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May 6—1696. My LORD,
I have at length by the help of Mr. C-~ns procured a copy of that MS. in the Bodleian Library, which you were so curious to see ; and in obedience to your Lordship’s commands I herewith send it to you. Most of the notes annexed to it, are what I made Yesterday for the Reading of my Lady Masham, who is become so fond of masonry, as to say, that she now more than ever wishes herself a man, that she might be capable of Admission into the Fraternity.
The MS., of which this is a copy, appears to be about 160 years old; yet (as your Lordship will observe by the Title) it is itself a Copy of one yet more Antient by about
For the original is said to have been the Hand-writing of K. Henry the VI.* Where that Prince had it is at present an Uncertainty ; But it seems to me to be an examination (taken perhaps before the king) of some one of the Brotherhood of Masons; among whom he entered himself, as 'tis said, t when he came out of his Minority, and thenceforth put a stop to a Persecution that had been raised against them. But I must not detain your Lordship longer by my prefaces from the thing itself. Certayne Questyons, wyth Sunsweres to the same,
Mystery of Maconrye,
They be as followethe:-
Ans. Ytt beeth the skylle of nature, the understandynge of the myghte that ys hereynne, and its sondrye werck
* “Said to have been !”—and by whom ? surely this was information worth imparting. And where is the original ?
† “ As 'tis said," again !—and once more we ask, by whom ? the information of this pseudo-Locke seems to be as much a matter of tradition as Freemasonry itself.
ynges ; sonderlyche, the skylle of rectenyngs, of waightes, and metynges and the treu manere of faconnynge all thynges for mannes use, headlye, dwellynges, and buyldynges of all kindes, and alle odher thynges that make gudde to manne.
Quest. Where dyd ytt hegynne ?
Ans. Ytt dyd begynne with the * fyrste menne yn the este, which were before the 5 ffyrste manne of the weste, and comynge westlye ytt hathe brought herwyth alle comfortes to the wylde and comfortlesse.
Quest. Who dyd brynge ytt westlye?
Ans. The Venetians, whoo beynge grate merchaundes comed ffyrste ffromme the este ynn Venetia ffor the commodytye of marchaundysynge beithe east and weste, bye the redde and myddlelonde sees.
Quest. Howe commede ytt yn Engelonde?
a Grecian, journeyedde ffor kunnynge yn Egypte, and yn Syria, and yn everyche londe whereas the Venetians hadde plauntedde maçonrye, and wynnynge entrance yn al lodges of Maçonnes he lerned muche, and returnedde, and yn Grecia Magna 8 wachsynge and becommynge a myghtye ' wyseacre and gratelyche renowned, and her he framed a grate Lodge at Groton 10 and maked many Maçonnes, some whereoffe dyd journeye to Fraunce, and maked many maçonnes, wherefromme, yn processe of tyme the arte passed in Englande.
Quest, Dothe Maçonnes descover here Artes unto odhers ?
Ans. Peter Gower, whenne he journeyedde to lerne, was ffyrste "made, and anone techedde; shulde all odhers be yn recht. Nathless Maçonnes havethe alweys yn everyche tyme from tyme to tyme communycatedde to Mankynde soche of her secrettes as generallyche myghte be usefulle; they haveth keped backe soche allein as shulde be harmfulle yff they commed yn evylle haundes, oder soche as ne myghte be holpynge wythouten the techynges to be joynedde herwythe in the Lodge, oder soche as do bynde the Freres more strongelyche togeder bey the profytte and commodytye comynge to the Confrerie herfromme.
Quest. Whatte artes havethe the Maçonnes techedde mankynde ?
Ans. The artes 13 Agricultura, Architectura, Astronomia, Geometria, Numeres, Musica, Poesie, Kymestrye, Governmente, and Relygyonne.
Quest. How commethe Maçonnes more teachers than odher menne?
Ans. They hemselfe haveth allein the 14 arte of fyndynge neue Artes, whyche art the ffyrste Maçonnes receaved from Godde; by the whyche they fyndethe whatte artes hem plesethe, and the treu way of techynge the
What odber menne dothe ffynde out, ys onelyche bey chaunce, and herfore but lytel i tro.
Quest. Whatt dothe the Maçonnes concele and hyde ?
Ans. They concelethe the arte of ffyndynge neue artes, and thattys for her owne proffytte and 15 preise; they concelethe the arte of kepynge secrettes, that soe the worlde mayeth nothinge concele from them. They con. celethe the arte of wunderwerckynge, and of foresaying thynges to comme, that so thay same artes may not be usedde of the wyckedde to an evylle ende; they also concelethe the 17 arte of chaunges, the wey of wynnynge the facultye 18 of abrae, the skylle of becommynge gude and parfyghte wythouten the holpynges of fere and hope; and the universelle language of Maçonnes.19
Quest. Wylle he teche me thay same artes ?
Ans. Ye shalle be techedde yif ye be werthye, and able to lerne.
Quest. Dothe alle Maçonnes kunne more than odher menne ;
Ans. Not so. Thay onlyche haveth recht and occasyanne more then odber menne to kunne, but many dueth fale yn capacity, and manye more doth want industrye that is pernecessarye for the gaynynge all kunnynge.
Quest. Are Maçonnes gudder menne then odhers ?
Ans. Some Maçonnes are nott so vertuous as some other menne; but yn the moste parte thay be more gude than thay woulde be yf thay war not Maçonnes.
Quest. Doth Maçonnes love eidther other myghtylye as beeth sayde ?
Ans. Yea, verylyche, and yt may not odherwyse be; for gude menne and true, kennynge eidher odher to be soche, doeth always love the more as thay be more gude.
Here endeth the Questyonnes and Answeres.
Upon this clumsy fabrication the pseudo-Locke makes the following remarks, which are intended of course to give an air of authenticity to the text, but which in fact only help to make the forgery yet more palpable.
John Leylande was appointed by King Henry the VIII. at the dissolution of monasteries to search for, and save such books and records as were valuable amongst them. He was a man of great labour and industry.
2“ His Highness"--meaning the said King Henry the eighth. Our kings had not then the title of Majesty.
3 “What mote ytt be?”—that is, what may this mystery of masonry be? The answer imports that it consists in natural, mathematical, and mechanical knowledge. Some part of which, as appears by what follows, the masons pretend to have taught the rest of mankind, and some part they still conceal.
Fyrste menne yn the Este, &c. It should seem by this that Masons believe there were men in the east before Adam, who is called the ffyrste Manne of the Weste ; and that arts and sciences began in the East. Some authors of great note for learning have been of the same opinion; and it is certain that Europe and Africa (which in respect to Asia may be called western countries) were wild and savage, long after arts and politeness of manners were in great perfection in China and the Indies.
6 The Venetians, &c.—In the times of monkish ignorance ’tis no wonder that the Phænicians should be mistaken for the Venetians. Or perhaps if the people were not taken one for the other, similitude of sound might deceive the clerk,* who first took down the examination. The Phænicians were the greatest voyagers amongst the ancients, and were in Europe thought to be the inventors
A few minutes since we were required to believe that this document was in the hand-writing of Henry the Sixth; now we are told it was penned by a clerk, for be it observed he is not speaking of the copyist of the Bodleian manuscript, but of the “ clerk, who first took down the examination.” More than this, how happens it that ignorant monks, who were in constant intercourse with Rome, had heard nothing of Venice ? Surely there never yet was so clumsy and palpable a fabrication.
of letters, which perhaps they brought from the east with other arts.
Peter Gower.-This must be another mistake of the writer. I was puzzled at first to guess who Peter Gower should be, the name being perfectly English; or how a Greek should come by such a name; but as soon as I thought of Pythagoras, I could scarce forbear smiling to find that philosopher had undergone a metempsychosis he never dreamt of. We need only consider the French pronunciation of his name, Pythagore, that is, Petagore, to conceive how easily such a mistake might be made by an unlearned clerk. That Pythagoras travelled for knowledge into Egypt, &c. is known to all the learned, and that he was initiated into several different orders of priests,* who in those days kept all their learning secret from the vulgar, is as well known. Pythagoras also made
every geometrical theorem a secret, and admitted only such to the knowledge of them as had first undergone a five years' silence. He is supposed to be the inventor of xlvii of the first book of Euclid, for which in the joy of his heart 'tis said he sacrificed a hecatomb. He also knew the true system of the world, lately revived by Copernicus; and was certainly a wonderful man. See his life by Dion. Hal.
8 Grecia Magna.-A part of Italy formerly so called, in which the Greeks had settled a large colony.
Wyseacre.-This word at present signifies simpleton, but formerly had a quite contrary meaning. Weisager in the old Saxon is Philosopher, wiseman, or wizard ; and, having been frequently used ironically, at length came to have a direct meaning in the ironical sense. Thus Duns Scotus, a man famed for the subtlety and acuteness of his understanding, has by the same method of irony given a general name to modern dunces.
10 Groton.—Groton is the name of a place in England. The place here meant is Crotona, a city of Grecia Magna, which in the time of Pythagoras was very populous.
Fyrste made.—The word made, I suppose, has a particular meaning among the Masons; perhaps it signifies, initiated.
Maçonnes haveth communicatedde.—This paragraph hath * If this be true, Freemasonry must have been of all religions—in short, deism.