Home » Fiction & Literature » Edmund Goldsmid » The History of the Devils of Loudun: The Alleged Possession of the Ursuline Nuns and the Trial and Execution Urbain Grandier

December 10 , 2010

The History of the Devils of Loudun: The Alleged Possession of the Ursuline Nuns and the Trial and Execution Urbain Grandier


The earliest account of the remarkable happenings at Salem, in the spring of 1692, which were to bring to a climax and then to conclusion the quest of witches in New England, was that which here follows. The Rev. Deodat Lawson was singularly qualified to write it. He had himself, only a little earlier (1684-1688), served as pastor to Salem Village, the rural community in which these happenings took their rise; and, though dissensions in the parish prevented his longer stay, he seems to have been no party to these dissensions and must meanwhile have learned to know the scene and all the actors of that later drama which he here depicts. He was, too, a man of education, travel, social experience. Born in England, the son of a scholarly Puritan minister, and doubtless educated there, he first appears in New England in 1676, and at the time of his call to Salem Village was making his home in Boston. Thither he returned in 1688: Samuel Sewall, who on May 13 had him in at Sunday dinner, notes in his diary that he “came to Town to dwell last week,” and often mentions him thereafter. How at th outbreak of the witchpanic he came to revisit the Village and t chronicle the doings there, he himself a dozen years later thus told his English friends: 1 It pleased God in the Year of our Lord 1692 to visit the People at a place called Salem Village in New-England, with a very Sore and Grievous Affliction, in which they had reason to believe, that the Soveraign and Holy God was pleased to permit Satan and his Instruments, to Affright and Afflict those poor Mortals in such an Astonishing and Unusual manner. Now, I having for some time before attended the work of the Ministry in that Village, the Report of those Great Afflictions came quickly to my notice; and the more readily because the firs Person Afflicted was in the Minister’s Family, who succeeded me, after I was removed from them; in pitty therefore to my Christian Friends, and former Acquaintance there, I was much concerned about them, frequently consulted with them, and fervently (by Divine Assistance) prayed for them; but especially my Concern was augmented, when it was Reported, at an Examination of a Person suspected for Witchcraft, that my Wife and Daughter, who Dyed Three Years before, were sent out of the World under the Malicious Operations of the Infernal Powers; as is more fully represented in the following Remarks. I did then Desire, and was also Desired, by some concerned in the Court, to be there present, that I might hear what was alledged in that respect; observing therefore, when I was amongst them, that the Case of the Afflicted was ver amazing, and deplorable; and the Charges brought against the Accused, such as were Ground of Suspicions yet very intricate, and difficult to draw up right Conclusions about them; I thought good for th satisfaction of my self, and such of my Friends as might be curious to inquiry into those Mysteries of Gods Providence and Satans Malice, to draw up and keep by me, a Brief Account of the most Remarkable things, that came to my Knowledge in those Affairs; which Remarks wer afterwards, (at my Request) Revised and Corrected by some who Sat Judges on the Bench, in those Matters; and were now Transcribed, from the same Paper, on which they were then Written
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