« ZurückWeiter »
so far as to make it malleable, and by which copper was to be turned into gold.
As to the antiquity of this folly we need only give the substance of the opinion of Goschaleus Bell. ordinis S. August. in suo præceptorio, who wrote above twelve hundred years since on this subject; which was, that alchemists were counterfeiters of metals and minerals, and as deeply concerned in knavery as the thief whose misdeeds brought him to public arraignment. Indeed, were we to confine ourselves solely to the possibility of converting gold into a different form, we shall find that the inspired author of the Scriptures was well acquainted with the art of rendering that valuable metal liquid; but my object is to explain the operations of alchemists, who worked for profit only; of which one half were dupes to their own folly, and the rest to designing knaves.
Chaucer describes alchemists thus in his time; and Mr. Scot declares his sketch of them correct in his day.
“ These fellows look ill-favouredly,
These folk are known and discerned alway." He also asserts, that he could cite many cases of villainous deception practised by Dr. Burcot, and a person named Peates; but confines himself to the following, which I shall transcribe, to
explain the methods adopted on these occasions. “ Touching a yeoman cozened by a notable varlet, who, by means of his companions and confederates, discussed the simplicity and ability of the said yeoman, and found out his estate and humour to be convenient in this purpose; and finally came a wooing, as they say, to his daughter, to whom he made love cunningly in words, though his purpose tended to another matter. And, among other illusions and tales concerning his own commendation for wealth, parentage, inheritance, alliance, activity, learning, pregnancy, and cunning, he boasted of his knowledge and experience in alchemistry; making the simple'man believe that he could multiply, and of one angel make two or three: which seemed strange to the poor man, insomuch as he became willing enough to see that conclusion; whereby the alchymist had more hope and comfort to attain his desire, than if his daughter had yielded to have married him. To be short, he (in the presence of the said yeoman) did include within a little ball of virgin wax a couple of angels; and, after certain ceremonies and conjuring words, he seemed to deliver the same unto him ; but in truth, through legerdemain, he conveyed into the yeoman's hand another ball, of the same scantling, wherein were enclosed many more angels than were in the ball which he thought he had received,
Now, forsooth, the alchemist bade him lay up the same ball of wax, and also use certain ceremonies ; and after certain days, hours, and minutes, they returned together, according to the appointment, and found great gains by the nultiplication of the angels : insomuch as he (being a plain man) was hereby persuaded, that he should have not only a rare and notable good son-in-law, but a companion that might help to add unto his wealth much treasure, and to his estate great fortune and felicity. And to increase this opinion in him, as also to win his further favour (but especially to bring his cunning alchemistry, or rather his lewd purpose, to pass), he told him, that it were folly to multiply a pound of gold, when as easily multiply a million; and therefore compelled him to produce all the money he had, , or could borrow of his neighbours and friends; and did put him out of doubt, that he would multiply the same, and redouble it exceedingly, even as he saw by experience how he dealt with the small sum before his face.
“ This yeoman, in hopes of gain and preferment, &c. consented to this sweet motion, and brought out and laid before his feet, not the one half of his goods but all that he had, or could make, or borrow any manner of way. Then this juggling alchymist, having obtained his
purpose, folded the same in a ball, in quantity far bigger
yeoman to the
than the other, and, conveying the same into his bosom or pocket, delivered another ball, as before, of the like quantity to the yeoman, to be reserved and carefully kept in his chest, whereof either of them must have a key, and a several lock, that no interruption might be made to the ceremony, nor abuse by either of them, in defrauding each other. Now, forsooth, these circumstances and ceremonies being ended, and the alchymist's purpose thereby performed, he told the yeoman, that until a certain day and hour, limited to return, either of them might employ themselves about their business, and necessary affairs ; the plough, and he to the city of London; and, in the mean time, the gold should multiply.
“ But the alchymist, belike having other matters of more importance, came not just at the hour appointed, nor yet at the day, nor within the year; so as, although it were somewhat against the yeoman's conscience to violate his promise, or break the league; yet, partly by the longing he had to see, and partly the desire he had to enjoy the fruit of that excellent experiment, having, for his own security and the other's satisfaction, some testimony at the opening thereof to witness his sincere dealing, he brake up the coffer, and lo, he soon espied the ball of wax which he himself had laid
there with his own hands. So, as he thought, if the hardest should fall he should find his principal; and why not as good increase hereof
now, as of the other before? But, alas, when the wax was broken, and the metal discovered, the gold was much abased, and became perfect lead.”
The circumstances attending the accession of James I. to the throne, were by no meaņs favourable to that monarch, who came into England in a light very little better than that of a foreigner. , His character cannot, therefore, be clearly defined; as prejudice and partiality have given us two extremely opposite. His peaceable reign is a strong fact in his favour.
We find by various antient English authors, that the reproachful term cuckold was very frequently bestowed in anger at this time: in short, it became as decidedly a custom in altercation, as the use of compliments on meeting of friends. It would be useless to attempt a discovery of the real origin of the word, or to cite dissertations on it. I shall, therefore, give a paragraph on the subject from Heywood's “ Nine Books of various History, 1624.” This gentleman says, “I wonder how the name of cuckold caine to be so frequent amongst us? .... I speak not of the woman that, when her husband came home to her in haste, and brought news there was a new edict come out, that all cuckolds should be cast into the river, presently asked him, 'why he did not learn to swim?'—nor of her that when her good man came to her, in like manner, with acclamation, and said, Wot you what, wife, such a woman