Memorials of Human Superstition

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HUMAN SUPERSTITION; Being a Paraphrafc and Commentary on the HISTORIA FLAGELLANTIUM ofthe Abbe Boileau, Doflor of the Sorbonne, Canon of the Holy Chapel, &c. By One who is not Do&or of the Sorbonne. Honnt jo'it jui mal y fenfe.




Printed for G. ROBINSON, N° a j, Pater-noiler Ron-. M DCC LXXXIV.







HE Abbe Boileau, the author of the


Hiftoria Flagellantium, waselder brother to the celebrated Poet of that name. He Glied, feveral years, the place of Dean of the Metropolitan Church of Sens, and was thence promoted to the office of one of the Canons of the Hoty Chapel in Paris, which is looked upon asa great dignity aniong the French clergy. While he was in that office (about the year

1700) he wrote, among other books, fhat which is the fubjeft of this vvork This • * The title of the book is Hiflorla Flagellan­ tium, de reilo & perverfo flagrorum ufu apud Chriftianis, izmo. Parifiis, apud J. AniiTon, Typographise Regis Prsfeftum, MDCC. book, B



book, in which the public expeded, from the title of it, to find an hiftory of the particular fed of Hereticks called Flagellants, only contained an aggregation of fads and quotations on the fubjeft of felf-difciplines and flagellations in general among Chriilians (which, if the work had been well done, might however have been equally interefting) and a mixture of alternate commendation and blame of that pradice. The Theologians of that time, however, took offence at the book. They judged that the author had been guilty, in it, of feveral heretical aflertions ·, for inftance, in faying, as he does in two or three places, that Jefus Chrift had fuffered flagelh^ion againft hia will: and they particularly blamed the cenfures which, amidft his commendations of it, he had pafied upon a pradice that fo many faints had adopted, fo many pontiffs and bifliops had advifed, and fo many ecclefiaftical writers had commended. In the fecond place, they objeded to feve­ ral fads which the author had inferted in his < book, as to the liceniioufnefs of expreflion he fometimes indulged; and

PARAPHR AST and COMMENTATOR. 3 they faid that fuch fails, and fuch männer of expreffion, ought not to be met wich in a bookwriteen by a good Chriftian, and muchlefs by a Dean of the Merropolaan Church of Sens, a Canon of the Holy Chapel, and in fhort by a man invefted with an eminent dignity in the Church *, in which latter refpeft they were perhaps right * . Among the critics of our author’s böok, -were the Jefuits of Trevoux; the then conduftors of a periödical review, called the Journal de Trevoux. The poet Boileau, tak-

ing the part of his brother, anfwered their criticifms by the following epigram.

Non, le livre des Flagellans Na Jamals condamne, lifez le bien tnes Peres, Ces rigiditfs falutaires Que pour ravir le Ciel, faintement violens, Exercent fur leurs corps tant de Chretiens äußeres. * Our author, who was rather fingular in the choice of his fubjefts, had written another treatife De taflibus impudicis prohibendis, and another on the drefs of clergymen, wherein he attempted to prove that they might as well wear it lhort as long.


INfRODNCflON of tbe

Jl bldme Jeukment cet abtu odieux D'etakr & d’affrir aux yeux Ce que kur doit toujours cacher la beinjeance, Et combat vivcment la fauffe piete, gui, fous couleur d'eteindre en tiout la volupti, Par l'aufterite meme & par la penitence Sait allumer le feu de la lubricile.

The firft opportunity I had to fee the Abbe Boileau’s book, which is pretty fcarce, but which I knew from the above epigram, and other books that mention it, was about ten years ago, in a town of Italy, where it was ihewn to me by a Quäker, an Englifliman, who lived there; not a Quäker, however, of the common fort, that is, a fcrupulous obfervxr of the duties prefcribed by his fefl; for he wore laced cloaths, and played admirably well on the flute. Having fince lighted again on a copy of the fame book, I judged that its fingularity, and the nature of the facts it contains, rendered it worthy to be laid before the public; and I had the thought of dreifing it in vulgär

tongue vvith the lefs reluitance, as, conformably to the confeflion I have made in the titlepage, I hvae not the honour to be a doitor


of the Sorbonne. Hoyvever, I found, upon a. more attentive examination of the book, that1 the obfcurity·.and want of meaning of.that part of it which propprly belongs to the autho.r,, who feenis to bave be?n as defe&ive in, point ofclearnefs ofhcad as his brother the poet was .remarkable for that qualification, rendered ,a tranflation/irppradlicable. ^ 9,iThft fingylarG€pntfadiftipn,. for. inftance, he^een-mpftcof/thecortclufions our,author dr^wä.from the fa&$ he relates,-and thefads themfelyes., is, (when;it ispoffijble poafcertain the'meaning . of fuch conclufions) really mat’ ter of,furprife. .The critics of pur author, who were fenfible of this- incppfiftency, had cjerived conifort from it, and hoped · that the book would propagate but little herefy, fince hardly any body could underftand it. Hovv-; ever, this very männer in which our author has compofed his work, wherein he contradids not only the fails he relates, but even his own afiertions, fometimes two or . three times in the fame-page, leads us to the diicovery of his real defign in writing it, and clears him from having entertained any views of an heretical pr dangerous nature. He only propofed, it appears, to compile together fads B 3 and



and quocations which amufed him, and which he thought would alfo amufe the public; and he terminated them (or fometimes whole ftrings of them) with feeming cohclufions and random afiertions, in order to make the reader judge that he had a ferious and even theological defign, in making his compilation. Another caufe of furprife in our'Author’s book, is, the prodigious incoherency of the fads themfelves he has linked together. But in this refpedt, likewife, we difcover, after a little examination, that his views were of a perfeilly harmlefs kind, and that this fingularity was not owing to any defign of his own, as might at firfl fight be imagined, but only to the manner in which he proceeded in his ivork. His praftice was, it appears, to laydown, at the fame time, upon the paper, all the falis to his liking he found related in the produftions of the fame author; and at other times alio, he introduced together, we may fuppofe, all the ftories and quotations the difeovery of which he had made in the courfe of the fame morning *« A tranf* The fame manner of writing is alfo to be met.


A tranilation of a book thus made, was therefore, as hath been above faid, impradicable. Änd as ä number of the fads and quotations it contains are curious, either in themfelves, or on account of the authorsfrom whom they are exträded, I have at once enlärged my firil plan, änd thought of writing another book with the materials contäined in

that of the Abbe Boileau. With the fads and quotations, therefore, fupplied by the Abbe Boileau’s book, I have undertaken to compofe this Hiftory of the Flagellants. With thefe materials, the quan­ ti ty or number of which I determined neither tö increafe or decreafe, I attempted to write ä boök; propofing to myfelf a taik of much the fame nature with that kind of play which iömetimes ferves to amufe Companies of friends. in winter evenings, in which fets of words in appearance incompatible with one another,

met with in moft of the treatifes that were written in England, France, and efpecially Germany, about an hundred years ago, or more, when a mechanical knowledge of Latin and Greek books, and making compilations from them, was the kind of learning in vogue.



are propofed, and, without any of them being left out, or even difplaced, are to be made into forne confident fpeeches, by the help of intermediate argumcnts. Such taik I have, as I fay, tried to perform, without fetting afide any of the fad$ contained in the Abbe Boileau’s book: only I have taken great liberty with reipect to placing and difplacing fuch fafls, as, without that indulgence, the taik, on this occafion, was not to be perfornied. The work or problem,· thercfore, I propofed to myfelf, inftead of being that which more commonly occurs, and may be exprefled in the following. term$: Certain arguments being given, to find the neceffary falls to fupport tbem ? was this: A certain number of fidis, pretty well auibcnticated, being given, to find the natural con^lufions and induflions which (bey fuggejl?

To this.paraphrafe thus made on the materials afTorded by the Abbe Boileau, and to a few occafional fentences of his, which I have preferved, I have added an ample Commentary, in which I have introduced not only fuch faits as either my own memofy, ör other authors, fupplied nie : fo that the Abbc’^

PARAPHRASE and COMMENTATOR. 9 work, a twelves book, printed on a very large type, has fwelled into the mäjcftic ofta.vo which,is now laid before the'public. ' In compofing this · oftavo, two differept parts l have performed. In the Paraphrafe on the Abbe Boileau-’s work,. I have, .keeping to the , fubjed, and preferving as much.,as I couk}. the turn of my -Authör’s book, exprefled myfelf in that.,ftyle and nianner,- ip which- it was not unlikely adodor of the Sarbonne, and a dean^qf, the chprch of.Senp, might have written : in the Commentary, -I have .followed my.own inclination...Con^· formably . tq that which is offen pra&ifed on the Stage, where the fame player fills twodifferen^parts at the fame time, by fpeedily al·· tering his drefs, I have, in the·prefent work, afted in two different alternate capacities, as I changed fides: in the text, I affed the part of a dodor of the Sorbonne; and then, quickly refuming my former ftation, I expatiated and commented, in thenote, upon whatthe dodor Jiad juft faid in .the text. Thus much for the männer in which I have accomplilhed this work. With refpeft to giving any previous delineation of the fubftance



'itance of it, it is what I find forne difficulty in doing; and which, befides, Ϊ think wduld be ufelefs, fince I fuppofe the readcrwill, as refiikrs commonly do, perufe this Prefdceonly after he has ttirned the laft leaf of the book : taking it therefore for granted that the reader knows, b’y this time, what the prefeht perfornsance is, I proceed to give an äccount of my views in writing it. In the firft place, Ϊ propofed to myfelF the Information of pofterity. A period will, footief or later, arrive, it which the difciplinihg ind -flageilating präftices now in ule, and

fchich have been fofor fo many centuries, will hhve been laid afide, and fucceeded by othetis ecpially tvhimfical. And while the men of thbfe days will 0verloök:the defefls of their

own extravagant cuftönis, or perhäp's even admire the ratiönality öf them, they will·refufe to believe that the prafticesof which äccounts are givenin this work, ever were in ufeamong mankind, and even matter of great mömcnt among them. My defign, therefore, was effeihtally to remove all their doubts in that refpcft, by h'anding down to them the flower and

PARAPHRAST and COMMENTATOR. 11 and choice part of the fads and arguments on the fabjeil. Thri book will likewife be extremely ufeful to the prtfent age; and itwill in the firft place be fo, the fubjeft beingconfidered in a moral light. The numerous cafes that are produced inthisboo’k, of difciplines which offenders of all claffes, kings as weil as others, have zealoufly infiicled upon themfelves, will fupply a ftriking proof ei' that deep fenfe of juftice which exifts in the breafts of all men ; and the reader will from fach Fads condude, no doubt with pleafure, that even the offenders of the high, rank we have juft mentioned, notwitbftanding the ftate by which they are furrounded, and the majeftic. countenance which they put on, fometimes in proportion as they more clearly know that they are wrong, are inwardly convinced that they owe compenfation for their ads of injuftice. Being confidered in the fame moral light, this book will be ufeful to the prefent age, by the inftances it gives of correilions by which different offences againft the peace of mankind have been requited ; the confequence of which will be the preventing of fach offences. Slanderous wits, for example, to mention only offenders

II . INTRODUCTIO N of.tbe offenders of that dafs, writers of faires, epi' grams, and lampoons, dealers in bon-mots, inventors of anecdotes, by. reading th.e, ,inflancesof difciplines by which fuch ingenipus paftitnes have, on different occafions, been repaid, «will naturally beled to, recplfeil·, that all poflible flagellations (to ufe the expreflion of -tl.e Alguazil introduced in a certain chapter;of Gil Blas) h'ave not been yet inflifted ; and fudden confiderations like this, which this book:will not fail to fuggeftto them, will be cxtremely apt to check them the inflant they arepreparing to make their. excurfiöiis on the reputation of their neighbours ; and .by that means the good name of many. ani innocenf perfon preferved. : ■ -Tothe.perfons themfelves who aftually fuffer from the injuftice or wantonnefs of Others, this performance ·’ will be' of great fervice. Thofe, for inftance,' who fmart under, the. lafh of fome infolent fatirifl, thofe who are. difappointed in their expedations, thofe whofe fe-: cretsdiave been betrayed, nay, even ladiesj treacheroufly forfaken by thofe who bad given them fo many aflurances.of fidelity and etetnal' conftancy, will find their misfortunes/alle« ,· ■ v; . „ viated-


viated by reading the different inftances and fads related in this book: they will take comfort from the thought, that what has alread’y happened may happen again; and cheer themfelves with the hope, that flagellations will fooner or later be the lot of thofe perfons

who caufe their uneafinefs. Being confidered in a philofophical light, this work will be ufeful to the prefent age, in the fame männer as we have faid it would be to pofterity. The prefent generation, at leaft in this ifland, will find in it proofs both of the reality of the fingular praflices which once prevailed in their own country, and are flill in full force in many others, and of the impor­ tant light in which they have been confidered by mankind. They will meet with accounts of biihops, cardinals, popes, and princes, who have warmly commended or blamedfuch practices; and will not be difpleafed to be moreover acquainted with the debates of the learned on the fame fubjeil, and with the honeft, though oppofice, endeavours, of a Cerebrofus and a Damian, aGretzer and a Gerfen. To the critical reader this book will likewife be ferviceable, by givjng him an infigbt into



the männer of the debates and arguments, and ineo the turn of the erudition, of foreign Catholick divines, at the fame time that the In­ formation will be conveyed to him amidft other objeds that will perhaps better amufe him: to fecure thisadvantage, I have, as rnuch as I could, preferved the appearance of our Author’s book, ufmg, for that purpofe, the tities of feveral.of his chapters; only taking care to keep more to the fubjcft than himfelf had done. To the fame critical reader this performance will alfo recommend itfelf, by the numerous paflages from certain books which it gives him an opportunity to perufe. And the ge· nerality of readers will not be difpleafed to meet with a number of ihort fpecimens of the ftyle of feveral authors whofe works they never would have read, though they werc once confpicuous on the particular line which they followcd, and to be thus brought to forne flight acquaintance with St. Auftin, St. Jerom, and Tertullian, of whom they knew only the names, and with St. Fulgentius, and Petet Chryfologus, of whom they knew nothing at ali. In


In fine, to thefe capital advantages, pofleffed by this work, I have endeavoured to add the important oneof affording entertainment; for, entertainment is a thing which is not by any means to be defpifed in this world. In order the better to attain this end, I have avoided offending againft decency or religion; I had of myfelf too little inclination to be witty a: the expence of either, efpecially the lacter, to avail myfelf of the opportunities which the fubjeft naturally offered; and I ihould think it a great praife of this book, if I were hereafter informed, that the graver clafs of readers have read with pleafure the lefs ferious part of it, and that the other clafs have gone with pleafure likewife through that part which is lefs calculated for amufement.













The fubfiance of the reafons given by the Abbe Boileau, for writing bis Book. He feems to have been of opinion that voluntary flagella· tions voere 110 very anticnt prailice. AM not, I confefs, without fear that the defign I have formed of tracing the origin




[Chap. L

of thofe Flagellations which have in procefs of time been introduced among Chriftians, will be looked upon as a raih underta'king, and that I may be accufed of having, in that refpeft, fallen into the errors of the Proteftants, whether Lucherans, or Calvinifts. In faft, thofe two Sefts, under pretence of fhewing their obedience to the commands of God, who Orders the Ifraelites not to make incifwns in their ownflejh for the fake of the dead, trample upon all laws concerning Penitence, extinguiih that kind of virtue which con * fifts in reprefling the luftful appetites of the fleih, and ridicule thofe mortifications and pe> nances to which Tertullian advifes üs to fubmit. Indeed, Iam farfrom wiihing to favour the relaxed Do&rine of Heretics. That kind of enthufiaftic fury which the Calvinifts manifefteft, in the laft Century, againft the laborious exercifes pf the Monaftic life, rather heightens, in my opinion, the glory of the Catholic Church. I think that the männer of the antient Anchorites of Syria, of Thebaid, and of Egypt, the purity of their virtue, and the furprifing penances to which they fubmitted, deferve our utmoft reverence, however impoffible it may be for us to imitate them.

Chap. Γ.]



I have no other objedt in vidw, on this occalion, than to bring back thofe happy times of the primitive Church, in which the true Science of conquering luftful appetites flouriihed atnong our holy Forefathers. All I propofc to myfelf, is, to fender it manifeft to every candid Reader, that thofe methods of doing Penance, which are in our days called Difciplines were unknown in the happy * The word Difcipline originally iignified in ge­ neral, the cenfures and correftions which perfons who were guilty of Sins, received from their Su­ periors ; and when Flagellation was to be part of thofe correftions, it was txprefsly mentioned; and they called fuch Difcipline, as the Reader will fee •n the Sequel of this Book, “ the difcipline of the whip,” (difciplina flagelli). As Flagellation grew afterwards to be the common method öf doing penance that prevailed among perfons in religious Orders, the bare word difcipline became in courfe of time the technieal word to exprefs that kind of chaftifement: thus, the Reader will find hereafter an inftänce in which Flagellation, when tüo long continued, is called “ the madnefs of too long difcipline,” (longioris difciplina infania). And at läft, thofe kinds of whips made of knotted and twifted cords, commonly uf.d for the above


[Chap. L

happy periods of the primitive Church, By Difciplines I mean here to fpeak of thofe voluntary Flagellations which Penitcnts infliä * upon thcmfelves with their own hands *, laihing their own backs, or pofteriors, either with Tcourges or whips, or willow and birch rods. A pradtice this, which, we are not to doubt, prevails much in the Societies of modern Monks and Nuns, efpecially among thofe who, under pretence of reformation, have abolifhed their antient Rules, and fubftituted new Con * flitutions in their ftead. But before I enter upon this fubjeit, I muft inform the Reader of two fa&s, which it is neceflary he ihould know, at the fame time that they are undeniable, and confirmed by every

pious exercifes, have alfo becn callcd by the fame name; and the word difcipline has become in .French, for inftance, die appropriated word to exprefs the inltrument of religious iiagellation. Thus, in Molierc’s Play, called the Tartuffc, or the Hypocrite, Tartufte teils his Man, “ Laurent, “ lockupmy hair-cloth, and difcipline, and pray “ that Heaven may always illuminate you.” Laurent, ferrez ma liaire avec ma difcipline, Et priez que toujours le Ciel vous illumine. A. III. Sc. 2.

Chap. I.J



cvery day’s pradtice. The firft is, that Penitents, as we have above-mentioned, both inflift thofe Difciplines on themfelves with their own hands, and receive the fame from other perfons, either with fcourges, or rods, or whip-cords. The fecond is, that thoie chaftifements are'inflifted on them, either on the bare back or fhoulders, or on the pofteriors: the former method is ufually called the vppert and the latter, the Icvjcr difcipline * . Now^ * Sursum & deorsiim difciplina.—^—K\\ the Women (as the Writerof this Commentary has been told, when in Catholic Countries) who make felfflagellation part of their religious exercifes, whether they live in or out of Convents, ufe tlie lower difcipline^ as defined above : their pious and merciful Confeflors having fuggefted to them, that the upper difcipline may prove dangerous, and bc the caufe of hurting their breafts, efpccially when they niean to proceed in that holy cxercife with unufual fervour and feverity. A fcw Orders of Friars, among whom are the Capuchins, alfo ufe the lower kind of difcipline ; but for what reafon the Com­ mentator has not been as yet informed. Perhaps it will be afked here, how Priefts and Confeflors have been able to introduce the ufe of fuch a painful practice as flage’lation, among the C 2 perfons



[Chap. I.

Now, that this latter kind of Difcipline is a contrivance of modern times, is what I pofitivc'y perfons who choofc to be direfled by them in religious matters, and how they can enforce obedience to the prefcriptions they give them in that refpeit. But here it muft be remcmbcred, that Penance has been made a Sacrament among Catholics, and that Satisfaflion, as may be feen in the Books that treat of that fubjeft, is an eflential part of it, and muft always precede the Jbfolution on the part of the Confeflör. Now, as Confcffors have it in their power to refufe this Abfolu­ tion, fo long as the Penances or Satisfaitions of any kind, which they have enjoyed to their Pcnitents, have not been accomplifhed, this confers on them a vcfy great authority; and though, to a liumber of thofe who apply to them, who care but little for fuch Abfolution, or in cafc of refufal are ready to apply to othcr more eafy Confeflors, they fcarcely preferibe any other kind of Sat/sfaflion than faying a certain number of pravers, or fuch like mortification ; vet, to thofe perfons whothink it a very ferious affair when a Confeflör in whoin they truft, continues to refufe them his abfolution, they may enjoin almoft what kind of penance they pleafe. And indeed fince Confeflors have been able to prevail upon Kings to leave, their kingdoms

C'.up. I.]



tively aver. It was unknown, as I ihall demonftrate to the Reader, among the firft Chriftians; and it is moreover repugnant both to true Piety, and to Modefty, for feveral reafons which I ihall deduce hereafter. I propofe, beftdes, to (hew that this prailice is an offspring of Idolatry and Superftition; that it ought to be baniihed from among phriilians as an erroneous and dangerous exereife; and that it has only been introduced into the Chriftian Church by ignorant perfons, under the fpecious appearance of Piety and more per­ feil Mortification. Painters, it feems, have not a little helped to eflablifh and ftrengthen the pradlices we mention, by their piilures, of which Pope Gregory the Great fays, in his Epiftle to Se­ renus Biihop of Marfeilles, that they were “ the Libraries of ignorant Chriilians.” In C 3 fait,

and engage in perilous wars and croifades to the Holy Land, and to induce young and tender Queens to perform on foot pilgrimages to very diftant places, it is not difficult to underftand how they have been able gradually to prevail upon numbers of their Devotees of both Sexes, to follow praftices which they had been fo foolifh as to adopt for themfelves, and to prailife, at their own choice, either the lower, or the upper, difcipline.



[Chap. I.

fad, wc fee they have never reprefented any of the antient Anchorites, without leaving fome fpare corner on their canvas, whereupon to place either whips or rods; inftruments of which thofe holy Hermits had not probably made the leaft ufe during their lives, and about which they perhaps had never fo much as en? tertained a thought. A number of able Writers in the lad Cen­ tury have, it muft be confefled, alfo contributed to bring into credit the pradice we mention. Confidering voluntary flagellations in the fame light as they did all methods in ge­ neral of mortifying the fleih, they commended them, and procured them to be admitted. My defign here is not by any mcans to queftion the good intentions of fo refpedable perfons, who held the firft rank among the So­ ciety of the Fathers Jefuits, and were looked upon, if I may fo exprefs myfelf, like fo ma­ ny Heroes in the Republic of Leiters: but yet, on the other hand, I cannot be perfuaded that it is unlawful to animadvert upon the ignorance and impudence of Painters, of which Lucian fays that they were “ as licentious as the Poets * ;’· and to endeavour, if pofllble, to ? Dia!·

τα» EiKorvr—Κα * το * ToXatos ίτος ό Xoyof»

Chap. I.]



to obtain from the Prelates of the Church, that, fince piftures are the books of ignorant Chriftians,

■nvOuHi; «Τ»α> Πο>ητα; καί Tfa^iai. The Greek word «»itOJiat, ufed here, literally fignifies that Poets and Painters are not obliged to give any account of their a&ions. Horace has alfo expreflcd a thought of the fame kind with rcgard to them, in his drs Poetica, “ Painters and Poets have alwavs equally enjoyed the power of daring every thing.” Piiloribus atque Poetis Quidlibet audendi femper fuit aqua poteßas. A. P. v.g, io. The complaints of