Page images
PDF
EPUB

The public attention excited by the well-sustained imposture of George Lukins, the Bristol demoniac, no doubt led the way to succeeding fanatical delusions Richard Brothers, the Heaven-appointed leader of the Jews to Palestine, next brought forward his exalted pretensions, zealously seconded by Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, his parliamentary patron. Then followed the silly delusion of the “Avignon Prophets,”—a bubble that burst ere it fully expanded. Upon Joanna Southcott, whose sphere of action was wider, and her celebrity of longer continuance, the prophetic mantle next fell. Although illiterate and of low birth, women of family and fortune supplied her wants, and personally officiated as her ministering handmaidens. Her chaplain bore the title of Honourable, as well as the academical distinction of Reverend; large editions of her numerous pamphlets, containing a mere farrago of incomprehensible babble, were sold ; her portrait was one of the finest specimens of art that proceeded from the burin of Sharp, a zealous disciple ; and among the multitude of her proselytes were many of respectable station and of reputable attainments. Encouraged by the facility with which her absurd pretensions were received, she at length proclaimed herself the chosen vessel by whose agency the second advent of the Messiah was to be accomplished; but the infatuated visionary, probably in a state of premature dotage at sixty-three, mistook the approaches of disease for the workings of miraculous influence, and instead of realizing the expectations of her disciples by giving birth to the promised Shiloh, after an illness of some continuance, actually died of a tympany.

An offset from the same prophetical tree, (the Reve

rend Mr. Tozer) established at Kennington, near the Elephant and Castle, with “THE HOUSE OF GOD !” pompously inscribed in colossal letters on its front, soon dwindled away, although supported by the pulpit oratory of an “unflinching” mechanic, and backed by the supernatural reveries of an ignorant, but Heaven-favoured youth, whose pictorial representations of some of his innumerable visions garnished the walls of the place. To an interregnum of some duration, Mr. Irving succeeded, who lost by degrees the prudence and judgment with which he at first exercised his acknowledged talents. His head growing dizzy by the height to which popular applause had so suddenly raised him, he at length assumed for himself and his followers supernatural gifts and Divine manifestations equally startling with those of his illiterate predecessors. The privilege of “sealing” her proselytes, which was arrogated by the prophetess, and the incomprehensible jargon she poured forth as inspired productions, both in prose and verse, have been since rivalled by the spiritual vagaries and the “unknown tongue” of the great northern apostle. The continuance of his life, like that of his female prototype, was the only key-stone that kept his followers together. The fabric already totters. The “ANGELs” appointed to govern the churches, witness with dismay evident signs of secession. The expectation of the Millennium, which they confidently announce will commence in 1838,” still

* It appears, both from La Martine's Pilgrimage, and Dr. Hogg's Syria and Palestine, that the expectation of a temporal millennium speedily to commence still exists in the East. The French poet describes Lady Hester Stanhope as confidently expecting to partake of its glory; and the English doctor attributes the same exalted anexercises its wonted influence over credulous minds, attracting the sanguine, and inspiring the timid with enthusiasm. When that period shall have passed by without interfering with the current of human affairs, this sect, like its precursors, will quietly sink into oblivion, and will leave only to the next generation a curious subject for philosophical speculation.

XLVIII. COUNTERFEIT KINGS.

JoHNEs, in his translation of Froissart's Chronicle, vol. i. p. 421, says that at the battle of Poictiers, “King John was armed in royal armour, and nineteen others like him.”

This custom of arming several in like manner to the commander of an army, seems to have been usual, and was probably carried down at least to Richard the Third's time. Shakspeare makes Richard say, in the fourth scene of the last act,

“I think there be six: Richmonds in the field: Five have I slain to-day, instead of him.” Also, in the First Part of Henry the Fourth, Douglas says, “Another King! They grow like Hydra's heads; I am the Douglas, fatal to all those That wear these colours on them. What art thou That counterfeit'st the person of a King 2"

ticipation to a French visionary, who, like her ladyship, has long inhabited Syria. The doctor also describes the Druses as having vague notions of a celestial deliverer, —a belief which is known to prevail widely among some of the less orthodox professors of the Ma

hommedan faith.

XLIX. SHAM DEWILS NO JOKE.

“Che sotto l'acquaha gente chesospira,
E fanno pullular quest’ acqua al summo.”
- Dante. Inferno. Canto vii.

GIov ANNI WILLANI, the excellent old Florentine chronicler, tells the following story about sham devils, the events of which happened in Anno Dom. McCCIv.

“As, ab antico, those of Borgo San Priano had the custom of making divers new games, they this year proclaimed through the land that, whosoever wished to have news from the other world should present himself on such a holiday in the month of May on the Carraja bridge, or on the banks of the river Arno. And then they drew up on the Arno a number of boats and small ships furnished with planks and stages; and they made upon these a figure and lively resemblance of hell, with burning fires, and other pains and torments, and with men dressed up like devils, horrible to see, and with other men stark naked, that represented souls in the wicked place. And they represented divers torments and tortures, with screaming and shouting, and a very great tempest of noise; all which seemed an odious thing and fearful to hear and see. And, for the novity of this new game, a multitude of citizens did resort thereunto, and the Carraja bridge, which was then of wood, from pile to pile, became so loaded with people, that it gave way in several places, and presently fell in with all the people that were upon it. Hence many people died there, and drowned in Arno,

WOL. II. K

and many more spoiled their limbs and persons; so that the game, from a mockery, turned into serious truth.” — Histor. Fior. lib. viii. cap. 70.

Honest John, no doubt, thought that the poor fellows, who died in seeing sham devils, went “to the wicked place;” but, for our own part, though we disapprove of such a spectacle, we hope they found better quarters.

People have sought out or fancied an amusing variety of sources for the original idea of Dante's poem “L’Inferno.” The learned Denina was of opinion that the great poet borrowed his plan from this identical masquerade; but it appears from Giovanni Villani that Dante had left Florence two years before the exhibition, and previously to his departure had written the seven first cantos of his Hell. “The truth therefore,” as is well remarked by a writer in the Edinburgh Review, “is probably the very reverse of Denina's conjecture, that the idea of the show was suggested to the people of Florence by the beginning of their fellow-citizen's poem. Tiraboschi and Mr. Sismondi, indeed, are both of this opinion; and we may add, that even in 1295 Dante, in his little work entitled “La Vita Nuova,” gives distinct hints of the design of his great poem.” Ed. Rev. vol. xxx. p. 329.

L. AN IRISH MAIDEN ASSIZE,

THE following is copied, verbatim et literatim, Italics and all, from the Dublin Evening Post, of April 5th, 1828. “Sligo Assizes.—Our assizes has, we might say, proved a maiden one : there have been two capital verdicts re

« PreviousContinue »