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"But we that live in Fairyland
I quit my body when I will,
Our shape and size we can convert
An old nut-shell's the same to us
We sleep in rose-buds soft and sweet,
Next to the chapter on Fairies stands one upon Holy Wells. If it could be wished that any superstition should remain amongst us, it is that which attached a peculiar sacredness to the pure spring. In one way or the other we would have all men worship water-the giver of health, and the cleanser from all impurities. Whatever may be said of our fairies, Mr Sullivan appears to have no doubt that our water-spirits were originally brought to us from some Gothic mythology. They were afterwards transformed into, or replaced by, the saints of the medieval church. "As the Midsummer bone-fires were transferred to St John, so did all the saints in the calendar receive the wells amongst them."
But, alas! we do not find the spring worshipped or reverenced simply as the beautiful and perpetual gift of God to all mankind. There must be some miraculous power of healing attached to it in order to attract its devotees. Some of the wells are said to be impregnated with iron, and thus really to possess medicinal properties. But if we had statistical tables of the reported cures, we are persuaded that these chalybeates would not be found to have been more effective or remedial than the rest. Happily for us our diseases run a certain course, and, in the majority of cases, heal themselves; in other words, the human body is a self-regulating machine, and the very disorder prompts to some remedial action. Thus, we get ill and we get well again; and in nine cases out of ten we attribute to the apothecary and his drugs what was the simple work of nature. The same class of people who formerly trusted to some mysterious well, now refer all their cures to Holloway's Pills, and to that plaster which bears the wonder
ful name of Heal-all. And we may add further, that what effect was produced on the system by hope and expectation of a miraculous cure, is to some extent obtained by faith in the pill and the plaster.
Mr Sullivan tells us an amusing story of a worthy clergyman who had reason to reprove his parishioners for resorting, in a very superstitious frame of mind, to a certain St Maddron's well. One day it happened that he met a woman returning from this well with a bottle of the precious water in her hand. He lectured her gravely on her superstition; but it seems that the old woman, perceiving that he himself was not altogether right, persuaded him to taste the water, and " it cured him of the colic." After this the repute of St Maddron's well might very fairly survive for another century.
The patient was sometimes required to do more than drink the water he was to be the whole night long by the side of the well. Such prescription, we presume, was folfowed only in the summer, and by the more robust order of patients. All were required to make some offering. In some places they threw bread and cheese and money into the well. If there was much of the bread and cheese, it would not have improved the flavour of the water. Other offerings-as their own cast-off rags they had the consideration to hang upon a neighbouring bush. The resort to wells is perhaps even now not quite relinquished. very lately there were annual meetings at several of them, but these had degenerated into a sort of country fair. Wrestling and other sports formed the amusement of the day, and the drinking was not limited to the water of the well; or if it was, that water had become miraculously endowed with the properties of beer and brandy. Intoxication led to quarrels, to fights, and other disorders; and the lovers of peace and good-neighbourhood were very glad to get such meetings suppressed.
The superstitious worship of wells may indeed be expected to die out from amongst us, when the son of a Cumberland peasant may be seen walking from spring to spring with
that magical instrument in his bosom which we call a thermometer. Jonathan Otley, long known throughout the Lake district, and who has lately fallen asleep with the patriarchs himself a venerable patriarch-haunted the springs of his native vales and mountains with a devotion that would have done honour to the poet and the man of science. He visited them at night and at morning, at all hours and in all seasons, registering their temperature, which, in some instances, varies but a few degrees throughout the year, winter and summer; and a love of nature as well as of science was stirring in the heart of the old man, for he would clear away all weeds, all corruption and decay of any kind that had gathered round the spring, and would plant fresh roots of the primrose and hyacinth, or other flowers, round its borders. Jonathan Otley sleeps with his fathers, but the hills of Cumberland will preserve his memory.
Simple son of a peasant, and without the advantage of any academical training-no schooling, that he could remember, but "a short time at Elter Water"-he penetrates into the geological structure of the mountains around him, so that Professor Sedgwick can somewhere speak of "the system of the Lake mountains first made out by Mr Otley." He reads, and he writes-writes in a simple, manly, descriptive mannerand gives to the tourist that original Guide to the district, which has been the foundation of subsequent works of the same description, and which even now is preferred by some to its
Coming from Ambleside, you descend by a winding road into the vale of Keswick; and as you look from your open carriage, or, better still, from the top of a stage-coach, you have perhaps the very finest view that can be commanded from any high-road in England. Skiddaw lies to your right, and a group of hills, of which Grisedale Pike forms the central and loftiest point, rises up before you. This group, which, when you are on the lake of Derwentwater, seems to crouch down by the side of the lake, and to be remarkable only for the beauty and
variety of its undulations, and the richness of its colouring, rises as you rise, and, seen from this elevated position, fills the sky with a quite Alpine grandeur: that is, if the light and shadows favour you; for the effect of our Cumberland mountains depends much on the state of the air, and the falling of the lights. We must leave it to Sir David Brewster fully to explain how all this natural magic is effected, but it is the light and the air together which build up our mountains to the sublime proportions they sometimes assume. What at one time seems but a melancholy range of hills, will expand and elevate and throw out its glowing peaks and summits far into infinite space; for there is a sublimity of distance as well as of altitude. You will not sigh for the Alps or the Pyrenees if the sun sets propitiously as you descend into Keswick. On the last resting-place of this winding road, which is called Brow Top, stands a farmhouse, with its whitewashed walls. In a little room at the back of that farmhouse lived Jonathan Otley for many years, working and studying, a solitary bachelor-working as a mechanic, first in making baskets, then in mending clocks and watches-sometimes employed in surveying land, sometimes as a guide amongst the mountains by scientific tourists-and finding his sole recreation in nature, or in the books which taught him how to observe nature. Economy was a practicable virtue in those days. "At Brow Top, for his lodging and four meals a-day (and good ones too), the modest charge was four shillings a-week."
We gather these and other facts from a brief but very graceful memoir, which has been prefixed to Jonathan Otley's Original GuideBook, by one who knew the old man well, and who himself takes a warm interest, both as a man of science and as a philanthropist, in whatever concerns the beautiful district in which he has pitched his tent. Jonathan Otley knew and loved the Lakes before Wordsworth sang of them, or any of our poets had come to live amongst them. "Grasmere was, during his youth, the 'little
unsuspected Paradise' which Gray (who in his last illness passed through the vale about the time Jonathan was born) describes in that exquisite letter which has gone through every guide-book and tourist's journal down to the present day. . . . In his time Skiddaw was clothed down to his feet in rich flowing robes of heather, bracken, and gorse." The memoir thus records the triumphant moment of Jonathan Otley's life, Jonathan himself is the speaker: "On September 10, 1823, I went up along the Calden from Mosedale with Mr Sedgwick. When I proposed to return, Mr Sedgwick threw off his coat and went on: I went across, and showed him where granite appeared, near the foot of Wily Gill." This enabled the geologist to lay down with confidence the structure of the whole group of mountains.
"It was characteristic of Mr Otley," continues the memoir, "that he had a great love for wells and springs of pure water. One of these, near the Greta at Keswick, known as 'Jonathan Otley's Well,' has been carefully protected by some of his friends. We were once guided by the childlike veteran-childlike in his love and reverence for Nature to another fine spring, known by the beautiful name of 'The Fairy Keld,' hidden in the woods at the foot of Walla Crag. To another fine spring on Barrow Common we have more than once accompanied him, and recollect the interest the good old man took in keeping it sweet and clean. In his note-books we observe various entries relating to this well.-July 4, 1851, planted hyacinth bulbs above the well on Barrow side.' It is truly touching and instructive to glance over these note-books, these records of so long a life, all tending to one end-the illustration of his native mountains and vales. The winds, the waters, the rocks, the flowers, the natural phenomena of the district these have continually occupied his mind; he goes on, year after year, chronicling the day on which the crocus first peeps, and the apple blossom falls, and the snow first appears on Skiddaw; and is never weary of speculating about frost, and clouds, and dews." The writer
of the memoir expresses a wish that some permanent monument should be erected to the memory of one who passed so blameless or so useful a life. But if that well near the Greta will still preserve the name it now bears of Jonathan Otley's Well," could mortal man wish for a fairer monument?
After this digression-which may be excused in Maga, who exercises a certain traditional supervision over all that concerns the Lake district-we return to Mr Sullivan's book. We have come to the chapter on Witchcraft. The subject is very tempting, but we shall not permit ourselves to be carried away by it, nor to forget that our only object here is to note the present or late condition in these superstitious beliefs of the counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland.
The idea of spiritual beings, of greatly superior power to man, submitting, nevertheless, to his control, and obeying his commands, appears at first sight most extraordinary. We suppose the link between the general belief of supernatural and divine powers to whom homage is due, and this perversion of the religious sentiment, will be found in the notion that certain rites and ceremonies, sacrifices and forms of prayer, have in themselves an inherent virtue; they in a manner compel the gods to grant what the worshipper has in due form petitioned for. When this notion has taken possession of the mind, it needs only to suppose a malevolent instead of a benevolent deity, and we have witchcraft. To this must be added one other element. This worship is a religio illicita; it is stigmatised as a crime; it falls, therefore, into the hands of the vilest and most ignorant; and both god and worshipper sink to the lowest possible degradation.
If there were even more remains than there are of this detestable superstition amongst the uneducated classes, it ought not to surprise us. It is not very long ago (reckoning by the life of a nation) since Fairfax, the translator of Tasso, was the prosecutor in a case of witchcraft-he having maintained that his own children were bewitched; and that Sir Thomas Brown, the author of Religio
Medici, was summoned as a witness on a trial for this imaginary crime, and gave the most unphilosophical evidence that could possibly have been devised; for he admitted that the symptoms of the bewitched person were the natural consequences of certain probable causes, but gave it as his opinion that in this case they had been heightened by witchcraft. When we reflect, therefore, how almost entirely this superstition has died away, we may justly congratulate ourselves. " My informant," says Mr Sullivan, "himself knew a witch, and remembers oftentimes at night seeing her house a blaze of fire, illumining the darkness around." But we suspect that " my informant was amusing himself by telling palpable lies. "He was once at the hunting of a hare that took refuge in a 'leath,' the doors of which were closed. On entering, there stood the old witch, the hare of course having disappeared. He expressed some surprise at the metamorphosis, but his companions, who were used to this sort of thing, said it was not the first time they had hunted that old witch." The narrator of this story evidently believed it as little as Mr Sullivan himself. To record such stories is a mistake, because we do not get even at the fact of any one's credulity.
A sort of Dr Faustus, under the name of Dr Lickbarrow, flourished in Westmoreland about a hundred years ago. Some story, evidently fabricated upon older legends, is told of his servant entering into his study, and, by reading in a magical book that lay open, raising the devil and a high wind, and causing much mischief beside. Another professor who lived in the last century published a book himself upon the Black Art, and from this book Mr Sullivan gives us a very amusing extract.
"Another of the wise men of Westmoreland, who flourished during the last century, gained for himself the reputation of being a learned man and a good man, and one who never used his powers for evil. His book, inscribed 'Dr Fairer's Book of Black Art,' is still in exist ence. It treats of the motions of the heavenly bodies, and shows some knowledge of astronomy. His speculations about the man in the moon are, however, VOL. LXXXIII.-NO. DIX.
not of a very advanced kind. 'In this lesser luminary,' he says, 'there is visible to all the inhabitants round this earthly globe the likeness of a man with a great tree upon his shoulder. It is said he did steal it, and being accused, might leap with it into the moon. he denied, and wished if he stole it, he How
ever, it is not the real natural substance
of the man and the thorn, but the appearing likeness set in the moon by the handiwork of the Lord Almighty for a public warning to all people around this earthly globe to refrain from doing wrong in anything by word or by deed.' Until very lately it was believed there was great danger in opening this book."
How could Mr Sullivan say that Dr Fairer's speculations on the man "ad
in the moon were not of an vanced kind!" We see in him the forerunner of the whole learned school of rationalistic interpretation. How firmly he holds the legend with one hand, while with the other he moulds and modifies it to suit the taste of a scientific age; and mark how cautiously he preserves the moral use of the narrative, though the narrative itself is entirely transformed. True, the veritable man and tree were not carried off to the moon-no such punishment was inflicted, or is likely to be inflicted, upon any terrestrial thief--yet the appearing likeness is there set for a public warning to all people round this earthly globe. Without doubt Dr Fairer may claim to have anticipated the rationalistic method of explaining the miraculous legend. Does any one know whether the doctor was of German descent? or may we claim this anticipator of a learned school as a genuine Westmoreland
"Persons possessed of the 'evil eye' are still remembered and spoken of, but I cannot hear of any such now living. It was better to make a long circuit than to meet one of these ominous individuals, especially in the morning. Like the witches, they seemed willing to acknowledge their evil power, alleging it to be a misfortune over which they had no control. In the neighbourhood of Penrith an old man of this class is spoken of, who, when he met the milk-girls returning from the field or 'byre,' used to warn them to cover their milk,' adding, that whatever was the consequence he 'couldn't help it.""
The devil may well withdraw his powers to work evil from people who have become so scrupulous in the use of them. A man with the evil eye will not even turn the milk sour by looking at it. Here Mr Sullivan introduces us to a singular belief or hypothesis, of a scientific character, which still lingers among a few rural inhabitants; it is, that the dark or shadowed part of the moon is capable or incapable of containing water according as its obliquity is greater or less. I think it's drawing to rain, Robert.' 'Nay, net it—it'll nin rain -t' moon can hod nea watter."'" But there is this inconvenience attending the hypothesis, that the most opposite conclusions can be drawn from this fact that the moon can hold no water. If it can hold no water, it may let it all fall down in rain; and, accordingly, the prognostic that it will rain may be heard, "because t' moon hods nea watter."
Upon the whole we should be inclined to think that, for inhabitants of a mountainous region, the Cumberland peasantry were an unimaginative people. Perhaps it is altogether a delusion to suppose that dwellers amongst mountains are likely to have their fancy stimulated unless they are educated persons. A man who comes from the city, who has had his mind exercised, feels a potent influence from grand scenery; but scenery alone will not educate a man or stimulate his fancy. Those who trust much to race, and who think the Scandinavian less poetic than the Celt, would perhaps refer us here to the supposed descent of the people of Cumberland from the Scandinavian or the Dane. "Norse is in the ascendant," as Mr Sullivan says. Mr Craig Gibson, in the pamphlet to which we have already alluded, sums up the matter thus :— "The balance of proof is heavily in favour of the supposition that the Danes, or rather Norwegians, are the principal stock from which the present inhabitants of the mountain district are descended." These North
men, whatever their title, were rich enough in mythological fables; but they had, withal, this peculiarity, that they trusted much more to their own right hand and their own good sword than to any help from their gods. There is a famous speech reported of an old Norseman "I believe neither in idols or demons; I put my sole trust in my own strength of body and courage of soul." Something of this sturdy self-dependence, this practical materialism, may be supposed to have descended to the Cumberland peasantry, by those who are quite satisfied of the lineage here ascribed to them.
Mr Gibson, in speaking of their physical qualities their health and longevity says: "Their Scandinavian descent, their constant exposure to a highly oxygenised atmosphere (we presume Mr Gibson has tested the atmosphere and found in it this abundance of oxygen), and other fortunate circumstances, lead to health and longevity. I have seen in a cottage the living representatives of the extremes of five generations and, in another adjoining, a family of children who had fourteen living ancestors-their parents, their grandparents, and all their eight greatgrand-parents being still alive!"
Did Mr Gibson have this tableau vivant presented before him, or was he contented with the report that the children gave him? One seems to be reading a part of that wellknown chapter in Blackstone where he shows how many ancestors each one of us may boast, and seeing it illustrated before our eyes.
There is more matter yet in Mr Sullivan's book-chapters upon apparitions and giants, bargheist and boggle; but we begin to feel that we have had enough, for once (and especially in these stirring times), of this antiquated lore, and suspect that our readers will have the same feeling. Therefore, for the present, we will abruptly take our leave of these old superstitions and with all good wishes-of Mr Sullivan.