Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > The Advent of Modern Thought in Popular Literature > King James’s Daemonologie
  George Gifford’s Dialogues of Witches William Perkin’s Art of Witch craft  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XVI. The Advent of Modern Thought in Popular Literature.

§ 4. King James’s Daemonologie.


In 1603, king James, who had taken a prominent part in the trial of Geilis Duncan and her associates, caused his Daemonologie to be printed and published in England. This dialogue, despite the jejuneness and insipidity which characterise all the literary efforts of that royal pedant, is a remarkable work. Like other witch treatises at the opening of the century, it still retains a critical and scholarly attitude towards the subject. James realises, as Burkard had done, that werewolves are the creation of a disordered fantasy, and that nightmares (popularly explained as a sensation of diabolical contact) are some reaction of the “humours” of the imagination.   9
  He agrees with St. Augustine that the apparent miracles of the devil are merely deceptions practised on the senses, and, though he naturally believes in demons and spirits, yet he follows the same authority and Roger Bacon 16  in asserting that the infernal world is thoroughly under the dominion of God. But James was a true child of his age. In an epoch of heightened competition and bitter feuds, he prefers to believe that people invoke infernal aid from lust for riches or revenge, rather than to attribute all witchcraft to the influence of melancholy. 17  When convinced of the probability of a league between devil and man, all the king’s theological erudition is manipulated into proofs of this theory. The book is a manual, not discussing the question from an individual point of view, but recapitulating and enforcing the thories of previous demonologists, with a wealth of authoritative quotations dear to this learned age. Thus, despite unnecessary digressions into the realm of philology and scholasticism, the doctrine is presented with a realism and fulness of detail 18  which always carry conviction, and every reader found his own superstition recorded and stamped with the seal of royal approval. This powerful manifesto ended with the ill-fated recommendation that death should be inflicted on the evidence of children or even of fellow criminals (as in trials for treason) or after the water test and discovery of the devil’s mark. 19    10

Note 16De Civitate Dei, 1. 18, c. 18, and De Secretis Operibus Artis, c. I, II. [ back ]
Note 17. Bk. II, especially chap. II. [ back ]
Note 18. Bk. II, chaps. II, IV, V, VI. [ back ]
Note 19. For explanation of water test, see. p.425. The devil’s mark was any part of the body which, after contact with the devil, lost sensation. Such local anaesthesia is a recognised symptom of hysteria. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  George Gifford’s Dialogues of Witches William Perkin’s Art of Witch craft  
 
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