This "William Chourne appears to have attended Dr. Corbett's party on the Iter Septentrionale, " two of which were, and two desired to be, doctors but whether William was guide, friend, or domestic, seems uncertain. The travellers lose themselves in the mazes of Chorley Forest, on their way to Bos worth, and their route becomes so confused that they return on their steps, and labour
" As in a conjurer's circle—William found A mean for our deliverance,—' Turn your cloaks,* Quoth he, 1 for Puck is busy in these oaks ; If ever you at Bosworth would be found, Then turn your cloaks, for this is fairy ground. But ere this witchcraft was perform'd, we meet A very man who had no cloven feet. Though William, still of little faith, has doubt, 'Tis Robin, or some sprite that walks about. ' Strike him,' quoth he, 'and it will turn to air— Cross yourselves thrice and strike it.'—'Strike that dare,' Thought L, ' for sure this massy forester, In strokes will prove the better conjurer.'
* Corbett's Poems, edited by Octavius Gilchrist, p. 213.
But 'twas a gentle keeper, one that knew
Humanity and manners, where they grew,
And rode along so far, till he could say,
' See, yonder Bosworth stands, and this your way.'"*
In this passage, the Bishop plainly shows the fairies maintained their influence in William's imagination, since the courteous keeper was mistaken by their associate champion, for Puck, or Robin Goodfellow. The spells resorted to to get rid of his supposed delusions, are alternatively that of turning the cloak —(recommended, in visions of the second-sight, or similar illusions, as a means of obtaining a certainty concerning the being which is before imperfectly seenf) —and that of exorcising the spirit with a cudgel; which last, Corbett prudently thinks ought not to be resorted to, unless under an absolute conviction that the exorcist is the stronger party. Chaucer, therefore, could not be serious in averring that the fairy superstitions were obsolete in his day, since they were found current three centuries afterwards.
It is not the less certain that, as knowledge and religion became more widely and brightly displayed over any country, the superstitious fancies of the people sunk gradually in esteem and influence; and in the time of Queen Elizabeth, the unceasing labour of many and popular preachers, who declaimed against the " splendid miracles " of the Church of Rome, produced also its natural effect upon the other stock of superstitions. " Certainly," said Reginald Scot, talking of times before his own, " some one knave in a white sheet hath cozened and abused many thousands, especially when Robin Goodfellow kept such a coil in the country. In our childhood, our mothers' maids have so terrified us with an ugly devil having horns on his head, fire in his mouth, and a tail at his breech ; eyes like a basin, fangs like a dog, claws like a bear, a skin like a negro, and a voice roaring like a lion, whereby we start and are afraid when we hear one cry Boh ! and they have so frayd us with bull-beggars, spirits, witches, urchins, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, Pans, faunes, sylvans, Kitt-with-the-candlestick, tritons, centaurs, dwarfs, giants, imps, calcars, conjurers, nymphs, changelings, incubus, Robin Goodfellow, the spoorn, the man-in-the-oak, the hellwain, the fire-drake, the puckle, Tom Thumb, Hobgoblin, Tom Tumbler, Boneless, and such other bugbears, that we are afraid of our own shadows, insomuch that some never fear the devil but on a dark night; and then a polled sheep is a perilous beast, and many times is taken for our father's soul, especially in a churchyard, where a right hardy man heretofore durst not to have passed by night but his hair would stand upright. Well, thanks be to God, this wretched and cowardly infidelity, since the preaching of the Gospel, is in part forgotten, and doubtless the rest of these illusions will in a short time, by God's grace, be detected, and vanish away." *
A common instance is, that of a person haunted with a resemblance, whose face he cannot see. If he turn his cloak, or plaid, he will obtain the full sight which he desires, and may probably find it to be his own fetch or wraith, or double-ganger.
* Corbett's Poems, edited by Octavius Gilchrist, p. 191.
* Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft, book vii. chap. 15.
It would require a better demonologist than I am, to explain the various obsolete superstitions which Reginald Scot has introduced, as articles of the old English faith, into the preceding passage. I might indeed say, the Phuca is a Celtic superstition, from which the word Pook, or Puckle, was doubtless derived ; and I might conjecture, that the man-in-theoak was the same with the Erl-K6nig of the Germans ; and that the hellwain were a kind of wandering spirits, the descendants of a champion named Hellequin, who are introduced into the romance of Richard sans Peur. But most antiquarians will be at fault concerning the spoorn, Kitt with-the-candlestick, Boneless, and some others. The catalogue, however, serves to show what progress the English have made in two centuries, in forgetting the very names of objects which had been the sources of terror to their ancestors of the Elizabethan age.
Before leaving the subject of fairy superstition in England, we may remark, that it was of a more playful and gentle, less wild and necromantic character, than that received among the sister people. The amusements of the southern fairies were light and sportive ; their resentments were satisfied with pinching or scratching the objects of their displeasure ; their peculiar sense of cleanliness rewarded the housewives with the silver token in the shoe ; their nicety was extreme concerning any coarseness or negligence which could offend their delicacy; and I cannot discern, except perhaps from the insinuations of some scrupulous divines, that they were vassals to, or in close alliance with, the infernals, as there is too much reason to believe was the case with their North British sisterhood.* The common nursery story cannot be forgotten, how, shortly after the death of what is called a nice tidy housewife, the Elfin band were shocked to see that a person of different character, with whom the widower had filled his deserted arms, instead of the nicely arranged little loaf of the whitest bread, and a basin of sweet cream, duly placed for their refreshment by the deceased, had substituted a brown loaf and a cobb of herrings. Incensed at such a coarse regale, the elves dragged the peccant housewife out of bed, and pulled her down the wooden stairs by the heels, repeating, at the same time, in scorn of her churlish hospitality,