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The History of the Devil (1728)

The History of the Devil (1728)

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The history of the Devil by Daniel Defoe

The history of the Devil by Daniel Defoe

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Published by: draculavanhelsing on Jan 10, 2013
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into visibility, whenever an old woman has her hand

crossed with a white sixpence, as they call it. One
would think that instead of these vile things, called

witches, being sold to the Devil, the Devil was really

sold for a slave to them ; for how far soever Satan's

residence is off of this state of life, they have power, it

seems, to fetch him from home, and oblige him to come

at their call.

I can give little account of this, only that indeed so

it is; nor is the thing so strange in itself, as the

methods to do it are mean, foolish, and ridiculous ; as
making a circle, and dancing in it, pronouncing such
and such words, saying the Lord's prayer backward,
and the like. Now is this agreeable to the dignity of

the prince of the air or atmosphere, that he should be


commanded forth with no more pomp or ceremony,



than that of muttering a few words, such as the old

witches and he agree about 1 or is there something else

in it, which none of us, or themselves, understand?

Perhaps, indeed, he is always with those people

called witches and conjurers, or, at least, some of his
camp volant are always present ; and so, upon the least

call of the wizard, it is but putting off the misty cloak,

and showing themselves.
Then we have a piece of mock pageantry in bring*-

ing those things called witches or conjurers to justice


that is, first, to know if a woman be a witch, throw

her into a pond, and if she be a witch, she will swim,
and it is not in her own power to prevent it; if she

does all she can to sink herself, it will not do, she will
swim like a cork. Then, that a rope will not hang a
witch, but you must get a withe, a green osier_; that

if you nail an horseshoe on the sill of the door, she

cannot come into the house, or get out, if she be in


these, and a thousand more, too simple to be believed,

are yet so vouched, so taken for granted, and so uni-

versally received for truth, that there is no resisting
them without being thought atheistical.




Ofthe various methods the Devil takes to converse with

Having spoken something of persons, and particular-

ly of such as the Devil thinks fit to employ in his

affairs in the world, it comes next of course to say

something of the manner how he communicates his
mind to them, and, by them, to the rest of his acquaint-
ance in the world.

I take the Devil to be under great difficulties in his

affairs on his part, especially occasioned by the bounds
which are set him, or which policy obliges him to set

to himself, in his access to the conversing with man-

kind ; it is evident he is not permitted to fall upon them
with force and arms, that is to say, to muster up his

infernal troops, and attack them with fire and sword


if he was loose, to act in this manner, as he was able,

by his own seraphic power to have destroyed the whole

race, and even the earth they dwelt upon, so he would

certainly, and long ago, have effectually done it his

particular interests and inclinations are well enough

But, in the next place, as he is thus restrained from

violence, so prudentials restrain him, in all his other

actings with mankind ; and, being confined to strata-
gem, and soft, still methods, such as persuasion, al-

lurement, feeding the appetite, prompting, and then

gratifying corrupt desires, and the like ; he finds it for

his purpose not to appear in person, except very rare-

ly, and then in disguise ; but to act all the rest in the

dark, under the vizor of art and craft, making use of

persons and methods concealed, or at least not fully

understood or discovered.
As to the persons whom he employs, I have taken
some pains, you see, to discover some of them ; but the
methods he uses with them, either to inform and in-

struct, and give orders to them, or to converse with

other people by them, these are very particular, and



deserve some place in our memoirs; particularly as
they may serve to remove some of our mistakes, and

to take off some of the frightful ideas we are apt to

entertain, in prejudice of this great manager ; as if he
was no more to be matched in his politics, than he
would be to be matched in his power, if it was let

loose ; which is so much a mistake, that, on the con-

trary, we read of several people that have abused and

cheated the Devil, a thing, which I cannot say, is very

honest nor just, notwithstanding the old Latin proverb,

Fallere fallentem non est /raws, (which men construe,

or rather render, by Way of banter upon Satan, It is no

sin to cheat the Devil ;) which, for all that, upon the

whole, I deny ; and allege, that let the Devil act how
he will by us, we ought to deal fairly by him.
But to come to the business, without circumlocu-

tions ; I am to inquire how Satan issues out his orders,

gives his instructions, and fully delivers his mind to

his emissaries, of whom I mentioned some in the title

to chapter IX. In order to this, you must form an

idea of the Devil sitting in great state, in open cam-

paign, with all his legions about him, in the height of

the atmosphere ; or, if you will, at a certain distance
from the~atmosphere, and above it, that the plan of his
encampment might not be hurried round its own axis,
with the earth's diurnal motion, which might be some

disturbance to him.
By this fixed situation, the earth performing its rota-

tion, he has every part and parcel of it brought to a

direct opposition to him, and consequently to his view

once in twenty-four hours. The last time I was there,

I if I remember right, he had this quarter of the world,

which we call Christendom, just under his eye ; and

the motion is not so swift, but that his piercing optics

can take a strict view of it en passant; for the circum-

ference of it being but twenty-one thousand miles, and

its circular motion being full twenty-four hours per-

forming, he has something more than an hour to view
every thousand miles, which, to his supernatural pen-

etration, is not worth naming.
As he takes thus a daily view of all the cirele, and
an hourly view of the parts, he is fully master of all

transactions, at least such as are done above board, by



all mankind ; and then he despatches his emissarias,

or aid-de-eamps, to every part, with his orders and

instructions. Now these emissaries, you are to under-

stand, are not the witches and diviners, whom I spoke

of above, for I call them also emissaries ; but they are

all devils, or (as you know they are called) devil's

angels; and these may, perhaps, come and converse

personally with the sub-emissaries I mentioned, to be

ready for their support and assistance, on all occasions

of business. These are those devils which the witches

are said to raise ; for we can hardly suppose the mas-

ter Devil comes himself, at the summons of every ugly

old woman.

These run about into every nook and corner, wher-

ever Satan's business calls them, and are never want-

ing to him ; but are the most diligent devils imaginable


like the Turkish chiaux, they no sooner receive their

errand, -but they execute it with the utmost alacrity


and as to their speed, it may be truly written as a

motto, upon the head ofevery individual devil,

Non indiget calcarihus.

These are those, whom, they tell us, our witches,

sorcerers, wizards, and such sorts of folks, converse

freely with, and are therefore called their familiars;

and, as they tell us, come to them in human shapes,

talk to them with articulate plain voices, as if men


and that yet the said witches, &c. know them to be


History has not yet enlightened us in this part of

useful knowledge, or at least not sufficiently for a

description of the persons or habits of these sorts of
appearances ; as what shapes they take up, what lan-
guage they speak, and what particular works they
perform ; so we must refer it to farther inquiry ; but if
we may credit history, we are told many famous sto-

ries of these appearances; for example, the famous

Mother Lakland, who was burnt for a witch at Ips-
wich, A. D. 1646, confessed, at the time of her execu-

tion, or a little before it, that she had frequent conver-

sation with the Devil himself; that she being very poor,

and, withal, of a devilish passionate, cruel, and re-.

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