonies of the Jews are, in consequence, linked to these main facts as securely as though we ourselves had formed the first series of the chain, eye-witnesses to the miracles they attest. Again, the books of Moses expressly represent that they are the great history and transcript of the Jewish law, and speak of their being delivered by him and kept in the ark from his time; likewise they are commanded to be read at stated periods, and to be taught from father to son throughout all generations, to the end that no imposition might be practised. In whatever age, therefore, after Moses, these forgeries were committed, it were impossible they should have been believed—every one must have known they had not even heard of them aforetime, much less been taught all these burdensome precepts by their forefathers."

"Still the cunning and wily priests might have prepared men's minds for the discovery, having themselves deposited these writings in the ark."

"A manifest impossibility, my lord, and for this plain reason: those writings profess to be a book of statutes, the standing law of the land, a code of ordinances by which the people had all along been governed. Could any person invent a body of statutes for this good realm of England, and make it pass upon the nation as the only book of laws which they had ever known or observed? Could any man, could any priest, or conspiracy of priests, have persuaded the Jews they had owned and obeyed these ordinances from the time of Moses, when they had not even so much as heard of them in times past?"

"These rites, it is most likely, having their origin in the simplest occurrences, might still have been practised prior to the forgeries; and these books, by allusions to them, deceived the nation, causing it to believe they were performed in memory of some miraculous events which never happened."

"What! Is it possible to persuade men they have kept laws which they have not even heard of? If I were to frame some idle story of things done a long while ago, and say that our Sabbath was kept holy in commemoration of these events—this I think, my lord, will answer to the terms of your assertion. Suppose I made an attempt to persuade the people this day was kept holy in memory of Julius Caesar or Mahomet, and that everybody had been circumcised or baptized in their names; that in the courts of judicature oaths had been taken on these very writings I had fabricated, and which, of necessity, they could not have seen prior to my attempt; and that these books likewise contained their laws and religion—ordinances which they had always acknowledged—is it possible, I ask, that such a cheat could for one moment have existed? An impostor would not have dared to make any such references, knowing they must inevitably have led to the rejection of his testimony."

"But surely if this great transaction, the passage of the Red Sea, had really happened, and in the way thou hast pointed out, the evidence would not have been suffered to rest solely on the frail and uncertain records to which thou hast referred. Books of laws, for instance, the writings of Mahomet, we know have been forged, as even thou wilt acknowledge."

"True, but those books refer not to miracles and the testimony of eye-witnesses, nor to laws and ordinances handed down from generation to generation, even to that time. That Mahomet pretended not to the working of miracles, he tells us in the Koran. The ridiculous legends related by his followers are rejected as spurious by the scholars and expounders of the prophet; and even his converse with the moon, his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and from thence to heaven, were not performed before witnesses. The same may be said of the absurd exploits related of the heathen deities."

"But had not the heathen their priests, their public rites and sacrifices, equally with the Jews?"

"They had. But it was not even pretended that these rites commenced at the time when the things which they commemorate were said to have happened. The Bacchanalia, for example, and other festivals, were established long after the fabulous events to which they refer. The priests of Juno and Venus were not appointed by those imaginary deities, but arose in some after-age, and are therefore no evidence whatever to the truth of their worship."

"But where is thy proof in the unwritten evidence—monuments which cannot lie, bearing silent but convincing testimony to the truth of these miracles?"

"Twelve stones" it is said, were set up at Gilgal to commemorate the passage over Jordan."

"Ay, in thy book we read it."

"But mark the intention, to which no lying imposture durst have referred,—to the end, it is written, that when the children of those who had witnessed this miracle, and their children's children, should ask their meaning, it should be told them. Now the miracle for which these stones were set up as a memorial by the eye-witnesses themselves, could not, as before proved, have been imposed upon the people at the time it happened, had it not really occurred."

"All this I can safely grant. Yet thou lackest wherewith to conclude thine argument."

"Bear with me, my lord, until I have made an end. Let us suppose, for one moment, there was no such miracle wrought as this same passage over Jordan."

"Which supposition of thine I do hold to be the truth as firmly as I believe your revelation is an imposture."

"And yet if it should be true, my lord?" The minister said this in a tone that made the listener start. He bit his lips. But the feeling had subsided, as, with a sharp and hurried accent, he exclaimed—

"Why this pause? I am prepared to listen."

"These stones," continued the divine, "were, of necessity, well known as public monuments existing at the time when these writings were first rehearsed in the ears of all the people, because they are here referred to as testimonials of the event. But supposing them to have been set up on some unknown occasion, as you say, and that designing men in after-ages invented the book of Joshua, affirming it was written at the time of that imaginary event by Joshua himself, adducing this pile of stones in evidence of its truth, what is the answer which every one who heard it must have made to this witless falsehood? 'We know this pile of stones,' they would say; 'but of such an origin as thou hast related we have, not heard, nor even of this book of Joshua. Where has it been concealed, and from whence was it brought forth? Besides, it solemnly inculcates that this miraculous event, our fathers' passage over Jordan, should be taught their children and children's children from that day forward, who were to be shown and carefully instructed as to the meaning and design of this very monument; but of this we have not so much as heard, nor has thy history been handed down to us from our forefathers. It is a lying testimony, therefore, and we cannot receive it.' Yet do we find the children of Israel commemorating, handing down, and instructing their children from age to age into the meaning and design of these memorials, which instruction must at some time or another have had a beginning, having its commencement with the very events to which they refer, which events it would then have been impossible to make the people believe against the plain evidence of their senses. Is the chain complete, my lord?"

"But what has all this to do with thy religion?—a system far different, methinks, from the primitive institutions of these remote ages."

"The self-same reasoning will apply, and in precisely the same mode, to the miracles of our Lord and His apostles, together with their transmission by records from their times. The histories of the Old and New Testaments could not have been received at the time they were written, if they had not been true, because the priesthoods of Levi and of Christ,—the observance of the Sabbath, the passover, and circumcision,—the ordinances of baptism and the eucharist, are there represented as descending by uninterrupted succession from the time of their respective institution. It would have been as impossible to persuade men in after-ages that they had been circumcised or baptized, had celebrated passovers and Sabbaths under the ministration of a certain order of priests, if it were not so, as to make them believe they had gone through the seas dryshod, seen the dead raised, and so forth. But without such a persuasion neither the law nor gospel could have been received."

"Yet, methinks, if I were the founder of a new religion, and had all the stores of Nature and Omnipotence at my command—those boasted attributes of thy Law-giver—I would not have left it liable to doubt, to the sneers and cavils of any one who might question my pretensions, or my right to control their belief. The truths of Omnipotence should be clear as the sun's beam, and unquestioned as his existence."

"'If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe though one should rise from the dead.' 'Tis not for lack of proof; 'tis for lack of will. 'Tis not for lack of testimony, one tithe of which would have gained a ready assent to any of the drivelling absurdities of heathen mythology,—'tis for lack of inclination; 'tis a wish that these revelations may not be true; and where the heart inclines, the judgment is easily biassed."

"True, 'as the fool thinks.' The proverb is somewhat stale. I marvel thou findest not its application to thine own bias, perdie!"

"At any rate, if I am fooled, I am none the worse for my belief, if my creed be not true; but if man, as thou wouldest fain hope, is like the beasts that perish, I am still at quits with thee. And if this dream of thine should prove but a dream, and thou shouldest awake—to the horrors of the pit, and the torments of the worm that dieth not!"

"Peace, thou croaker! I did not send for thee to prophesy, but to prove; I would break a lance and hold a tilt at thine argument. Now, I have a weapon in reserve which shall break down thy defences—the web of thy reasoning shall vanish. The fear of punishment, and the hope of future reward, held out as a bait to the cowardly and the selfish, shall be of no avail when the object of my research is accomplished. Hast thou not heard of the supreme elixir—the pabulum of life, which, if a man find, he may renew his years, and bid defiance alike to time and the destroyer? Then what will become of thy boasted system of opinions, begotten by priesthood and nurtured by folly?"

"And this phantasma, which man has never seen; which exists not upon the least shadow of evidence—which has not even the lowest dictates of sense and plausibility in its favour—on this Ignis fatuus, eluding the grasp, and for ever mocking the folly of its pursuers, thou canst build thine hopes, because it flatters thy wishes and thy fears?"

"My fears!" said the Baron, rising: "and who speaks of my fears? I would chastise thee, thou insolent priest, wert thou not protected by the laws of courtesy."

"Yes, thy fears, Baron Monteagle," said this undaunted minister of the truth. "Thou wouldest not care to face thy lady's cousin! His blood yet crieth from the ground!"

"And who dares whisper, even to the walls, that I murdered John Harrington?" cried the astonished adept, trembling with ill-suppressed rage. "Methinks he holdeth his life too cheap who doth let this foul suspicion even rest upon his thoughts." He drew his sword as he spoke; but the minister stood undaunted, surveying his adversary with a look of pity and commiseration.

"Put up thy sword. Thou hast enow of sins to repent thee of without an old man's blood added to the number."

"How hast thou dared this insult? By my "——

"Nay, spare your oaths, my lord; they are better unspoken than unkept."

"Have I sent for thee to make sport? To gibe and taunt me even to my face?"

"I'll tell thee for what cause thou didst crave my presence," replied the other, firmly. "Thou hast misgivings lest thine own hopes should not be true; lest thou shouldest perchance depart with a lie in thy right hand. Thou didst send for me, an unworthy minister to the faith which I profess, that by thy subtlety thou mightest deceive thyself; that by overthrowing my arguments thine own might be strengthened, for truly 'tis a comfortable thing to have our opinions confirmed through the weakness of an opponent."

"And daredst thou, with such apprehensions upon thy stomach, to commit thyself alone to my mercy and my keeping? Suppose I should reward thee according to thine own base suspicions. Understandest thou me?"

"Yes, proud and guilty man, too well! But I fear thee not!"

"What! holdest thou a charmed life? Thou mayest fall into a broil as well as other men. And who shall require thy blood at my hands?"

"Ere I left," said the divine, warily, "I whispered a word in your cousin Beaumont's ear. Should I not return, he will be here anon. Peradventure I am not misunderstood. Thou hadst need be careful of my life, otherwise thine own may be in jeopardy!"

A fierce and terrible brightness, like the lurid flashes from his own torment, burst from his eye. The very anger and malice he strove to quell made it burn still hotter. His visage gathered blackness, cloud hurrying on cloud, like the grim billows of the storm across a glowing atmosphere. Rapid was the transition. Rage, apprehension, abhorrence,—all that hate and malignity could express, threw their appalling shadows over his features. Still the dark hints uttered by his visitor seemed to hold him in check. Chafed, maddened, yet not daring to execute the vengeance he desired, he strode through the apartment with an uneasy and perturbed gait. He paused at times, darting a look at the minister as if about to address him. Suddenly he stood still, nerving his spirit to some awful question.

"My cousin John Harrington died in his own chamber. In this house, God wot. Thou didst shrive him at his last shift, and how sayest thou he was poisoned?"

"I said not aught so plainly; but thou hast spoken out. Behold him!—There!"—The divine pointed his finger slowly round the apartment. "Within a short space he cites thee to that bar where his presence will be a swift witness to thy doom!"

Had the spirit of the unfortunate heir of Hornby suddenly appeared, the Baron could not have followed the movement of the minister's hand with greater dismay and astonishment. The strong barrier of guilt seemed breaking down. Conscience aroused, as if at once the veil that concealed his iniquities had been withdrawn, they rose in all their unmitigated horror and enormity. An arrow, drawn at a venture, had pierced the joints of the harness. He stood powerless and without defence—motionless as the image of despair. By a strange coincidence a thick white cloud seemed to coil itself heavily round the room. Whether to the heated imaginations of the disputants this appearance might not present an image of the form then visible to their minds, it would be impossible to determine. Suffice it to say, the effect was memorable, from whatever cause it was produced.

An altered man was the Baron Monteagle. The arguments of this champion of the truth had in some measure prepared his mind for its reception. Under his ministrations he felt gradually more enlightened. His terrors were calmed. Soon afterwards rose that noble structure, the chapel of Hornby, bearing on its front the following legend:—


It is recorded that Sir Edward Stanley, Baron Monteagle, died in the faith he had once despised; and we trust he has found a place at the footstool of that Mercy whose interposition was not solicited in vain.


"Heavy persecution shall arise Of all who in the worship persevere Of spirit and truth."


Smithills or Smethells Hall is situated in a wood, above a small glen, two miles and a half from Bolton. The court-gate exhibits nothing remarkable in its construction. On the left hand was the principal entrance, and a flight of stairs leading from the court. The glass casements, and greater part of the ancient front, have been removed, giving place to a more comfortable, if not a more pleasing style of architecture. The wainscot once displayed a profuse assemblage of ornaments, some of which now remain. Amongst them was formerly shown a likeness, said to be of King Egbert, though from what cause it should be assigned more particularly to that illustrious monarch, it would be difficult to conjecture.

In a room called the Green Chamber, it is said that George Marsh, the subject of the following history, was examined before Sir Roger Barton. In a passage near the door of the dining-room is a cavity, in a flag, bearing some resemblance to the print of a man's foot, which is supposed to be the place where the holy martyr stamped, to confirm his testimony, and which is shown to this day as a memorial of his good confession.

The stone was once removed for a frolic by two or three young men who lived in the house. Taking advantage of their parents' absence, they cast it into the glen behind the hall. That same night, on retiring to rest, the inhabitants were disturbed by many strange and hideous noises. Much alarm and inquiry being excited, the offenders confessed, and the stone was restored to its place with great reverence and solemnity. Some fragments that were broken off upon its removal were carefully replaced; after which, according to common report, the noises ceased.

Another story current in the neighbourhood is as follows:—

About the latter end of the year 1732, one Saturday night, a stranger sleeping alone in the Green Chamber was much terrified by an apparition. He stated that about ten o'clock, as he was preparing for bed, there appeared a person before him dressed like a minister, in a white robe and bands, with a book in his hand. The stranger getting into bed, saw it stand by his bedside for a short time. It then slowly retired out of the door, as if going down-stairs, and he saw it no more. This person invariably persisted in the same story; and the owner of the estate immediately ordered divine service at the chapel on a Sunday, which had long been discontinued.

The vaults seem to have been strongly walled and fortified, and were most probably used as burying places, many bones having been found when digging. There is a tradition that King Egbert founded this place, and kept his court here; but no corresponding trace of it occurs in history: and we may suppose, from the order of his conquests, that his residence would be in the more southern parts of the kingdom.

The situation is secluded, and well calculated for concealment, favouring the general opinion that it was the retreat of the famous pirate, Sir Andrew Barton, whose exploits and defeat are so beautifully told in the old ballad of that name in Percy's Reliques. It is surprising that so little should be known of this great and bold man, whose conduct had nearly occasioned a war between England and Scotland, and whose death, it is supposed, was one of the grievances which led to the battle of Flodden.

"Up to the time of Henry the Seventh, it appears, the Radcliffes were lords of Smethells; but Joan, daughter and sole heir of Sir Ralph Radcliffe, having married Robert Barton of Holme, he became in that reign seised of the manor and lordship, where his posterity continued, until Grace, sole daughter and heir of Thomas Barton, the last male heir, was married to Henry, eldest son of the first Lord Fauconberg, whose descendant Thomas, in the year 1721, sold the manor, which afterwards passed into the hands of the Byrons of Manchester, by whom it was sold to Mr Peter Ainsworth of Halliwell, a descendant of the Ainsworths of Pleasington, in this county[15], the present owner.

"Smethells is dependent upon the superior manor of Sharpies, the lord of which claims from the owner of this place a pair of gilt spurs annually; and, by a very singular and inconvenient custom, the unlimited use of the cellars at Smethells for a week in every year."[16]

At the close of a cold, keen day, about the early part of spring, in the year 1554, there came two men across a bleak and barren tract of land called Dean Moor, near to Bolton-in-the-Moors. When at some distance from the main path, and far from the many by-roads intersecting this dreary common, they—first looking cautiously around, as though fearing intruders—fell on each other's neck and wept. The sun's light beamed suddenly through a cleft in the heavy clouds near the horizon, along the stunted grass and rushes, stretching far away to many a green knoll in the distance, behind which the dark hills and lowering sky looked in wild and terrific blackness over the scene. The sun, descending fast below the hills towards Blackrode, beamed forth as if to cast one short ray of gladness on the world of sorrow he was just quitting. Rivington Pike, and the dark chill moors stretching from it eastward, were bathed in a wide and stormy burst, of light, like the wild and unnatural brightness that sometimes irradiates even the dim shadows of despair. A heavy mist lay at their feet, hiding most of the intermediate space from the eye of the observer, so that the long line of barren hills seemed to start out at once from a sea of vapour, like the grim barriers of some gigantic lake. The clouds were following hard upon the sun's flight, so that by the time he had disappeared the sky was covered with a dense and impervious curtain, rendered darker by the rapidity of the change. Chill and eddying gusts rustled over the dreary heath; the voice of nature only responding to the chords of sadness and of sorrow. The hollow roar of the wind was like the moaning of a troubled ocean; a few big drops from the hurrying scud seeming to presage an approaching tempest.

The two friends had crept behind a stone wall, built up in a hollow, by a stagnant pool, taking but little heed of the darkness and the storm, so intent were they upon the subject which engrossed their thoughts.

"I might flee, Ralph, but it would straightway be said, not that I had left my country and my kin alone, but rather that I had deserted the faith and doctrine I profess, after having unworthily ministered hereabout for a season, which might be an occasion of much scandal, a weakening of the faith of my poor flock, and a grievous discouragement to those that remain."

"'A living dog is better than a dead lion,' says the wise man. Besides, it is apresumingon His providence, when He opens away for our escape, and we, of our own wilfulness and folly, neglect the blessing. 'Do thyself no harm.' Provide for thine own life, and run not as the horse and mule, that have no understanding, into the very throat of thine enemies, and them that seek thine hurt."

The first speaker was a man of plain but comely appearance, habited in a coarse doublet buckled about the waist with a leathern girdle. A round woollen cap, from beneath which a few straight-combed locks hung about his face, gave a quaint and precise aspect to his figure. His features, though slightly wrinkled, did not betoken either age or infirmity: but his whole appearance indicated a robust and vigorous frame, capable both of exertion and endurance. The other individual exhibited a more ungainly form and deportment. He had not the same look of benevolence and good-will to man which irradiated the features of the first, of whom it might be truly said, that his inward affections did mould and constrain his outward image into their resemblance, so that meekness and benignity shone through his countenance from the ever-glowing spirit of love and Christian charity within. There was a sharp and shrewd intelligence in the eye of the latter speaker which showed that some considerations of selfish and worldly wisdom might, by possibility, mingle with his unerring notions of duty. Yet was he a man of great piety and worth, and well fitted as a counsellor in times of peril and distress.

"Ralph Bradshaw," replied the other, "thou hast been my tried friend and my stay in this waste and howling wilderness, and I have found thy counsel hitherto wholesome and pleasant; but," continued Marsh, with a heavy sigh, "I have not told thee how Sir Roger Barton's servants have made diligent search for me in Bolton, and have given strict charge to my brother Robert that he should, by to-morrow at the latest, appear with me at Smethells, else shall he and my poor mother answer before him at their peril. By God's grace, I would not leave these weaklings of the flock to suffer for my sake."

"Leave this matter until thou depart; I will devise some means for their relief. I would not have thy life needlessly put in hazard, seeing how few men have been raised up like unto thyself, privileged as thou art to minister the bread of life to the hungry and famishing poor in this barren corner of God's spiritual vineyard."

"And yet," replied Marsh, "I ought with all boldness to confess the truth, fearing not to answer for the hope that is in me; and why should I refuse to obey the commands of those who are in authority? for the magistrate beareth not the sword in vain."

"Truly, obedience were his right, if so be this were some righteous judge raised up of God for the punishment of evil-doers. But, as thou well knowest, the justice thou shalt demand will not be rendered: the summons thou hast received to answer on doctrinal and disputed points, and to argue them before these wicked and crafty men, as touching thy belief, are but manifest excuses to get thee into their power, from which they mean not to liberate thee but by the fire that shall consume thy body, and free it for ever from their murderous gripe. Thou knowest, too, that Sir Roger beareth thee a malice, and hath used all subtlety that he might have wherewith to seek occasion against thee. Didst thou not rebuke him openly for his irreverence, when that he must needs play with his puppy, that had its collar full of bells, during God's holy service—that comfortable form of worship established and publicly taught in the lifetime of our last good King Edward, and not this papistical, idolatrous mass which they now use, to the eternal ruin of both soul and body? No mercy shalt thou have at their hands. And doth our blessed Master require of us that we give our bodies up to these wicked and malignant deceivers, that their devilish pleasure may be glutted in torturing and spitefully using us, while they go about putting innocent men to cruel and shameful deaths? As soon would He require that we should yield our bodies up to Satan and his angels."

"I know not how to answer thee, Bradshaw, in this matter; but my mind misgives me in taking so hasty a departure from our suffering and afflicted realm. Yet will we ask counsel of Him who guideth the weak, and will not suffer us to be tempted beyond measure."

Whereat these persecuted disciples did unite in prayer to that throne before which, having finished their earthly warfare, they now stand with crowns of victory on their foreheads, purified from this gross mortality. Marsh, much comforted by the exercise, doubted not that, according to his faith, wisdom and direction would be granted in the way he should take.

Hereupon they separated, wishing each other "God speed."

Through the darkness and tempest of that fearful night George Marsh approached the town, where, in a narrow lane leading from the brow of the hill by the church, abode his mother and her youngest son. Raising the latch, he saw the old woman alone, seated by the fire, weeping.

"Praised be His mercy, thou art yet safe!" said she, clasping her withered hands together. "They have again been here to seek for thee, and I was fearful thou hadst not escaped their power."

"Who has been here, and from whence?"

"Divers of Justice Barton's servants were here again, not an hour ago, who have charged thy brother Robert and thy cousin William Marsh to seek for thee, and by to-morrow, ere noon, to render thee up at Smethells. They are now gone to Atherton, and elsewhere, for aught I know."

"Then may I not tarry here to-night?"

"Nay, I beseech thee, flee for thy life. In tarrying here shall thou not escape; for a man's enemies are now truly those of his own household."

Marsh, after a pause, determined to listen to her advice, and departed.

Cold and weary, he retraced his steps, going beyond Dean Church, where, at a friend's house, he staid for the night, "taking ill rest," as he quaintly expresses it in his journal, "and consulting much with myself of my trouble." He expected, or at least hoped, that some intimation would be vouchsafed from his Master as touching the way he should pursue, but none was granted; and he lay there, full of tossing and unquiet, the greater part of the night. On the following morning, at his first awaking, which was early, being still in heaviness, and not knowing what to do, came another friend to his bedside, who advised him that he should in no wise depart, but abide boldly, and confess the faith. At these words he felt so convinced, and, as it were, suddenly established in his conscience, that he doubted not, as he says, but the message was from God. He thenceforth consulted not with flesh and blood, but resolved on immediately presenting himself before his persecutors, and patiently bearing such cross as it might please Heaven to lay upon him.

He arose betimes, and as his custom was, recited the English Litany, with other prayers, kneeling by his bedside; after which he prepared to go towards Smethells, calling, as he went, at the dwellings of several whom he knew, desiring them to pray for him, to commend him to all his friends, and to comfort his mother and his little children, for, as he then said, he felt assured that they should not see his face any more. Taking leave, with many tears and much, sorrow of heart, he came nigh to the residence of Sir Roger Barton, a bigoted persecutor, and an avowed enemy of the reformed church.

It was about nine o'clock, on a cold and bitter morning, when he came in sight of the court-gate. Then surrounded with trees, the mansion itself was not visible but within a short distance. This house, now ancient and decayed, then existed in all its pomp and magnificence, having only been erected, as tradition informs us, some fifty years before, by Sir Andrew Barton, a famous pirate or free rover, who was knighted by James III. of Scotland for his great bravery. In the third year of Henry the Eighth, with two stout vessels called the Lion and The Jenny Perwin, he considerably interrupted the navigation on the English coasts. His pretence was letters of reprisals granted him against the Portuguese by James III. Under colour of this grant, he took ships of all nations, alleging that they had Portuguese goods on board. Complaint being made to the Privy Council of England, the Earl of Surrey said, "The narrow seas should not be infested while he had estate enough to furnish a ship, or a son capable of commanding it." Upon this, two ships were immediately fitted out, and commanded by Sir Thomas and Sir Edward Howard, sons to the Earl of Surrey, at their own expense, when, having been some days at sea, they were separated by a storm, which gave Sir Thomas Howard an opportunity of coming up with Sir Andrew Barton in the Lion, whom he immediately engaged. The fight was long and doubtful, for Barton, being an experienced seaman, and having under him a determined crew, made a desperate defence, himself cheering them with a boatswain's whistle to his last breath. The loss of their commander, however, caused them to submit, on which they received fair quarter and good usage. In the meantime, Sir Edward attacked and captured the Jenny Perwin, after an obstinate resistance. Both these ships, with as many of their crew as were left alive, about one hundred and fifty, were brought into the river Thames, on the 2nd of August 1511, as trophies of the victory. The prisoners were sent to the Archbishop of York's palace, now Whitehall, where they remained for some time, but were afterwards dismissed and sent into Scotland.

James the Fourth having then ascended the Scottish throne, after the murder of his predecessor, exceedingly resented this action, and instantly sent ambassadors to Henry demanding satisfaction, on which the king gave this memorable answer, "That the punishment of pirates was never held a breach of peace among princes." King James, however, was still dissatisfied, and from that time was never thoroughly reconciled to the English nation.

Sir Andrew was descended from a good family in Scotland, and adopted a seafaring life when very young. A motive of concealment might be the cause of his erecting a mansion here, the roads being then almost impassable; and the extensive woods, which lay in almost every direction from this spot, together with its great distance from the sea-side, might be additional recommendations in its favour. An opinion exists, though now involved in much doubt and obscurity, that his immediate descendant was the Sir Roger Barton whom we have already named, and unto whom this pious servant of the truth was about to commit himself.

On venturing through the gate, Marsh observed several men standing by a door on the left hand, being the principal entrance.

"What, ho!" said one, "art come to morning prayers?"

"Nay," replied another, "his cap cleaves to a heretic's sconce."

"'Tis Marsh," said the foremost of the group, who proved to be Roger Wrinstone, the knight's prime minister, constable, and entrapper of heretics. "Now, by my faith," he continued, "if this wily fox do not think, by his coming, to take Justice by the nose, and outface her through his impudence. But he will be sore mistaken if he think to outwit our master by his cunning. Good friend, thy business?" said Wrinstone, cap in hand, addressing the minister scornfully, and thrusting his tongue into his cheek, to the great diversion of his companions, who, with shouts of laughter, began to ape the buffoonery of their leader.

"I would fain speak with the Justice," said the stranger, meekly.

"And suppose I were he," said Wrinstone, putting himself into an attitude of great authority and importance, setting out his paunch, at the same time, something like unto the knight himself. Another laugh, or rather titter, went through the courtyard at this exploit; a suspicious glance, however, was directed towards the casement above, some apprehensions evidently existing lest Sir Roger should have been eye-witness to the ceremony.

"Roger Wrinstone, thy mocking is ill-timed," said Marsh, with a severe and steadfast gaze, which seemed to awe even this unblushing minion of intolerance. "If thy master be not arisen, I will tarry awhile his worship's leisure."

"Sir Roger is with his priest at confession," said one, with a shout of derision. "Art come to confess him too, Father Marsh?" and with that they plucked him by the beard, mocking and ill-treating him. But, filled with joy that he was accounted worthy to suffer, he passed from them into the great hall, at that period a large and lofty room, which, as tradition reports, would have "dined all the monarchs of Europe, and all their trains." It has since been much curtailed of its proportions, modern improvements having appropriated it to more useful purposes. The wainscots were enriched with choice and beautiful carvings, representing bucks' heads, flowers, and portraits of the most distinguished ancestors of the family. So numerous and varied were these ornaments, that, it is commonly reported, the artist wrought out his apprenticeship in executing this grand work, which for minuteness and the astonishing number and ingenuity of the devices, perhaps exceeded most of the like nature throughout the realm. Amongst other whimsical fancies was a ton crossed with a bar, having the cyphers A and B above and below, which worthless and absurd pun, a sort of emblematic wit much cultivated by our forefathers, indicated the name of the founder, Sir Andrew Barton.

Marsh, on his first entrance, inquired of a servitor if the Justice might be spoken with. The menial was bearing off the remains of a substantial breakfast, and having a flagon of beer at hand, invited the stranger to a hearty draught, saying that he looked tired and in need of refreshment; but he meekly put it aside, with due courtesy, still standing as he repeated his question. The man departed to make the inquiry, when presently followed the constable and his gang, who, seeing that the hall was cleared, strode in, rudely seizing Marsh by the shoulder.

"Thou art my prisoner," said Wrinstone; "I arrest thee in the Queen's name."

At this moment came running in a little girl, bounding and frolicsome as a young fawn from its covert, who, hearing the word prisoner, and seeing a man of such a preposessing and benign aspect in custody, immediately came up to Wrinstone, and laid hold of the skirts of his doublet, saying,—

"You shan't, Wrinstone. If he has done amiss, let him go, and I'll give thee some plums out of my midlent pasty."

The meekness and peaceable demeanour of this unoffending servant of the Church had in a moment won the heart of the child, and she pulled him by the hand, as if to convey him from the grasp of his persecutor.

"May Heaven bless thee, my child, and make thee a blessing!" He lifted up his eyes while he thus spake. "Thy nature hath not yet learnt the cruel disposition of these tormentors."

It is said that his prayer was heard; and a passage in the subsequent history of this little girl may, in all likelihood, find a place in another series of our Traditions.

A tear for the first time trembled in the poor man's eye as he looked on this tender and compassionate babe. He thought upon his own sufferings, and the hard fate of his own little ones. But he soon repressed the rising murmur, calmly awaiting the result.

The child still clung to him; nor would she depart, though threatened with Sir Roger's displeasure by his deputy. Indeed, she cared little for the issue, being fully indulged in all her caprices by the knight, her grandfather, who was mightily entertained with her humours. But threats and cajolements failing in their effect, they were glad to let this wilful creature accompany them to the presence of Sir Roger as the dispenser of justice, or rather of his own vindictive will; and to his private chamber they were shortly summoned.

Now this distinguished knight was heavy and well-fed, and of a rich and rubicund countenance. From over-indulgence he had become unwieldy, being propped up in a well-stuffed chair, one leg resting on a low stool, his whole frame bloated by indolence and sensuality. He was short-necked and full-chested. His eyes, gray and fiery, were almost starting from his head, by reason of some obstruction to the free current of the blood in that direction. This was accompanied by a wheezing and phlethoric cough, which oft troubled him. At his side sat a priest, who had a fair smooth face, and a shining head sprinkled over with a few pale-coloured locks close cut and combed back with becoming care from his temples. His eyes were small and restless, scarcely for an instant keeping to one position. He seemed to pay a silent deference to his patron, allowing Sir Roger to begin the examination as follows:—

"So thy relatives have ferreted thee forth at last. Nothing like making their kindred in some sort answer for the bodies of these heretics."

"I came of my own free consent, and alone, your worship," replied Marsh; "and hope to be honestly dealt with. If I have offended the laws, I am here to answer; if not, I claim your protection."

"Peace! Will none o' ye stop that fellow's prating? Justice thou shalt have, and that speedily, as thou sayest, but not in the way thou couldst desire. Look thee!" He fumbled in his pouch as he spake. Drawing out a letter, he continued—"My Lord Derby hath commanded that thou be sent to Lathom along with some others who do mightily trouble us, and sow evil seed and dissension among the people."

"This, please your grace, I deny; and I would know mine accusers, and what they allege against me."

"Now this is a brave answer, truly," replied the Justice. "These rogues be all of one tale, pretending that they have done nothing amiss, and desiring to know, poor innocents! of what they are accused, as though they were ignorant of their own lives and conversation hitherto. Tush! it were a needless and an unthrifty throwing out of words to argue the matter—for they are wiser in their own eyes than seven men who can render a reason. Do thou question him, and urge him to the test," said Sir Roger, turning to his conscience-keeper.

"What art thou?" said the priest, leaning forward for the purpose of a more strict examination.

"I am a minister," said Marsh. "It is but a short time agone since I served a cure hereabouts."

"Who gave thee orders? Or hast thou indeed received any?"

"The Bishops of London and Lincoln, after that I had diligently studied and kept terms aforetime at Cambridge."

"Humph!" said Sir Roger. "These bishops be of the reformed sect; and, I have a notion, will some day or another answer for it before the Queen's council."

"What knowledge hast thou of these men?"

"I never saw them but at the time I received ordination."

After a few more questions of little moment, the priest threw out the usual net with which his fraternity were wont to entangle those of heretical opinions.[17]

"What is thy belief respecting the sacrament?"

"That is a question of too general and multifarious a nature for a plain and faithful answer."

"Are the bread and wine, by virtue of the words pronounced by the priest, changed into the body and blood of Christ? And is the sacrament, whether reserved or received, the very body and blood of Christ?"

"I am not careful to answer such inquiries, seeing that I am but unskilled and unlearned in scholastic disputes. Why do ye ask me these hard and unprofitable questions, to bring my body in danger of death, and to suck my blood?"

"We are not blood-suckers, and intend none other than to make thee a better man and a good Christian," said the priest, mightily offended. Whereat Roger Wrinstone, in his great zeal and affection for the Holy Church, smote Marsh a lusty blow on the mouth, saying—

"Answerest thou the priest so? By your worship's leave I will mend his ill manners."

The little girl at this rebuke fell a-crying, and her grief became so loud that Sir Roger was fain to pacify her by ordering Wrinstone to stand farther apart. With red and glistening eyes she looked up and smiled at the suffering martyr, who, remembering his own dear babes, could scarce refrain from embracing her as she clung about him, to the great displeasure of Sir Roger.

"Answer this reverend and spiritual admonisher, to the true purport and bearing of his question," said Sir Roger, with a mighty affectation of sagacity.

"I do believe Christ to be present with His sacrament, inasmuch as He is alway with His people to the end of time. But as I am not skilful in matters of such nicety, I would ask of this reverend casuist, who is more able to answer in questions of such weight than I; who am, as I said before, unlearned in disputed points; and truly I am in nothing more wishful than to come at a right knowledge and understanding of the truth."

"Say on," said the priest, something flattered by this modest appeal to his opinion.

"Our Lord took the cup and blessed it, of which He then drank, and afterwards His disciples?"

"Yes. But this doth not sanction its being sent round to the laity," replied the priest, not aware of the drift and true bearing of the inquiry.

"Then He took the bread and brake, and did eat likewise with His disciples?"

"Of a truth," replied the unwary disputant. "For these questions need but a plain and simple answer."

"Then," said Marsh, "of a surety He must have ate and drank Himself!—Nay," continued he, seeing the priest turn pale with rage and vexation, "I can find none other alternative. For, unlearned and unpractised as I am; the absurdity of your belief is manifest."

"Thou art a child of perdition—an impious and pestilent heretic! Thou eatest and drinkest damnation to thyself; and the Holy Church consigns all such to the flames, and to the fire of eternal wrath hereafter!" roared the infuriate priest, whose choler waxed hotter in proportion as he felt unable to withstand the conclusion of his opponent.

"For," as it has been observed, even by some of the most enlightened Catholics themselves,[18] "theological animosity, so far from being an argument of men's conviction in their opposite sects, is a certain proof that they have never reached any serious persuasion with regard to these sublime subjects. Even those who are most impatient of contradiction in other controversies, are mild and moderate in comparison of polemical divines; and whenever a man's knowledge and experience give him a perfect assurance in his own opinion, he regards with contempt rather than anger the opposition and mistakes of others. But while men zealously maintain what they neither clearly comprehend nor entirely believe, they are shaken in their imagined faith by the opposite persuasion, or even doubts of other men, and vent on their antagonists that anger and impatience which is the natural result of this state of the understanding."

"Master," cried Wrinstone, "shall I fetch the bridle that we so oft use for scolds and ill women?"

"Ay, do, prithee run, Roger," said the child, hastily, and looking towards him, "for my grandfather's priest is like to need it soon."

At this the worthy professor of Christian charity and good-will, darting a furious look at the girl, exclaimed—

"Sir Roger, beware lest this viper thou art hatching be suffered to sting us. Look to it! This minion of thine is not too young either to work mischief or to escape its punishment!"

Whereupon Sir Roger, mightily afraid of his spiritual guide and granter of indulgences, rebuked the offending little one, and ordered her out of the room. With some difficulty this command was executed; but the disturbance at the door became so loud, that they were fain again to admit her, upon a sullen promise that she would behave in a more reverent manner to the priest, and refrain from interruption.

"Answer me no more with thy deep and devilish sublety," continued this champion of the Catholic faith; "for of a truth the devil doth wonderfully aid and abet ye in all disputes touching this holy sacrament; but show me thy belief in regard to so wholesome and comfortable a doctrine."

"I have answered before, as far as my weak understanding will permit, and by God's grace I will not swerve from my profession. A doctrine pushed to an absurdity is its own refutation."

Then spake one that was standing by, but who had hitherto taken no part in the debate.

"Truly 'tis a pity that one so proper and well-gifted, and who might doubtless gain some profitable appointment, should so foolishly cast himself away by holding these dangerous and heretical opinions. Thou wilt bring both body and soul into jeopardy thereby. If not for thyself, yet for thy children's sake, and for thy kindred, who must needs suffer from thy contumacy, return to the communion from which thou hast cast thyself out, and to the arms of that compassionate mother who is ever ready to receive back her erring but repentant children."

"Verily," replied the martyr, "life, children, brethren, and friends, with all the other delights and comforts of this present state, are as dear and sweet unto me as unto any other man, and I would be as loath to lose them if I might hold them with a good conscience. But seeing I cannot do that, I trust God will strengthen me with His Holy Spirit so that I may lose all for His sake. For I now hold myself but as a sheep appointed to be slain, and patiently to suffer whatsoever cross it may please my most merciful Father to lay upon me. But, as God is my witness!"—he seemed to speak with a prophetic denunciation, "from these vile ashes shall a fire-brand come that shall consume and destroy utterly these bloody men and persecutors of God's inheritance!"

So astonished were the bystanders at his audacity, that they did not so much as attempt to stay his tongue or to lay hands upon him, whilst he continued, raising his arm in a threatening attitude—

"Ye killers of the prophets, and destroyers of them whom God hath sent unto you!—Because we reproach you with your evil deeds, and"—

"Blasphemy?" cried out Sir Roger, who was the first to recover his speech: "we will have thy tongue bored for its offence."

"Away with him!" cried the priest, who seemed nothing loath to begin his torments. "Thou shalt to my Lord Derby, and he will know how to deal with such a bitter and foul-mouthed heretic."

All was uproar and confusion. The Justice was even moved from his chair, and swore out lustily that by ten o'clock the day following, unless this blasphemer were delivered at Lathom, he would imprison the whole family of them: such a pestilent fellow being fit, as he said, to infect all the parish with the plague of heresy.

Roger Wrinstone and his crew were preparing to drag him down-stairs; but the Justice, hobbling on his crutch, preceded them, leaning on the arm of his priest. The party, on their entrance into the hall, found Marsh's two kinsmen awaiting the event. They soon found that no favour was intended.

"See to it, knaves," bellowed the knight, "that this fellow is delivered up to my lord at Lathom by to-morrow, or your own carcases shall answer for his."

Then did these poor men pray and beseech their kinsman that he would in some wise conform to the religion of his superiors, or find some way of escape from a cruel and ignominious death.

But Marsh, standing steadfast before them all, cried out with a loud voice—

"Between me and them let God witness!" Looking up to heaven, he exclaimed, as if with a sudden inspiration—"If my cause be just, let this prayer of thine unworthy servant be heard!"

He stamped violently with his foot, and the impression of it, as the general notion is, yet remains, to attest the purity of his cause and the cruelty and injustice of his persecutors.

To this day may be seen the print of a man's foot in the stone, which by many is believed to exist as a memorial of this good confession.

In shape it is much like that of a human foot, except its being rather longer than common. In that part where the sole may have rested is a small dent, as though a man had stamped vehemently on the soft earth, and the weight of his body had borne principally on that place. The impression is of a dark-brown or rather reddish hue, and is very perceptible when damp or moistened by cleaning.

Marsh's subsequent history is soon told. From Lathom, where he was examined before Lord Derby and his council, and found guilty of heretical opinions, he was committed to Lancaster, and from thence to the ecclesiastical court at Chester, where, after several examinations before Dr Cotes, then bishop of this diocese, he was adjudged to the stake, and burnt in pursuance of his sentence, at the place of public execution near that city, on the 24th April 1555.


[15] Baines' "Lancashire," p. 540.

[16] Whitaker's "Whalley," p. 424.

[17] "The common net at that time," says Sir Richard Baker, "for catching of Protestants was the real presence; and this net was used to catch the Lady Elizabeth. That princess showed great prudence in concealing her sentiments of religion, in complying with the present modes of worship, and in eluding all questions with regard to a subject so momentous. Being asked at one time, what she thought of the words of Christ, 'This is my Body,'—whether she thought it the true body of Christ that was in the sacrament,—it is said that after some pausing she thus answered:—

"'Christ was the Word that spake it, He took the bread and brake it; And what the Word did make it, That I believe, and take it;'

"which, though it may seem but a slight expression, yet hath in it more solidness than at first sight appears; at least, it served her turn at that time to escape the net, which by a direct answer she could not have done."—Baker's Chronicle, p. 320.

[18] Cardinal Pole and others.


"Dark was the vaulted room of gramarye To which the wizard led the gallant knight, Save that before a mirror huge and high A hallowed taper shed a glimmering light On mystic implements of magic might; On cross, and character, and talisman, And almagest and altar, nothing bright; For fitful was the lustre, pale and wan, As watch-light by the bed of some departing man."

Lay of the Last Minstrel.

The character of Dee, our English "Faust," as he is not inaptly called, has both been misrepresented and misunderstood. An enthusiast he undoubtedly was, but not the drivelling dotard that some of his biographers imagine. A man of profound learning, distinguished for attainments far beyond the general range of his contemporaries, he, like Faustus, and the wisest of human kind, had found out how little he knew; had perceived that the great ocean of truth yet lay unexplored before him. Pursuing his inquiries to the bound and limit, as he thought, of human knowledge, and finding it altogether "vanity," he had recourse to forbidden practices, to experiments through which the occult and hidden qualities of nature and spirit should be unveiled and subdued to his own will.

Evidently prompted to unhallowed intercourse by pride and ambition, he deluded himself with the vain and wicked hope that the God who spurned his impious requests would vouchsafe to him a new and peculiar revelation. He would not bow to the plain and humbling tenets already revealed, but sought another "sign,"—a miraculous testimony to himself alone. Fancying that he was entrusted with a divine mission, he was given up to strong delusions that he should believe a lie. He aimed at universal knowledge and exhaustless riches; but he died imbecile and a beggar!

That he was deceived by Kelly, there is no doubt; and that he was sincere, at least in seeking his own promotion and aggrandisement, is equally certain; but we would rescue his character from the ridicule with which it has been invested. His grasp was greater than his power, and he fell, like heroes and conquerors in all ages, unable to execute, and overwhelmed with the vastness of his own conceptions.

John Dee was born July 13, 1527, in London. His parents were in good circumstances. At an early age (fifteen years) he studied at St John's College, Cambridge. His application was intense. For three years, by his own account, he only slept four hours every night. Two hours were allowed for meals and recreation, and the rest was spent in learning and devotion. Five years afterwards he went into the Low Countries, for the purpose of conversing with Frisius, Mercator, and others. Returning to Cambridge, he was chosen a fellow of Trinity College, then founded by Henry the Eighth. His reputation stood very high, and his astronomical pursuits, in those days generally connected with astrology, drew upon him the imputation of being a conjuror, which character clung to him through life. This opinion was much strengthened by an accident which, he says, happened soon after his removal from St John's College, and his being chosen a fellow of Trinity. "Hereupon," he continues, "I did set forth a Greek comedy of Aristophanes, named in Greek [Greek: Heirene] with the performance of the Scarabaeus, or beetle—his flying up to Jupiter's palace with a man and his basket of victuals on her back; whereat was great wondering, and many vain reports spread abroad of the means how that was effected."

He left England again soon afterwards, distinguishing himself at several foreign universities, and attracting the notice of many persons of high rank, amongst which were the Duke of Mantua and Don Lewis de la Cerda (afterwards Duke of Medina Celi). In 1551 he returned to England, being well received by King Edward and his court. A pension of one hundred crowns per annum was granted him, which he afterwards exchanged for the rectory of Upton-upon-Severn.

In Queen Mary's reign he was accused of some correspondence with the Lady Elizabeth's servants, and of practising against the Queen's life by enchantments. He was seized and confined, but acquitted of the charge. He was then turned over to Bonner, to see if heresy might not be found in him. After a tedious prosecution he was set at liberty, August 19, 1555, by an order of the council.

Upon Queen Elizabeth's accession he was consulted as to a fit day for the coronation, and received many splendid promises of preferment, which were never realised.

In the spring of the year 1564, he made another journey abroad, when he presented to the Emperor Maximilian his book, entitled "Monas Hieroglyphica," printed at Antwerp the same year. He returned to England in the summer, producing several learned works, which showed his extraordinary skill in the mathematics.

In 1571 he went to Lorraine, where, falling very ill, he was honoured with the solicitude of the Queen, who sent two of her physicians, and gave him many other proofs of her regard. Upon his return to England he now settled himself in his own house at Mortlake in Surrey, where he collected a noble library, and prosecuted his studies with great diligence. His collection is said to have consisted of more than four thousand books, nearly a fourth part of them manuscripts, which were afterwards dispersed and lost. This library, and a great number of mathematical and mechanical instruments, were destroyed by the fury of the populace in 1583, who, believing him to be a conjuror, and one that dealt with the devil, broke into his house, and tore and destroyed the fruit of his labours during the forty years preceding.

On the 16th March 1575, Queen Elizabeth, attended by many of her court, visited Dr Dee's house to see his library; but having buried his wife only a few hours before, he could not entertain her Majesty in the way he wished. However, he brought out a glass, the properties of which he explained to his royal mistress, hoping to wipe off the aspersion, under which he had long laboured, of being a magician.

In 1578 her Majesty being indisposed, Dee was sent abroad to consult with some German physicians about the nature of her complaint. But that part of his life in which he was most known to the world commenced in 1581, when his intercourse began with Edward Kelly. This man pretended to instruct him how to obtain, by means of certain invocations, an intercourse with spirits. Soon afterwards there came to England a Polish lord, Albert Laski, palatine of Siradia, a person of great learning. He was introduced to Dee by the Earl of Leicester, who was now the doctor's chief patron. Becoming acquainted, Laski prevailed with Dee and Kelly to accompany him to his own country. They went privately from Mortlake, embarking for Holland, from whence they travelled by land through Germany into Poland. On the 3d February 1584, they arrived at the castle of their patron, where they remained for some time.

They afterwards visited the Emperor Rodolphe at Prague. On the 17th April 1585, Laski introduced them to Stephen, king of Poland, at Cracow; but this prince treating them very coolly, they returned to the emperor's court at Prague, from whence they were banished at the instigation of the Pope's nuncio, who represented them as magicians.

The doctor and his companion afterwards found an asylum in the Castle of Trebona, belonging to Count William, of Rosenberg, where they lived in great splendour for a considerable time. It was said that Kelly had succeeded in procuring the powder of projection, by which they were furnished with money in profusion; but on referring to the doctor's diary, we find the miserable tricks and shifts they resorted to for the purpose of keeping up appearances. Kelly, however, it seems, learned many secrets from the German chemists, which he did not communicate to his patron; and the heart-burnings and jealousies that arose between them at length ended in an absolute rupture.

The fame of their adventures was noised through Europe, and Elizabeth, in consequence, invited Dee home. He was now separated from Kelly, and on the 1st of May 1589, he set out on his return to England. He travelled with great pomp, was attended by a guard of horse, and besides waggons for his goods, had no less than three coaches for the use of his family. He landed at Gravesend on the 23d of November, and on the 9th of December was graciously received at Richmond by the Queen. He found his house at Mortlake had been pillaged, but he collected the scattered remains of his library, and was so successful, by the assistance of his friends, as to recover about three-fourths of his books, estimating his loss at about L400, He had many friends, and received great presents, but was always craving and in want. The Queen sent him money from time to time, promising him two hundred angels at Christmas. One-half he received, but he gave a broad hint that the Queen and himself were defrauded of the rest. He now resolved to apply for some settled subsistence, and sent a memorial by the Countess of Warwick to her Majesty, earnestly requesting that commissioners might be appointed to hear his pretensions and decide upon his claims. Two commissioners were accordingly sent to Mortlake, where Dee showed them a book containing a distinct account of all the memorable transactions of his life, except those which occurred in his Jast journey abroad. He detailed to them the injuries, damages, and indignities which he had suffered, and humbly supplicated reparation at their hands. The Queen, in consequence, sent 100 marks to Mrs Dee, and promises to her husband. At length, on December 8th, 1594, he obtained a grant of the chancellorship of St Paul's. But this did not answer his expectations, upon which he applied to Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, giving an account of all the books he had either written or published. This, with other applications, led to his being presented with the wardenship of Manchester College, vacant by the removal of Dr William Chaderton to the see of Chester. On the 14th of February 1596, he arrived with his family in that town, and on the 20th he was installed in his new charge. He continued here about seven years, passing his time in a very turbulent and unquiet manner. On the 5th of June 1604, he presented a petition to King James, earnestly desiring that he might be brought to trial and delivered, by a judicial sentence, from those suspicions which his astrological and other inquiries had brought upon him. But the King, knowing the nature of his studies, was very far from showing him any mark of his favour. In November, the same year, he quitted Manchester, returning to his house at Mortlake, where he died, old, infirm, and forsaken of his friends, being very often obliged to sell some book or other to procure a dinner. The following account of Dr Dee's expenses from Trebona to London, copied from a statement in his own handwriting,[19] we have thought too curious to omit:—

"The charges of my last return from beyond seas, A. 1589, being favourably called home by her Majestie from Trebon Castle in Bohemia.

[Sidenote: 600 lib.]

"My journey of remove homeward from Trebon Castle to Staden cost me more than 3000 dollars, which we account

[Sidenote: 120 lib.]

"Besides the cost of 15 horses wherewith I travelled all that journey; of which the 12 which drew my 3 coaches were very good and young Hungarian horses, and the other three were Wallachies for the saddles: which 15 cost with one another

[Sidenote: 60 lib.]

"The three new coaches made purposely for my aforesaid journey, with the furniture for the 12 coach-horses, and with the saddles and bridles for the rest, cost more than 3 score pounds

"The charge of wains to carry my goods from Trebon to Staden, they being two and sometimes three (for more easy and light passage in some places), cost above an hundred and ten pounds, which I account (for an hundred of it) under my former sum of 600 lib. Under which 600 lib. also I do account for the charges of the 24 soldiers, well appointed, which, by virtue of the emperor's passport, I took up in my way from Diepholt, and again from Oldenburgh; the charges of the six harquebusiers and musqueteers, which the Earl of Oldenburgh lent me out of his own garrison there: I gave to one with another a dollar a man for the day, and their meat and drink full. For at the first, 18 enemies, horsemen, well appointed, from Lingen and Wilstrusen, had lain five days attending thereabout, to have sett upon me and mine; and at Oldeborch, a Scot (one of the garrison) gave me warning of an ill-minded company lying and hovering for me in the way which I was to pass, as by a letter may appear here present. Of the former danger, the Landgrave of Hesse his letters unto me may give some evidence.

"The charges of the four Swart Ruiters, very well mounted, and appointed to attend on me at Staden, from Breme, being honourably and very carefully sent unto me by the noble consuls and senators of Breme, and that with a friendly farewell (delivered unto me by the speech of one of their secretaries at my lodgings) need not be specified here what it was. For their going with me in two days to Staden, their abode there, and as much homeward, being in all five days' charges, 30 dollars.

"This was a very dangerous time to ride abroad in thereabouts, as the merchants of Staden can well remember. The excellent learned theologian, the superintendent of Breme, Mr D. Chrystopher Berzelius his verses, printed the night before that of my going from Breme, and the morning of my departure, openly delivered to me partly, and partly distributed to the company of students and others attending about to see us set forth, and to bid us farewell, may be a memorial of some of my good credit grown in that city, and of the day of my coming from it.

"I will not enlarge my lines to specific what other charges I was at to further some of her Majestie's servants at my lying at Breme; as 70 dollars given or lent to one Conradus Justus Newbrenner; and about 40 given to gett some letters of great importance brought to our sovereign's honorable privy council in due time.

[Sidenote: 10 lib.]

"The charge of my fraught and passage from Staden to London for my goods, myself, my wife, children, and servants

[Sidenote: 796 lib.]

"So that the sum total of money, spent and laid out, in and for my remove from Trebon to London doth amount to

[Sidenote: 1510 lib.]

"Whereby the whole sum of the former damages and losses

[Sidenote: 796 lib.]

"And the removing charges doth amount (with the least) to

[Sidenote: 2306 lib.]

"Besides the 100 dollars disbursed at Breme for dutiful love to Queen and country."

One minor occurrence in the following tradition—viz., the loss of the horse—is related by Lilly as happening to another of the fraternity; but we claim it—upon grounds too trivial it might be deemed by some—for the "Doctor." It is not our intention to spoil a good story by rejecting what we cannot verify. Sufficient for us that the tale exists; though we take the liberty of telling it in our own way.

There came a thin spare man one evening to Dr Dee's residence in the college at Manchester, where he then dwelt by permission only from the Earl of Derby, though living there in the capacity of warden to the church.

The college being dissolved in the first of Edward VI. (1547), the possessions fell into the hands of that nobleman, who, however, kept ministers at his own charge to officiate in the church. Mary refounded the establishment, restoring the greater part of the lands, but Lord Derby still kept the college house. In 1578 Elizabeth granted a new foundation to the college, appointing her own wardens. Dr Dee, being the third on the new establishment, was installed with great solemnity on the 20th February 1596.

The visitor we have just noticed was muffled in a dark cloak, having a wide and ample collar, which he threw over his head, as though anxious for concealment. The Doctor, having retired into his study, was not to be disturbed; but the stranger was urgent for admission, while Lettice Gostwich, Dee's help-at-all-work, a pert ungracious slattern, was fully resolved not to permit his access to her master.

"Then since nothing else will do," said the pertinacious intruder, "convey me this message—to wit, a stranger comes to him on business of great moment regarding his own welfare and that of the matter or event whose corollarium he is now studying."

Lettice, wearied through his importunity, and hoping by compliance to rid herself from these solicitations, went to the Doctor's private chamber, where, having delivered her message through the thumb-hole of the latch—for on no account would he allow of personal intrusion—to her great surprise, he bade her be gone.

"Show the stranger up-stairs," said he. "Why hast thou kept him so long tarrying?"

Lettice, with little speed and less good-will, obeyed the Doctor's behest, grumbling loud at the capricious and uncertain humours of her master.

The visitor was at length ushered into the presence of this celebrated scholar and professor of the celestial sciences, whose predictions at one period astonished Europe; his presence, like some portentous comet, threatening war and disaster, perplexing even emperors and princes, and filling them with apprehension and dismay. But Dee was somewhat fallen from this high and dangerous celebrity. He was become querulous and ill-tempered. Never satisfied with his present condition, but always aiming at some greater thing, he generally contrived to lose what he already possessed. At one time, to control the destinies and acquire the supreme direction of affairs, either as the High Priest or the Grand Lama of Europe, was not beyond the compass of his thoughts or the scope of his ambition. Now, he was petitioning the Queen for a small increase to his worldly pittance, and an opportunity of clearing himself before her Majesty's council from the foul and slanderous accusations by which he was continually assailed. Yet he had not abandoned his former projects. Though failing in his mission aforetime to the Emperor of Germany, the King of Poland, and others, to whom he evidently went for political purposes, and with offers of his aid, through the foreknowledge and spiritual intercourse by which he thought himself favoured, yet he still cherished the hope of promotion by such visionary follies. That chimera of the imagination, the invention of the philosopher's stone, still haunted him, and he did not yet despair of one day becoming a ruler among princes, the supreme arbiter and depositary of the fate of nations.

The delusions imposed on him by Kelly, his seer and confederate, had so impressed him with this belief, that he still purposed going abroad on a divine mission, as he called it, and only awaited the auspicious time when his spiritual instructors should point out another seer in Kelly's room, from whom he had been long separated. Though now in his seventy-first year, he was not deterred from making another attempt to reach the goal of his ambition. Such is the folly and madness of these enthusiasts, that, let them be never so often foiled in their inordinate expectations, yet does it in no wise hinder, but, on the contrary, sets them more fully on their desire. Casaubon, in his preface to the account of Dee's intercourse with spirits, gives a strange instance of their infatuation. He says:—

"In the days of Martin Luther, there lived one Michael Stifelius, who applying to himself some place of the Apocalypse, took upon himself to prophesy. He foretold that in the year of the Lord 1533, before the 29th of September, the end of the world and Christ's coming to judgment would be. He did show so much confidence that, some write, Luther himself was somewhat startled at the first. But that day past, he came a second time to Luther, with new calculations, and had digested the whole business into twenty-two articles, the effect of which was to demonstrate that the end of the world would be in October following. But now Luther thought that he had had trial enough, and gave so little credit to him, that he (though he loved the man) silenced him for a time, which our apocalyptical prophet took very ill at his hands, and wondered much at his incredulity. Well, that month and some after that over, our prophet (who had made no little stir in the country by his prophesying) was cast into prison for his obstinacy. After a while Luther visited him, thinking by that time to find him of another mind; but so far was he from acknowledging his error, that he downright railed at Luther for giving him good counsel. And some write, that to his dying day (having lived to the age of eighty years) he never recanted."

These air-built hopes and projects may in some sort account for the readiness with which Dee admitted the stranger after hearing his message. It seemed to be the very echo of his own thoughts, floating on their dark current, which it quickened by some unknown and mysterious impulse.

The Doctor was sitting in a high and curiously-wrought chair, cushioned with black leather, gilt and ornamented after the antique fashion. His upper garment was of black serge, the neck and breast furred with sables. A cap of the same materials concealed his bald and shining head, giving his pale shrivelled features a peculiar look of learning and hard study. His face was long, and his beard pointed. Age and anxiety were indelibly marked upon his lank visage; but his eye was yet undimmed; small, keen, and restless, it seemed the image of his own insatiable desire, consuming soul and body in the fire and fervour of its inordinate and uncontrolled appetite.

"Thy name?" said Dee sharply, as the stranger bowed himself before the reputed magician.

"Bartholomew Hickman."

"And thy business?" inquired the Doctor, with an inquisitive glance.

"Since your reverence hath dismissed Kelly, you have been but indifferently served in the capacity of seer; mine errand is to this purport:—If we agree for wages, I will serve you; and I doubt not but my faculty of seeing will equal that of Master Kelly, provided you have a glass whose quality and virtue shall be equivalent."

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