West Twenty-third St., New York, Sept. 22d, 18—. My Dear Madam,—I am sure you are too clear sighted not to have observed the
profound impression which your amiable qualities, intelligence and personal
attractions have made upon my heart, and as you have not repelled my attentions nor manifested
displeasure when I ventured to hint at the deep interest I felt in your welfare
and happiness, I cannot help hoping that you will receive an explicit
expression of my attachments, kindly and favorably. I wish it were in my power
to clothe the feelings I entertain for you in such words as should make my
pleadings irresistible; but after all what could I say, more than that you
are very dear to me, and that the most earnest desire of my
soul is to have the privilege of calling you my wife? Do you can you love me?
You will not, I am certain, keep me in suspense, for you are too good and kind
to trifle for a moment with sincerity like mine. Awaiting your answer, I
remain, with respectful affection, Ever yours,
To Francis Templeton, ESQ.,
West Forty-second St., New York, Sept. 24th, 18—. My Dear Mr. Templeton,—I
despise false delicacy, and therefore shall not pretend that I have been blind
to the state of your feelings. Nay, more, I will say that if your attentions
had been altogether unwelcome I should have treated them with a degree of
coldness which you say I have not shown. Widows, you
know, are supposed to have more experience and tact in these matters than
single ladies, and depend upon it if I had disliked you I should have known how
to make you aware of the fact. Under all the circumstances I think you may hope. I
shall be pleased to see you whenever you feel inclined to call, and meanwhile,
I remain, Yours very truly,
To Miss Maud Carter,
Pearl St., New York, March llth, 18—. My Dearest Maud,—I am off, to-morrow, and yet not altogether, for I leave my heart behind in your gentle keeping. You need not place a guard over it, however, for it is as impossible that it should stay away, as for a bit of steel to rush from a magnet. The simile is eminently correct, for you, my dear girl, are a magnet, and my heart is as true to you as steel. I shall make my absence as brief as possible. Not a day, not an hour, not a minute, shall I waste either in going or returning. Oh! this business! But I won’t complain, for we must have something for our hive besides honey—something that rhymes with it—and that we may have it, I must bestir myself. You will find me a faithful correspondent. Like the spider, I shall drop a line by (almost) every post; and mind, you must give me letter for letter I can’t give you credit. Your returns must be prompt and punctual.
To Herbert Holton, ESQ.,
Fifth Avenue, March 11th, 18—. Dear Herbert,—What a rattlebrain
you are! I cried for half an hour over your letter, though not that it was
particularly pathetic, but simply because it told me you were going away. Of
course I know that your journey is a matter of necessity, but that does not
help my loneliness. I have two injunctions to lay upon you, and I charge you by
your love, to obey them. They are comprised in six words —write often, and come back soon. I
won’t pay myself so poor a compliment as to suppose you will forget me for a moment.
Impatiently awaiting your return, believe me, Dear Herbert,
To Miss Belle Carpenter,
Wall St., New York, Oct . 5th, 18—. My Dear Miss,—I am accustomed to speak plainly, and know little of the niceties of etiquette. Do not think the worse of me for opening my heart to you abruptly, without any preliminary flourishes. There cannot be anything offensive, I hope, in the candid declaration that I love you. If you will give me the opportunity, I will endeavor to prove my affection by devoting my whole life to the promotion of your happiness. I should regard the pleasure of calling you my wife as the greatest that earth could afford.
Most sincerely yours,
To Albert Seaton, ESQ.
East Thirty-eighth St., New York, Oct. 7th, 18—. Dear Sir,—I have received your
letter, and must say that there is an air of straight-forward sincerity about
it that I like. Fine phrases have never been much to my taste, for I have found
the language of truth simple and direct. Following your own example, and
waiving all evasion, I will say at once that I think you worthy of the
affection you solicit, and that, with the consent of my parents, I shall not
object to receive your addresses. I shall be at home to-morrow evening and shall
be glad to see you. Yours sincerely,
To Miss Kate Martin,
Chicago, Iii., Sept. l0th, 18– My Dearest Kate,—This sheet of paper, though I should cover it with loving words, could never tell you truly how I long to see you again. Time does not run on with me now at the same pace as with other people; the hours seem days, the days weeks, while I am absent from you, and I have no faith in the accuracy of clocks and almanacs. Ah! if there was truth in clairvoyance, wouldn’t I be with you at this moment! I wonder if you are as impatient to see me as I am to fly to you? Sometimes it seems as if I must leave business and everything else to the Fates, and takes the first train to New York. However, the hours domove, though they don’t appear to, and in a few more weeks we shall meet again. Let me hear from you as frequently as possible in the meantime. Tell me of your health, your amusements and your affection.
Remember that every word you write will be a comfort
to me. Unchangeably yours,
To William Archer, ESQ.,
Bleecker St., New York, Sept. 16th, 18—. Dear William,—Your affectionate letter was most welcome. I won’t tell you
where I keep it, but I dare say you will guess that it is not very far from my heart. I need not
inform you, for you know it well, that you have my entire and undivided
affection, and that I look forward to your return with the most pleasurable
emotions. I am in excellent health, but cannot know real happiness until I
share it with yon. There, now I think you will not complain that I do not
reciprocate your devotion. According to the rules of etiquette I suppose I
ought to be more reserved; but truth is truth, and you shall never have aught
From your attached
To Miss Jane Grover,
Wednesday, Oct. 20th, 18– Dearest Jane,—The delightful hours
I have passed in your society have left an impression on my mind that is
altogether indelible, and cannot be effaced even by time itself. The frequent
opportunities I have possessed, of observing the thousand acts of amiability
and kindness which mark the daily tenor of your life, have ripened my feelings
of affectionate regard into a passion at once ardent and sincere, until I have
at length associated my hopes of future happiness with the idea of you as a life-partner
in them. Believe me, dearest Jane, this is no puerile fancy, but the matured
result of a long and warmly cherished admiration of your many charms of person
and mind. It is love—pure, devoted love: and I feel confident your knowledge of
my character will lead you to ascribe my motives to their true source.
May I then implore you to consult your own heart, and, should
this avowal of my fervent and honorable passion for you be crowned with your
acceptance and approval, to grant me permission to
refer the matter to your parents. Anxiously waiting your answer, I am, dearest
Your sincere and faithful lover,
To Henry Barclay, ESQ.
Dear Henry,—I have just perused your
too flattering letter, and, believe me, I feel so excited that I scarcely know
how or what to reply. You cannot but have observed that the favorable
impressions I received on the night of our first meeting, have gradually
deepened as our intimacy matured, and it would be false modesty in me now to
disclaim a feeling of the sincerest and most affectionate regard-for you, after
such undoubted proofs of your attachment. Dear Henry, my heart is yours. Need I
say more than that your proposals to my parents will find a warm and not
uninterested advocate, in one to whom the acceptance of them will be
happiness—their rejection a misfortune?
Excuse the brevity of this letter, for I cannot trust myself to
say more than that I am,
To Miss Alice Martine,
Chestnut St., Philadelphia, May 2d, 18—. My Dear Miss,—I have intended
many times when we have been together to put the simple question, which this note
is intended to propose; but although it seems the easiest thing in the world to
make an offer of marriage, yet when the heart is as deeply interested in the
answer as mine is, it is apt to fail one at the critical moment. Can I, dare I
hope, that you will permit me to call you mine? Am I mistaken, misled by
vanity, in supposing that this proposal, made in the truest spirit of
respectful love, will not be displeasing to you? My position and prospects
warrant me in saying that I can provide for you a comfortable home, and I may
truly add that without you no place can be a home to me. Anxiously awaiting
your answer, I remain, Yours affectionately,
To Ernest Irving, ESQ.,
Green St., Philadelphia, May 5th, 18—. Dear Sir,—Your offer of marriage is certainly unexpected, but it is made in a manner so diffident and respectful as to preclude the possibility of its giving offense. I am not offended; but marriage is a serious matter, and although I confess my own inclinations are in your favor, I must advise with those who have a right to be consulted, before I give you a decided answer. I think I may say, however, in the meantime, that you need notdespair. Sincerely yours,
To Miss Lizzie Bolton,
Madison Square, New York, Feb. 24th, 18—. Dear Miss,—Although I have been in
your society but once, the impression you have made upon me is so deep and powerful,
that I cannot forbear writing to you, in defiance of all rules of etiquette.
Affection is sometimes of slow growth; but sometimes too it springs up in a moment.
In half an hour after I was introduced to you, my heart was no longer my own. I
have not the assurance to suppose that I have been fortunate enough to create
any interest in yours; but will you allow me to cultivate your acquaintance in
the hope of being able to win your regard in the course of time? Petitioning
for a few lines in reply, I remain, dear Miss,
To Clarence Boardman, Esq.,
East Thirty-fourth St., New York, Feb. 27th, 18—. Dear Sir,—I ought, I suppose, to
call you severely to account for your declaration of love at first sight, but I
cannot in conscience do so ; for to tell you the truth, I have thought more
about you since our brief interview than I should be willing to admit, if you
had not come to confession first. And now a word or two in seriousness: We know
but little as yet of each other, and hearts should not be exchanged in the
dark. I shall be happy to receive you here as a friend, and as to our future
relations to each other, we shall be better able to judge what they ought to
be, when we know each other more intimately. I am, dear sir, Yours truly,
To Mr. Henry Hilton,
Walnut St., Philadelphia, Dec. 2d, 18—. Sir,—I have heard of your flirtations since you have been at New York. In fact I have been told that you were false enough to deny your engagement to me, in the hope of making yourself more acceptable as a beau to your new lady acquaintances. Under such circumstances I am quite willing to release you from all your promises. You are free, sir! I have no inclination to share your affections with half a dozen others. Nothing less than a whole heart will satisfy me.
To Miss Augusta Wells,
My Dear Gussie,—You have been imposed upon
; by whom I know not, but unquestionably by some one who has a grudge against
me. I have never since our engagement paid more attention to any lady than
ordinary politeness required. My heart has never wandered from you for a moment.
Dismiss such groundless suspicions from your mind. Your letter has wounded me
deeply. To break off our engagement would be to render me the most miserable of
men. I am willing that the strictest inquiry should be made into my conduct,
for it will bear the closest scrutiny.
Dearest, let me hear from you again soon, and in the old kind
vein. Ever yours,
Dear Frank,—No letter again! You are
really growing intolerably negligent, and I shall begin to think that you are
getting tired of me, and that some new attraction is in the field. Knowing how
anxious I am respecting your health and welfare, I am sure you will give me the
credit of not writing from idle jealousy, although really I feel grieved and
anxious at your unusual neglect.
I have no news
just at present—indeed, I am too much out of spirits to write at any great
length. Pray hasten to remove all doubt from the mind of one whose thoughts,
day and night, are upon you only.
To Miss Lucy Hartman,
No. — St. Luke’s Place, Oct.
3d, 18—. My Dear Lucy,—It
is with pain I write to you in aught that can seem like a strain of reproach,
but I confess that your conduct last night both
surprised and vexed me. Your marked approbation of the attentions paid to you
by Mr. Walters was as obvious as your neglect of myself. Believe me, I am in no
way given to idle jealousy—still less am I selfish or unmanly enough to wish to
deprive any lady on whom I have so firmly fixed my affections, of any pleasure
to be obtained in good society. But my peace of mind would be lost forever, did
I believe that I have lost one atom of your affection.
Pray write, and assure me that you still preserve your undivided
Your devoted but grieved
To Miss Catherine Morton,
Arch St., Philadelphia, Oct. 22st, 18—. My Dearest Kate,—How grieved
am I that you should think me capable of wavering in my affection toward you,
and inflicting a slight upon one, in whom my whole hopes of happiness are
centered! Believe me, my attentions to Miss Hamilton were never intended for
anything more than common courtesy. My long acquaintance with her father, and
my knowledge of her amiable character—as well as the circumstance of her being
a comparative stranger to the Howards,—such were my sole reasons for paying
more attention to her than I might otherwise have done.
Pray rest confident in the belief that my affection for you is
as unchanging as my regret is great that I should ever have given you cause to
doubt it, and believe me, Dearest Kate,
While I was preparing my Halloween post, I noticed that The Ladies’ Home Journal featured paper dolls in many of their issues in the 1910s. I’ve adored paper dolls since childhood, so I was giddy to put these dolls on my blog. In total, there are 45 pages of paper dolls including Alice in Wonderland and World War One soldier ones!
I’ve posted these images as a thumbnail gallery. Just click on an image to see a larger version that you can save and print. Get out your scissors and enjoy!
Throwing a Halloween party? Sure, you can search Pinterest for cute ideas like most everyone. Or you can browse the pages of The Ladies’ Home Journal in the 1910s! I’ve posted some of the pages I found, as well as old Halloween cards from Wikimedia Commons. Happy Halloween!
I was doing a little research on Victorian spiritualism a few weeks ago when I came across something called “spirit rapping.” Curious, I ran a search on the subject and found Spirit Rapping Unveiled! published in 1855 and written by Hiram Mattison, a rather sexist skeptic of Victorian occult practices. Since we are approaching Halloween, I thought I would share an excerpt and some creepy old images that I found on Flickr.
The “rapping process” is in some respects the most important of all. It was by mere ” raps,” heard in ” the Fox family,” that this “new era” of ghosts was introduced. But it was not long before the spirits “called for the alphabet.” By what rap or raps they signified “alphabet” to the young misses, we know not. Indeed, it would be very difficult for a dumb man, or one who could not speak a word of English, to make known by sounds a wish to have the alphabet called over. His only mode would be to get a spelling-book, and point to the letters. But these very tractable “Foxes” could tell at once, by mere raps, that the spirits wanted the alphabet called over. And the same intuition enabled them to understand that, with the spirits, one rap meant no, and three raps yes.
*When the spirits went to Philadelphia, “arrangement was made with them that one rap should signify no, three yes, and two a medium between yes and no.”—History of Recent Development, &c., in Philadelphia, by “a Member of the first circle,” p. 22.
To arrange for the rappings, the following conditions must be observed:
1. There should be twelve persons in the circle:
“As there are twelve elements and attributes in every human soul, abstractly considered, so should there be twelve persons constituting a circle; the twelve consisting of six males and six females.”—Spirit of J. R. Fulmer—Telegraph, No. 26.
2. One of the circle, at least, must be a ” medium.”
“In order to have spiritual manifestations, it is necessary that a medium be present.”—Phil. Hist., p. 11.
“Though the presence of a medium is necessary for the production of the sounds, he or she cannot control them. Sounds cannot always be produced in the presence of a medium; there are other conations required. But all the other conditions may be as favorable as possible, yet the sounds cannot be produced without a medium.”—Ibid., 13.
3. We are told that “positive and negative persons must be placed alternately in arranging the circle.”*
“There is A peculiar electrical condition that is necessary for the production of sounds or raps.”—Phil Hist., p. 11.
“It is essential that circles be always organized upon positive and negative principles. Let the person whose electrical temperament is usually indicated by cold hands, and who possesses a mild and loving disposition, take his or her place on the immediate right of the medium or clairvoyant, upon whose immediate left should be seated one of a magnetic or warm physical temperament, being a positive and intellectual individual,” &e.—Tel., No. 26.
*It is impossible for two persons to be one positive, and the other negative, unless they are separated by a non-conductor. As positive means simply having more electricity, and negative less, and bodies are positive and negative in reference to each other relatively; and inasmuch, also, as electrical equilibrium is produced the instant the two bodies of different electrical states are connected by any conducting substance, it follows that two persons standing upon a floor, or the earth, or anything but glass, cannot be the one positive, and the other negative. However, such philosophy will do to help keep up appearances, and cover the deception and trickery of the spirit-rappers.
4. To succeed well in getting raps, &c., the room in which the circle are in session should be made dark. “Put out the lights.”
“I am impressed to further direct that the rooms where the circles meet should, as much as possible, be retired from noise and interruption; that they should also be darkened, so that the persons present, not having their minds attracted and diverted by external things, may the more easily concentrate their thoughts upon the object for which they have met together.”—Spirit of J.Ji. Fulmer—Tel. 26.
5. There is an intimate connection, it seems, between the character and “condition” of the ” medium,” and the character of the communications:
“The character of the communications depends very much on the condition of the medium. A high order of communication cannot be obtained through, or in the presence of a low medium; neither can low communications be received in the presence of a high medium. It is the physical condition of the medium that favors the production of sounds or raps; but it is the intellectual and moral conditions that give character to the intelligence connected with the sounds, manifestations, or communications.”—Phil. Hist., p. 11.
6. The “medium” must give herself entirely up to the control of the spirits; that is, abandon herself to her imagination, if not to anything else that may occur. This “giving up wholly to the control of the spirits,” is so universally insisted upon that it is scarcely necessary to cite authorities.
“In order to prepare a medium, the person must give up all self-control, all resistance, and resign him or herself to the entire direction and control of the spirits. Sometimes the process of preparation or development is easy and quick, at other times it is protracted and difficult; but it is always rendered more easy and quicker of accomplishment, by perfect resignation and entire non-resistance.”—Phil. Hist., p. 11.
7. It is quite important that no “materialists” or “skeptics” be present. “None but the candid, honest, truth-seeking inquirers should be admitted.” “The captious and sneering should be excluded” (Phil. Hist., p. 28); that is, let no person be admitted who has any doubts, or who will be likely to detect and expose the deception. This is probably the most important “condition” of all.
*What a beautiful “philosophy” this is, and how congenial with the views and practices of a certain class. It not only mingles males and females, “positives and negatives,” in the same circle; but excludes the “skeptics,” inculcates “entire non-resistance,”and then puts out the lights.
8. Although we believe it is not always regarded, yet the direction of the “spirits” is, that in all cases the “medium” should repeat the alphabet.
“Always let the medium repeat the alphabet.”—Spirits to circle in Phil. Hist, p. 26.
Everything being arranged, the “circle” take their seats at the table, darken the room, and in due time the “rappings” begin.
In the cut, the lady “medium” sits on the right, with her “secretary” behind her in the background. The members of the circle look (as they should) very “impressible;” and quite “negative,” both as to “electricity” and common sense. And the gentleman who has just paid his admission fee, and is about to enter the circle, is obviously sufficiently “honest” and “truth seeking” for all practical purposes.
The raps being heard, the medium inquires if the spirit of such a one is present. Rap, rap, rap, (yes). “Will the spirit of communicate with us?” Rap, rap, rap. “Shall we call over the alphabet?” Rap, rap, rap. The medium then begins, “a, b, c, d,” &c., till she comes to the first letter of the first word wanted by the spirit, when a “rap” is heard, and that first letter is recorded by the “secretary.” The medium then goes back to “a” again, and proceeds down the list till she comes to the next letter wanted, when another rap is heard, and this second letter is recorded; and so on, letter after letter, and word after word, till the whole communication is obtained.
“A member of the first circle” in Philadelphia, describes this process as follows:
“The first mode is performed by having the alphabet repeated by some person (the medium is preferred); this should be done slowly and distinctly, with a pause between each letter; and when the letter is arrived at which the spirit communicating desires, there will be heard a rap, more or less distinctly, the letter responded to; it must be set down, and the alphabet again commenced and repeated, and in like manner will the desired letter be responded to. This process is repeated again and again, until words are formed, and from these sentences are constructed. The sentence when finished will usually conclude with the word ‘done.’ These sentences will give what the spirit wishes to communicate. This mode of communication is very slow, tedious, imperfect,” &c—History, p. 47.
To ascertain precisely how ” slow” and ” tedious” this method of spirit telegraphing is, the following plan was adopted: The writer requested a friend (Rev. Mr. Avars, of the New Jersey Conference) to act as “medium” in calling over the alphabet, while he (the writer) acted the part of the “spirits” by rapping at the letter desired; and the following was first written out and then communicated from the writer to Mr. Ayars by spirit-rapping:
“My Dear Friends: I am glad of an opportunity of communicating with you.” Mr. Ayars began, “a—b—c—d—e— f—g—h—i—j—k—1—m” (rap). Again: “a—b—c—d—e —f—g—h—i—j—k—1—m—n—o—p—q—r—s—t—u—v w—x—y” (rap). We had then the word “My;” and in this way we proceeded through the sentence.
Now this short sentence, of only thirteen words, or fifty-six letters, took us full fifteen minutes to get it rapped out, even with the message written out beforehand, so that the “spirit” could see the letter desired, and rap as soon as it was named. And there was scarcely any “pause between each letter,” as the rappers say there should be, and as is very necessary in order that the “rap” may be made at the right letter; so that it was got through faster than ordinary spirit messages can be telegraphed by rapping. But even this rapid process gives us only 240 letters per hour. If any man thinks he can rap out messages letter by letter at a faster rate, let him try the experiment, and he will be convinced of his mistake.
Now let us apply this fact to the communications that it is said have been rapped out by the spirit? on various occasions, and it will be found that instead of being given at a “sitting,” as they profess to have been, many of them must have required from five to thirty hours! They must, therefore, have been obtained or composed in some other way than by being rapped out letter by letter, as the rappers pretend.
Another fact worthy of note, is, that the rapping media, have up to this time been, and still are, nearly all ladies. A gentleman “rapping medium” has seldom, if ever been heard of. No Mr. “Foxes,” or Mr. ” Fishes,” but in all cases ladies. Why is this? Have the spirits a stronger “electrical affinity” for ladies than for gentlemen? Or is it because ladies would, for certain reasons, be less liable to detection and exposure? Whether the “spirits” think of it or not, we mortals know that their sex and costume is a fine security against detection. And may not this be the reason why most of the raps are made through lady mediums?
It is also somewhat remarkable that all the “spirits,” Hebrew, Greek, Roman, French, German, and Irish, rap in English. The second number of the Mountain Cove Journal contains a message said to have been received August 5th, 1852, from the spirit of the man healed by Peter and John, Acts iii. 1-9; and yet, though nothing is more certain than that this “spirit” never heard a word of English in all his life, he now raps out his thoughts in English. In a few instances only have the spirits intimated that they understood other languages than that of the mediums. On one occasion a spirit gave a message in Hebrew, by raps, Prof. Bush calling over the alphabet (which message for some cause was carefully suppressed), and in another case, where a departed “spirit” in New York had made four grand mistakes, in regard to his age, when he died, and the time, place, and circumstances of his death, the lady medium said the error arose from the fact that the spirit responding to the inquiries was the spirit of an Indian, who did not understand the English language! But with a few exceptions the spirits all rap in English—a very significant circumstance in regard to the real origin of the “intelligence.”
Now admitting that we know not the origin of the sounds, any further than it is indicated by circumstances, we have enough already before us to show beyond a doubt, that they originate in the medium herself. There must be one medium, i. e., one person who knows how to rap, and has no conscientious scruples upon the subject. She must be a lady, to prevent scrutiny and detection. The room must be darkened and “skeptics” excluded for the same reason. The alphabet must be called over by the medium, because she knows what she wishes to “communicate,” and when she names the letter she wants, can the more easily rap at the right letter. And the “spirits” know no language except that of the medium, and the “messages” are just as sensible as the medium is, and no more so. A high order of communications cannot be obtained through a low (i. e., an ignorant) medium; and to this we may add the fact, which any one can demonstrate for himself, that many of the communications are of such a length that they could not have been rapped out letter by letter, in the time specified. It is certain, therefore, that many of them, at least, were written by the media at their leisure, without even a “rap” from any spirit embodied or disembodied.
I have a Victorian romance How To Impress A Marquess coming out on November 1st. To this end, I’m making an effort to promote my work. I’ve made an agreement with myself to write more posts about my books, my craft, and what guides the decisions I make as an artist (see The Right Words At The Wrong Time ). You know, gentle marketing. And part of my brilliant marketing strategy (<–sarcasm) was to do something about my languishing Facebook page. So I’ve started this cool thing called “Vintage Verbiage” where I post interesting old terminology on my page, keeping to the strict schedule of posting whenever I feel like it. Vintage Verbiage is fun, but most importantly, it’s quick, so I can focus my creative energies on A.) actually writing books B.) writing posts about the books I’ve actually written.
Naturally the second day into Vintage Verbiage, I became completely sucked into some historic weirdness that has nothing to do with my books and kept me entranced for hours. I even had to call my friend and babble on like an excited geek to her about it.
I had to post the information! I had to.
This creepiness cannot be lost forever in the cosmic digital archives of Google Books like that final scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when the ark is hidden in a vast warehouse. Never to be found again.
THE howling of a dog is a certain sign that someone of the family will very shortly die.
A Screech owl flapping its wings against the windows of a sick person’s chamber, or screeching at them, portends the same.
Three loud and distinct knocks at the bed’s head of a sick person, or at the bed’s head or door of any of his relations, is an omen of his death.
A DROP of blood from the nose, commonly foretells death, or a very severe fit of sickness: three drops are still more ominous.
Rats gnawing the hangings of a room, is reckoned the forerunner of a death in the family.
Breaking a looking-glass betokens a mortality in the family, commonly the master.
If the neck of a dead child remains flexible for several hours after its decease, it portends that some person in that house will die in a short time.
A Coal in the shape of a coffin, flying out of the fire to any particular person, betokens their death not far off.
A Collection of tallow rising up against the wick of a candle, is styled a Winding Sheet, and deemed an omen of death in the family.
Besides these general notices, many families have particular warnings or notices; some by the appearance of a bird, and others by the figure of a tall woman, dressed all in white, that goes shrieking about the house. This apparition is common in Ireland, where it is called Ben-Shea, and the Shrieking Woman.
Mr. Pennant says, that many of the great Families in Scotland had their dæmon, or genius, who gave them monitions of future events. Thus the family of Rothmurchas had the Bodach an Dun, or the Ghost of the Hill; Kinchardines, the Spectre of the Bloody Hand. Gartinbeg house was haunted by Bodach Gartin; and Tullock Gorms by Maug Monlach, or the Girl with the Hairy Left Hand. The synod gave frequent orders that enquiry should be made into the truth of this apparition; and one or two declared that they had seen one that answered the description.
Corpse Candles are very common appearances in the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Pembroke, and also in some other parts of Wales. They are called Candles, from their resemblance, not of the body of the candle, but the fire; because that fire, says the honest Welchman, Mr. Davis, in a letter to Mr. Baxter, doth as much resemble material candle-lights, as eggs do eggs; saving that, in their journey, these candles are sometimes visible, and sometimes disappear; especially if anyone comes near to them, or in the way to meet them. On these occasions they vanish, but presently appear again behind the observer, and hold on their course. If a little candle is seen, of a pale or bluish colour, then follows the corpse, either of an abortive, or some infant; if a large one, then the corpse of someone come to age. If there be seen two, three, or more, of different sizes—some big, some small—then shall so many corpses pass together, and of such ages, or degrees. If two candles come from different places, and be seen to meet, the corpses will do the same; and if any of these candles be seen to turn aside, through some bye path leading to the church, the following corpse will be found to take exactly the same way.
Sometimes these Candles point out the places where persons shall sicken and die. They have also appeared on the bellies of pregnant women, previous to their delivery; and predicted the drowning of persons passing a ford. All these appearances have been seen by a number of persons ready to give their testimony of the truth thereof, some within three weeks of Mr. Davis’s writing the letter here quoted.
Another kind of fiery apparition peculiar to Wales, is what is called the Tan-we, or Tanwed. This appeareth, says Mr. Davis, to our seeming, in the lower region of the air, straight and long, not much unlike a glaive; mours or shoots directly and level (as who should say, I’ll hit), but far more slowly than falling stars. It lighteneth all the air and ground where it passeth, lasteth three or four miles, or more, for aught is known, because no man seeth the rising or beginning of it; and, when it falls to the ground, it sparkleth, and lighteth all about. These commonly announce the decease of freeholders, by falling on their lands: and you shall scarce bury any such with us, says Mr. Davis, be he but a lord of a house and garden, but you shall find someone at his burial, that hath seen this fire fall on some part of his lands. Sometimes those appearances have been seen by the persons whose death they foretold; two instances of which Mr. Davis records, as having happened in his own family.
The clicking of a death-watch is an omen of the death of someone in the house wherein it is heard.
A Child, who does not cry when sprinkled in baptism, will not live.
Children prematurely wise are not long-lived, that is, rarely reach maturity. This notion is quoted by Shakespeare, and put into the mouth of Richard III. Fond parents are, however, apt to terrify themselves, on this occasion, without any great cause: witness the mother, who gave as an instance of the uncommon sense of her boy, of only six years of age. That he having laid his dear little hand on a red-hot poker, took it away, without any one soul alive bidding him.
CHARMS AND CEREMONIES
FOR KNOWING FUTURE EVENTS
ANY person fasting on Midsummer eve, and sitting in the church porch, will at midnight see the spirits of the persons of that parish, who will die that year, come and knock at the church door, in the order and succession in which they will die. One of these watchers, there being several in company, fell into a sound sleep, so that he could not be waked: whilst in this state, his ghost or spirit was seen by the rest of his companions, knocking at the church door.
Any unmarried woman fasting on Midsummer eve, and at midnight laying a clean cloth, with bread, cheese, and ale, and sitting down, as if going to eat, the street door being left open—the person whom she is afterwards to marry will come into the room, and drink to her by bowing; and afterwards filling the glass, will leave it on the table, and, making another bow, retire.
On St. Agnes night, 21st of January, take a row of pins, and pull out every one, one after another, saying a Pater-noster on sticking a pin in your sleeve, and you will dream of him or her you shall marry.
Another method to see a future spouse in a dream:—The party enquiring must lie in a different county from that in which he commonly resides; and, on going to bed, must knit the left garter about the right-legged stocking, letting the other garter and stocking alone; and, as you rehearse the following verses, at every comma knit a knot;
This knot I knit,
To know the thing I know not yet;
That I may see
The man (woman) that shall my husband (wife) be;
How he goes, and what he wears,
And what he does all days and years.
Accordingly, in a dream, he will appear, with the insignia of his trade or profession.
Another, performed by charming the Moon, thus:—At the first appearance of the New Moon, immediately after the new year’s day (though some say any other New Moon is as good), go out in the evening, and stand over the spars of a gate or stile, and, looking on the Moon, repeat the following lines:
All hail to the Moon! all hail to thee!
I prithee, good Moon, reveal to me,
This night, who my husband (wife) must be.
The person must presently after go to bed, when they will dream of the person destines for their future husband or wife.
A Slice of the bride-cake, thrice drawn through the wedding ring, and laid under the head of an unmarried man or woman, will make them dream of their future wife or husband. The same is practised in the North with a piece of the groaning cheese.
To discover a thief by the sieve and sheers: Stick the points of the sheers in the wood of the sieve, and let two persons support it, balanced upright, with their two fingers: then read a certain chapter in the Bible, and afterwards ask St. Peter and St. Paul, if A. or B. is the thief, naming all the persons you suspect. On naming the real thief, the sieve will turn suddenly round about.
CURES AND PREVENTATIVES
A SLUNK or abortive calf, buried in the highway over which cattle frequently pass, will greatly prevent that misfortune happening to cows. This is commonly practised in Suffolk.
A Ring made of the hinge of a coffin is supposed to have the virtue of preventing the cramp.
Certain herbs, stones, and other substances, as also particular words written on parchment, as a charm, have the property of preserving men from wounds in the midst of a battle or engagement. This was so universally credited, that an oath was administered to persons going to fight a legal duel. ‘That they had ne charm, ne herb of virtue.’ The power of rendering themselves invulnerable, is still believed by the Germans; it is performed by divers charms and ceremonies; and so firm is their belief of its efficacy, that they will rather attribute any hurt they may receive, after its performance, to some omission in the performance, than defect in its virtue.
A Halter wherewith anyone has been hanged, if tied about the head, will cure the headache.
Moss growing on a human skull, if dried, powdered, and taken as snuff, will cure the headache.
A Dead man’s hand is supposed to have the quality of dispelling tumours, such as wens or swelled glands, by stroking with it, nine times, the place affected. It seems as if the hand of a person dying a violent death was deemed particularly efficacious; as it very frequently happens, that nurses bring children to be stroked with the hands of executed criminals, even whilst they are hanging on the gallows.
Touching a dead body, prevents dreaming of it.
The word Abacadabara, written asunder, and worn about the neck, will cure an ague;
To cure warts:—Steal a piece of beef from a butcher’s shop, and rub your warts with it; then throw it down the necessary house, or bury it; and, as the beef rots, your warts will decay.
The chips or cuttings of a gibbet or gallows, on which one or more persons have been executed or exposed, if worn next the skin, or round the neck, in a bag, will cure the ague, or prevent it.
A Stone with a hole in it, hung at the bed’s head, will prevent the nightmare: it is therefore called a hag-stone, from that disorder, which is occasioned by a hag, or witch, sitting on the stomach of the party afflicted. It also prevents witches riding horses; for which purpose it is often tied to a stable key.
If a tree, of any kind, is split—and weak, ricketty, or ruptured children drawn through it, and afterwards the tree is bound together, so as to make it unite—as the tree heals, and grows together, so will the child acquire strength.
This is a very ancient and extensive piece of superstition.— Creeping through tolmen, or perforated stones, was a Druidical ceremony, and is practised in the East Indie. Mr. Borlace mentions a stone, in the parish of Marden having a hole in it, fourteen inches diameter through which many persons have crept, for pains in their backs and limbs; and many children have been drawn, for the rickets. In the North, children are drawn through a hole cut in the groaning cheese, on the day they are christened.
THE wounds of a murdered person will bleed afresh, on the body being touched, ever so lightly, in any part, by the murderer.
A Person being suddenly taken with a shivering, is a sign that someone has just then walked over the spot of their future grave. Probably all persons are not subject to this sensation; otherwise the inhabitants of those parishes, whose burial grounds lie in the common foot-path, would live in one continual fit of shaking.
When a person’s cheek, or ear, burns, it is a sign that someone is then talking of him or her. If it is the right cheek, or ear, the discourse course is to their advantage; if the left, totheir disadvantage. When the right eye itches, the party affected will shortly cry; if the left, they will laugh.
THINGS LUCKY AND UNLUCKY
IT is customary for women to offer to sit cross-legged, to procure luck at cards for their friends. Sitting cross-legged, with the fingers interlaced, was anciently esteemed a magical posture.
It is deemed lucky to be born with a caul, or membrane, over the face. This is an ancient and general Superstition. In France, it is proverbial: etre ne coiffee, is an expression signifying that a person is extremely fortunate. This caul is esteemed an infallible preservative against drowning; and, under that idea, is frequently advertised for sale in our public papers, and purchased by seamen. It is related that midwives used to sell this membrane to advocates, as an especial means of making them eloquent; and one Protus was accused by the clergy of Constantinople with having offended in this article. According to Chrysostom, the midwives frequently fold it for magical uses.
A Person possessed of a caul may know the state of health of the party who was born with it: if alive and well, it is firm and crisp; if dead or sick, relaxed and flaccid.
It is reckoned a good omen, or a sign of future happiness, if the sun shines on a couple coming out of the church after having been married. It is also esteemed a good sign if it rains whilst a corpse is burying:
Happy is the bride that the sun shines on;
Happy is the corpse that the rain rains on.
To break a looking-glass is extremely unlucky; the party to whom it belongs will lose his best friend.
If, going a journey on business, a sow cross the road, you will probably meet with a disappointment, if not a bodily accident, before you return home. To avert this, you must endeavour to prevent her crossing you; and if that cannot be done, you must ride round on fresh ground. If the sow is attended with her litter of pigs, it is lucky, and denotes a successful journey.
It is unlucky to see, first one magpie, and then more; but to see two, denotes marriage or merriment; three, a successful journey; four, an unexpected piece of good news; five you will shortly be in a great company. To kill a magpie, will certainly be punished with some terrible misfortune.
If, in a family, the youngest daughter should be married before her elder sisters, they must all dance at her wedding without shoes: this will counteract their ill luck, and procure them husbands.
If you meet a funeral procession, or one passes by you, always take off your hat: this keeps all evil spirits attending the body in good humour.
If, in eating, you miss your mouth, and the victuals fall, it is very unlucky, and denotes approaching sickness.
It is supposed extremely unlucky to have a dead body on board of a ship at sea.
Children are deemed lucky to a ship; their innocence being, by the sailors, supposed a protection.
It is lucky to put on a stocking the wrong side outwards: changing it, alters the luck.
When a person goes out to transact any important business, it is lucky to throw an old shoe aster him.
It is lucky to tumble upstairs: probably this is a jocular observation, meaning, it was lucky the party did not tumble down stairs.
It is unlucky to present a knife, scissors, razor, or any sharp or cutting instrument, to one’s mistress or friend, as they are apt to cut love and friendship. To avoid the ill effects of this, a pin, a farthing, or some trifling recompence, must be taken. To find a knife or razor, denotes ill luck and disappointment to the party.
It is unlucky to walk under a ladder; it may prevent your being married that year.
It is a common practice among the lower class of hucksters, peddlars, or dealers in fruit or fish, on receiving the price of the first goods sold that day, which they call hansel, to spit on the money, as they term it, for good luck: and boxers, before they set to, commonly spit in their hands, which was originally done for luck’s fake.
The first time a nurse brings a child to visit its parents or relations, it is unlucky to send it back without some gift, as eggs, salt, or bread.
It is held extremely unlucky to kill a cricket, a lady-bug, a swallow, martin, robin-redbreast, or wren; perhaps from the idea of its being a breach of hospitality; all those birds and insects taking refuge in houses.
There is a particular distich in favour of the robin and wren:
A robin and a wren
Are God Almighty’s cock and hen.
Persons killing any of the above-mentioned birds or insects, or destroying their nests, will infallibly, within the course of the year, break a bone, or meet with some other dreadful misfortune. On the contrary, it is deemed lucky to have martins or swallows build their nests in the eaves of a house, or on the chimneys.
It is unlucky to lay one’s knife and fork cross-wise: crosses and misfortunes are likely to follow.
Many persons have certain days of the week and month on which they are particularly fortunate, and others in which they are as generally unlucky: these days are different to different persons. Mr. Aubrey has given several instances of both in divers persons. Some days, however, are commonly deemed unlucky: among others, Friday labours under that opprobrium; and it is pretty generally held, that no new work or enterprise should be commenced on that day. Likewise respecting the weather, there is this proverb:
Come when it will, it comes too soon.
Washing hands in the same basin, or with the same water, as another person has washed in, is extremely unlucky, as the parties will infallibly quarrel.
To scatter salt, by overturning the vessel in which it is contained, is very unlucky, and portends quarrelling with a friend, or fracture of a bone, sprain, or other bodily misfortune. Indeed this may in some measure be averted, by throwing a small quantity of it over one’s head. It is also unlucky to help another person to salt: to whom the ill luck is to happen, does not seem to be settled.
Whistling at sea is supposed to cause an increase of wind, if not a storm, and therefore much disliked by seamen; though, sometimes, they themselves practise it when there is a dead calm.
Drowning a cat at sea, is extremely unlucky.
THE passing-bell was anciently rung for two purposes: one, to bespeak the prayers of all good Christians for a soul just departing; the other, to drive away the evil spirits who stood at the bed’s-foot, and about the house, ready to seize their prey, or at least to molest and terrify the soul in its passage: but by the ringing of that bell (for Durandus informs us, evil spirits are much afraid of bells), they were kept aloof; and the soul, like a hunted hare, gained the start, or had what is by sportsmen called Law. Hence, perhaps, exclusive of the additional labour, was occasioned the high price demanded for tolling the greatest bell of the church; for, that being louder, the evil spirits must go farther off to be clear of its found, by which the poor soul got so much more the start of them: besides, being heard farther off, it would likewise procure the dying man a greater number of prayers.
The toad has a stone in its head, very efficacious in the cure of divers diseases but it must be taken out of the animal whilst alive.
The ass has a cross on its back, ever since Christ rode on one of these animals.
The haddock has the mark of St. Peter’s thumb, ever since St. Peter took the tribute penny out of the mouth of a fish of that species.
Most persons break the shells of eggs, after they have eaten the meat. This was originally done to prevent their being used as boats by witches.
A Coal hopping out of the fire, in the shape of a purse, predicts a sudden acquisition of riches to the person near whom it falls.
A Flake of soot hanging at the bars of the grate, denotes the visit of a stranger from that part of the country nearest the object: a kind of fungus in the candle predicts the same.
A Spark in the candle denotes that the party opposite to it will shortly receive a letter.
In setting a hen, the good women hold it an indispensable rule to put an odd number of eggs.
All sorts of remedies are directed to be taken three, seven, or nine times. Salutes with cannon consist of an odd number; a royal salute is thrice seven, or twenty-one guns. This predilection for odd numbers is very ancient, and is mentioned by Virgil in the eighth Eclogue, where many spells and charms, still practised, are recorded; but, notwithstanding these opinions in favour of odd numbers, the number thirteen is considered as extremely ominous; it being held that, when thirteen persons meet in a room, one of them will die within the year.
It is impossible for a person to die whilst resting on a pillow stuffed with the feathers of a dove; but they will struggle with death in most exquisite torture. The pillows of dying persons are therefore frequently taken away, when they appear in great agonies, lest they may have pigeons feathers in them.
Fern feed is looked on as having great magical powers, and must be gathered on midsummer eve. A person who went to gather it, reported that the spirits whisked by his ears, and sometimes struck his hat, and other parts of his body; and at length, when he thought he had got a good quantity of it, and secured it in papers and a box, when he came home, he found both empty.
Anyone wounded by a small fish, called a Sting Ray, which often happens in catching sand-eels, will feel the pain of the wound very severely till the next tide.
The Reverend Mr. Shaw, in the History of the Province of Moray, in Scotland, says, ‘When a corpse is lifted, the bed of straw, on which the deceased lay, is carried out, and burnt, in a place where no beast can come near it: and they pretend to find next morning, in the ashes, the print of the foot of the person in the family who shall first die.’
Although the devil can partly transform himself into a variety of shapes, he cannot change his cloven foot, which will always mark him under every appearance,
A Manuscript in the Cotton Library, marked Julius, F. 6, has the following superstitions, practised in the lordship of Gasborough, in Cleveland, Yorkshire:
Anyone whistling, after it is dark, or daylight is closed, must go thrice about the house, by way of penance. How this whistling becomes criminal, is not said.
When anyone dieth, certain women sing a song to the dead body, reciting the journey that the party deceased must go.
They esteem it necessary to give, once in their lives, a pair of new shoes to a poor person; believing that, after their decease, they shall be obliged to pass bare-foot over a great space of ground, or heath, overgrown with thorns and furzes; unless, by such gift, they have redeemed this obligation: in which case, when they come to the edge of this heath, an old man will meet them, with the self-same pair of shoes they have given; by the help of which they will pass over unhurt: that is, provided the shoes have no holes in them; a circumstance the fabricator of the tale forgot to stipulate.
When a maid takes the pot off the fire, she sets it down in great haste, and with her hands stops the pot-hooks from vibrating; believing that our Lady greeteth (that is, weepeth) all the time the pot-hooks are in motion.
Between the towns of Aten and Newton, near the foot of Rosberrye Toppinge, there is a well dedicated to St. Oswald. The neighbours have an opinion, that a shirt, or shift, taken off a sick person, and thrown into that well, will shew whether the person will recover, or die: for if it floated, it denoted the recovery of the party; if it sunk, there remained no hope of their life: and, to reward the Saint for his intelligence, they tear off a rag of the shirt, and leave it hanging on the briars thereabouts; ‘where,’ says the writer, ‘I have seen such numbers, as might have made a sayre rheme in a paper myll.’ These wells, called Rag-wells, were formerly not uncommon.
The Reverend Mr. Brand, in his ingenious Annotations on Bourne’s Popular Antiquities, mentions a well of this kind at Benton, in the neighbourhood of Newcastle. Mr. Pennant tells us of two in Scotland: these were visited for many distempers, where the offerings were small pieces of money, and bits of rags.
The fishermen every year change their companions, for luck’s fake. On St. Peter’s day they new paint their boats, and give a treat to their friends and neighbours; at which they sprinkle their boats with ale, observing certain ceremonies.
The seventh son of a seventh son is born a physician; having an intuitive knowledge of the art of curing all disorders, and sometimes the faculty of performing wonderful cures by touching only.
To conclude this article, and my book, I shall transcribe a foreign piece of Superstition, firmly believed in many parts of France, Germany, and Spain. The account of it, and the mode of preparation, appears to have been given by a judge: in the latter, there is a striking resemblance to the charm in Macbeth.
Of the Hand of Glory, which is made use of by housebreakers, to enter into houses at night, without fear of opposition.
I Acknowledge that I never tried the secret of the Hand of Glory, but I have thrice assisted at the definitive judgment of certain criminals, who, under the torture, confessed having used it. Being asked what it was, how they procured it, and what were its uses and properties ?—they answered, first, that the use of the Hand of Glory was to stupify those to whom it was presented, and to render them motionless, insomuch that they could not stir, any more than if they were dead; secondly, that it was the hand of a hanged man; and thirdly, that it must be prepared in the manner following:
Take the hand, left or right, of a person hanged, and exposed on the highway; wrap it up in a piece of a shroud, or winding sheet, in which let it be well squeezed, to get out any small quantity of blood that may have remained in it; then put it into an earthen vessel, with zimat, saltpetre, salt, and long pepper, the; whole well powdered; leave it fifteen days in that vessel; afterwards take it out, and expose it to the noontide sun in the dog days, till it is thoroughly dry; and if the sun is not sufficient, put it into an oven heated with fern and vervain: then compose a kind of candle with the fat of a hanged man, virgin wax, and sisame of Lapland. The Hand of Glory is used as a candlestick to hold this candle, when lighted. Its properties are, that wheresoever anyone goes with this dreadful instrument, the persons to whom it is presented will be deprived of all power of motion. On being asked if there was no remedy, or antidote, to counteract this charm, they said the Hand of Glory would cease to take effect, and thieves could not make use of it, if the threshold of the door of the house, and other places by which they might enter, were anointed with an unguent composed of the gall of a black cat, the fat of a white hen, and the blood of a screech owl; which mixture must necessarily be prepared during the dog days.