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from the same reason, and is particularly severe upon hunting. What,” says he, “unless it be to drown thought, can make them throw away so much time and pains upon a silly animal, which they might buy cheaper in the market?” The foregoing reflection is certainly just, when a man suffers his whole mind to be drawn into his sports, and altogether loses himself in the woods; but does not affect those who propose a far more laudable end from this exercise, I mean the preservation of 10 health, and keeping all the organs of the soul in a condition to execute her orders. Had that incomparable person, whom I last quoted, been a little more indulgent to himself in this point, the world might probably have enjoyed him much longer; 15 whereas through too great an application to his studies in his youth, he contracted that ill habit of body, which, after a tedious sickness, carried him off in the fortieth year of his age; and the whole history we have of his life till that time, is but one 20 continued account of the behavior of a noble soul struggling under innumerable pains and distempers.

For my own part, I intend to hunt twice a week during my stay with Sir Roger; and shall prescribe the moderate use of this exercise to all my country 25 friends, as the best kind of physic for mending a bad constitution, and preserving a good one.

I cannot do this better, than in the following lines 14 out of Mr. Dryden:

“The first physicians by debauch were made;

Excess began, and Sloth sustains the trade.
By chase our long-liv'd fathers earn’d their food;
Toil strung the nerves, and purify'd the blood;
But we their sons, a pamper'd race of men,
Are dwindled down to threescore years and ten.
Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught,
The wise for cure on exercise depend;
God never made his work for man to mend."

No. 16.

On Witchcraft

SPECTATOR No. 117. Saturday, July 14, 1711

Ipsi sibi somnia fingunt.

Virg. Ecl. viii. 108.1

THERE are some opinions in which a man should stand neuter, without engaging his assent to one side or the other. Such a hovering faith as this,

which refuses to settle upon any determination, is 5 absolutely necessary in a mind that is careful to

avoid errors and prepossessions. When the arguments press equally on both sides in matters that are indifferent to us, the safest method is to give up ourselves to neither.

It is with this temper of mind that I consider the subject of witchcraft. When I hear the relations that are made from all parts of the world, not only from Norway and Lapland, from the East and West

Indies, but from every particular nation in Europe, 15 I cannot forbear thinking that there is such an

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intercourse and commerce with evil spirits, as that which we express by the name of witchcraft. But when I consider that the ignorant and credulous parts of the world abound most in these relations, and that the persons among us, who are supposed 5 to engage in such an infernal commerce, are people of a weak understanding and crazed imagination, and at the same time reflect upon the many impostures and delusions of this nature that have been detected in all ages, I endeavor to suspend my 10 belief till I hear more certain accounts than any which have yet come to my knowledge. In short, when I consider the question, whether there are such persons in the world as those we call witches, my mind is divided between the two opposite 15 opinions, or rather (to speak my thoughts freely) I believe in general that there is, and has been such a thing as witchcraft; but at the same time can give no credit to any particular instance of it.

I am engaged in this speculation, by some occur- 20 rences that I met with yesterday, which I shall give my reader an account of at large.

As I was walking with my friend Sir Roger by the side of one of his woods, an old woman applied herself to me for my charity. Her dress and figure put me in 25 mind of the following description in Otway:

“In a close lane as I pursu'd my journey,
I spy'd a wrinkled hag, with age grown double,
Picking dry sticks, and mumbling to herself.

Her eyes with scalding rheum were gall’d and red;
Cold palsy shook her head; her hands seem'd wither’d;
And on her crooked shoulders had she wrapt
The tatter'd remnant of an old striped hanging,
Which served to keep her carcase from the cold
So there was nothing of a piece about her.
Her lower weeds were all o'er coarsely patch'd
With diff'rent colour'd rags, black, red, white, yellow,
And seem’d to speak variety of wretchedness.” 2

As I was musing on this description, and comparing it with the object before me, the knight told me, that this very old woman had the reputation

of a witch all over the country, that her lips were 5 observed to be always in motion, and that there

was not a switch about her house which her neighbors did not believe had carried her several hundreds of miles. If she chanced to stumble, they always

found sticks or straws that lay in the figure of a 10 cross before her. If she made any mistake at

church, and cried Amen in a wrong place, they never failed to conclude that she was saying her prayers backwards. There was not a maid in the

parish that would take a pin of her, though she 15 should offer a bag of money with it. She goes by

the name of Moll White, and has made the country ring with several imaginary exploits which are palmed upon her. If the dairy-maid does not make her butter come so soon as she would have it, 20 Moll White is at the bottom of the churn. If a horse sweats in the stable, Moll White has been upon his back. If a hare makes an unexpected

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escape from the hounds, the huntsman curses Moll White. “Nay,” says Sir Roger, “I have known the master of the pack, upon such an occasion, send one of his servants to see if Moll White had been out that morning.”

5 This account raised my curiosity so far that I begged my friend Sir Roger to go with me into her hovel, which stood in a solitary corner under the side of the wood. Upon our first entering, Sir Roger winked to me, and pointed at something that stood 10 behind the door, which upon looking that way, I found to be an old broom-staff. At the same time he whispered me in the ear to take notice of a tabby cat that sate in the chimney corner, which, as the old knight told me, lay under as bad a report as 15 Moll White herself; for besides that Moll is said often to accompany her in the same shape, the cat is reported to have spoken twice or thrice in her life, and to have played several pranks above the capacity of an ordinary cat.

I was secretly concerned to see human nature in so much wretchedness and disgrace, but at the same time could not forbear smiling to hear Sir Roger, who is a little puzzled about the old woman, advising her as a justice of peace to avoid all communication 25 with the devil, and never to hurt any of her neighbors' cattle. We concluded our visit with a bounty, which was very acceptable.

In our return home Sir Roger told me, that old

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