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We have already said that it is probable the Courts of Love had their origin in the Tensons, or poetical disputes of rival Troubadours. These were frequently referred to the judgement of some of their most celebrated companions, or of some neighbouring beauty, to whose decision the candidates for fame were gallantly willing to submit. In process of time, these references became more frequent, till they were at length matured into that perfect system of Erotic jurisprudence which is so well calculated to attract the admiration and respect of all who value the grace and polish of highly cultivated society. Of these Tensons, we have several specimens remaining, in the works of those Troubadours who have survived to the present day. Amongst these compositions there is, perhaps, no one which excels in lively beauty the Tenson of Savari de Mauleon. We do not, however, in this place, quote the composition for its poetical excellencies, but merely as a sort of judicial document, illustrating the subject of which we are treating*.
Savari de Mauleon and two other lords were attached to a
man at Blackheath who had a good horse, saddle, bridle, watch, sword, cane, and other things, to dispose of, which he believed might be had for little or no money ; that they accordingly went, and met with the said gentleman, and after some small discourse, they dealt for the said horse, &c. That your orator, and the said Joseph Williams, continued their joint dealings together in several places; viz. at Bagshot, in Surrey; Salisbury, in Wiltshire; Hampstead, in Middlesex; and elsewhere, to the amount of £2000 and upwards.” The rest of the bill was in the ordinary form for a partnership account. The parties concerned did not however gain much by this proceeding. The bill was referred for scandal and impertinence. The solicitors were attached and fined, and the counsel who signed the bill was directed to pay the costs. The plaintiff was afterwards executed, and one of the solicitors convicted of a robbery and transported. This case is referred to by Lord Kenyon, in Ridley and Morse. Append. Cliff. Rep. of Southw. Elec. See European Magazine, vol. ii. p. 360, 1787; and Roy's Maxims, 9th edit. 205.
There is another instance mentioned by the very learned annotator of Saunders's Reports, in which the courts refused to countenance a defence, which strongly resembled the above case in its illegal nature. It was a prescription for a right of robbery on Gads-hill.
* The original provençal is given by Raynouard II. 199, accompanied by a literal French translation. A paraphrase of it in prose may be found in Millot's Histoire Litteraire des Troubadours II. 107, of which Mrs. Dobson has given an English translation in her History of the Troubadours, 122. Strictly speaking, this poem is a Torneyamen, a Tenson admitting only two interlocutors.
lady who was called Guillemette de Baraques. During an interview when all the three were present, each received a mark of her regard; on one she bestowed a kind glance, she pressed the hand of another, and touched the foot of the third, at the same time looking benignantly on him.
To settle the precedency of these favours, Savari requested his friends Gaucelin de Faidit and Huges de Bacalaria to pronounce their judgement upon the question, and at the same time he delivered his own opinion. From the report in Raynouard it seems, however, that the ultimate decision was referred to the Lady Guillemette herself.
Martial de Paris is not the only author who has availed himself of these ancient and interesting institutions, to afford at once amusement and instruction to his readers. Many years before his work was written, Chaucer had composed his Court of Love, which is an imitation of The Romaunt of the Rose, and is merely an allegorical poem, displaying the empire of love, the machinery of which the poet has borrowed from the real Courts of Love. Mars and Venus are the presiding deities. The Statutes of Love contained in this poem are simply imaginary, and scarcely bear the slightest resemblance to the genuine ordinances as given by André the Chaplain. Fontaine also has, in more than one of his poems, taken his idea from the proceedings of these tribunals. Such is his Different de Beaux Yeux et de Belle Bouche, who argue their respective pretensions with great ingenuity and cleverness. Amongst our own authors, the Court of Judicature in which the famous Isaac Bickerstaff presided evidently owes its origin to the Cours d'Amour, of which the resemblance we have noticed above seems a pretty strong proof.
We very much regret that our limits do not permit us to give a few specimens of the fine old French in which the Arrets d'Amours are written.
The Discoverie of Witchcraft, wherein the lewde dealings of
Witches and Witchmongers is notablie detected; the knaverie of Conjurors, the impietie of Inchanters, the follie of Soothsayers, the impudent falshood of Couseners, the infidelitie of Atheists, the pestilent practices of Pythinists, the curiositie of Figurecasters, the vanitie of Dreamers, the beggarlie art of Alcumystrie,
&c. are deciphered : by Reginald Scott, Esq. 1584. A discovery of the fraudulent practices of John Darrel, Bachelor
of Artes, in his proceedings concerning the pretended possession
and dispossession of William Somers, at Nottingham, &c.;. by
Dr. Harsnett. 1599. Demonologie; in form of a Dialogue, divided into Three Books;
written by the High and Mighty Prince James, by the Grace of
God, King of England, 8c. Works. 1616. . Select Cases of Conscience, touching Witches and Witchcraft; by
John Gaule, Preacher of the Word at Great Staughten, in the county of Huntington. 16 16. The Discovery of Witches, in Answer to severall Queries lately de
livered to the Judges of Assize for the county of Norfolk; and now published by Matthew Hopkins, witch-finder, for the be
nefit of the whole kingdom. 1647. An Advertisement to the Jurymen of England, touching Witches;
together with a difference between an English and Hebrew Witch ; by Sir R. Filmer. 1653. A Candle in the Dark: shewing the Divine Cause of the Dis
tractions of the whole nation of England and of the Christian World; by Thomas Ady, M.A. 1655. The Question of Witchcraft debated; 2d. ed. By John Wag
staffe. 1671. The Doctrine of Devils proved to be the grand Apostacy of these
later Times. 1676. The Displaying of supposed Witchcraft, &c; by John Webster,
Practitioner in Physick. 1677. ' Melampronvea ; or, a Discourse of the Polity and Kingdom of
Darkness; together with a Solution of the chiefest Objections brought against the being of Witches ; by Henry Hallywell,
M.A. 1681. A Tryal of Witches at the Assizes held at Bury St. Edmond's,
for the County of Suffolk, on the 10th of March, 1664, before
Sir M. Hale, Knt. 1682. The Certainty of the World of Spirits, &c., fully evinced, by the unquestionable Histories of Apparitions, Operations, Witch
crafts, Voices, &c.; by Richard Baxter. 1691. An Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft; by Francis Hutchin
son, D.D. 1720. Sadducismus Triumphatus ; or, a full and plain Evidence con
cerning Witches and Apparitions ; by Joseph Glanvil, Chaplain in Ordinary to King Charles II. and F.R.S. 1726.
The titles placed at the head of this article may seem to the curious reader a promise of much amusement from the books themselves; but if our own experience may be relied upon, however they may “keep that word of promise to the ear,” they will “break it to the hope,” like the beings of whom they treat, and leave him with fatigued attention and depressed imagination, and a loathing, grieved, and humbled heart. This is not all indeed that the perusal of them is likely to accomplish; if it were so, our notice of them would be so like a malicious attempt upon the time and patience of the reader, in revenge for having lost our own, that the compact between us must be firm as that of witch and devil, to hold us together afterwards. Had we so much of the very " lob of spirits” in us, as to beckon him to follow
“Over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough briar,
only to be tired, scratched, drenched, and burnt for his pains, our pages would well deserve to be exorcised, and consigned to that rapacious gulf, that red sea of literature, the trunk-maker's warehouse. The tale of wise men's weaknesses, and good men's undesigned but cruel injustice, and of the abject superstitions of the vulgar, and the guilt of impostors, and the sufferings of the innocent, is melancholy enough; but there it is that we may successfully seek for sound instruction on the nature of man, and thence may we derive cheering hopes of the progress of mind; and while the polished periods of history are but a gilding over the surface of society, there may we inspect its materials, and learn more about the great mass of the people, their opinions, habits, apprehensions, miseries, than from all that ever has, or can be told of illustrious characters and great events. But the witches of our dramatists, and of Shakspeare especially, being as buoyant on the fancy, and floating on the top of men's minds, as, fatally for truth as for themselves, their prototypes might have done on the waters by which all real witch-finders would have tried them, it becomes needful to premise the kind of entertainment to which we are inviting our readers, and to tell them that “'tis no poetic feast,” where the divine cookery of genius, with an art beyond that of Dr. Kitchener himself, or of his renowned predecessor, (who conjured a bit of old leather into the most delicious viand that was ever tasted,) transforms garbage into celestial food, but that we only present the raw material unwarmed by that Promethean fire. Ours is the mere prose version of the story; it is Plato's man, as defined practically in the plucked bird of Diogenes; but like that too, we trust, making some amends by a wholesome moral for a cruel operation and disgusting exhibition.
The cave of the Weird Sisters was no paradise, nor was it angel's food that they stirred in their boiling cauldron ; yet with all the historical world of witchcraft before us, where to chuse, we have cast back many a lingering look to the scene of their incantations, and that cauldron, with its hell-broth, has bubbled in our memories like one of the flesh-pots of Egypt. They are no vulgar witches. Their rags are picturesque as Roman drapery. They are “so withered, and so wild in their attire,” that they “ look not like the inhabitants o' the earth.” They are not of the earth, though they may be of hell. They call the fiends their masters, but rather like those who yield a voluntary deference to superior rank, than those who tremble at the rod. They are no base menials to do the devil's drudgery. They meddle in high matters, and promise crowns, though they wear none. The means they use, is “a deed without a name," an expression more awful than even their own incantations; and the feats they achieve are magnificently told by their tool and victim, by him whose soul was their sacrifice, his own ambition the infernal fire they kindled to consume the offering, and his ill-gotten diadem the garland for the fatal ceremony :
-“Though you untie the winds, and let them fight
How miserable to descend from such creations as these to the common parish witch, an old woman “with a wrinkled face, a furred brow, a hairy lip, a gobber tooth, a squint eye, a squeaking voice, or a scolding tongue, having a rugged coat on her back, a skull-cap on her head, a spindle in her hand, and a dog or cat by her side," pelted and persecuted by all the neighbourhood, because the farmer's cart had stuck in the gateway, or some idle boy had pretended to spit pins and needles for the sake of a holiday from school or work ;-harried by the witch-finders, till, what with shaving all over to search for imp-marks, and half drowning by the trial of water, and walking her incessantly, and fasting for four-and-twenty or eight-and-forty hours, to produce confession, they bewilder her into nonsensical talk;—and then, should she survive it all, preached to, sworn against, convicted, and hung at the next assizes. Such was the witch of real life, at the time when, unhappily, witchcraft was most rife in England.
That time was from the commencement of the reign of